- Striking design
- Hugely practical, ideal as a family car
- Low running costs with a long warranty
- Gearbox not smooth when selecting a gear on inclines
Kia have been quietly going about selling their cars with figures up on last year, but in an under-the-radar-kinda-way, they’ve recently celebrated 25 years of trading in the UK while the market was the highest performing one in Europe for the brand.
So, it’s no surprise that the Korean manufacturer has launched an all new model, their first entry into the dedicated hybrid arena with the new Niro. How will it fare in a competitive crossover segment? We took it out on the roads around Newcastle to find out.
On The Road
The new Kia Niro is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine producing 104bhp alongside an electric motor with 43bhp; as a duo they deliver 139bhp with 256Nm of torque. Driving it around the streets of Newcastle it drove on just electric power but down the dual carriageways you could almost forget it was a hybrid you were driving as the switch from electric to the petrol engine was seamless and the delivery on power was instant thanks in part to the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The only gripe with the gearbox was that on any inclines the car had to tackle it was quite noisy and was really noticeable as it was hunting to find a lower gear.
The Niro has been built on a completely new platform, soley for electrically powered vehicles, the only other version to use it will be a plug-in hybrid Niro that will be released next year. The ride is comfortable and it absorbs the odd pothole well, while with a lower centre of gravity it makes it well balanced with no compromise on agility. Driving two different trim levels, the special edition and the ‘2’ grade, it seemed to work better on the 16-inch wheels of the latter rather than the larger 18-inch ones.
The steering is quite light though and it did lack some feedback at times, we felt like we had to compensate for that by over adjusting it on the odd occasion going into corners.
Kia have really upped the ante in terms of refinement in the Niro, our complaint regarding the noisy gearbox on inclines is but a minor niggle but they’ve manufacturered a car that is distinctly lacking in any road or wind noise with a well insulated cabin. The little details have not gone unnoticed by their engineers and they’ve even put covers over the holes in the roof rails so the surface is now flush.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
Once you get behind the wheel of the Kia Niro you realise how much effort has gone into the design, it’s not just the usual run of the mill cabin; it’s now right up there knocking on the doors of the established luxury manufacturers.
The driver’s screen lights up and plays a little tune as you start up to keep you amused as the blue and white instrument panel adds a sleek, modern styling to the well thought out interior. With plenty of information for the driver and little graphics showing how the car is being powered KIA have triumphed in this area.
There are four trim levels available on the Kia Niro: 1, 2, 3, and the top level First Edition; always nice when manufacturers keep them simple.
The entry level features dual-zone air-conditioning, LED daytime running lights, DAB radio and a 3.5-inch TFT screen, and while the ‘2’ which we drove had a leather steering wheel, a 7-inch touchscreen and roof rails. The First Edition packs a punch with it’s sporty stainless steel pedals, heated and ventilated front seats, a sliding sunroof and the rather strange white interior plastic trim, which doesn’t go at all with the car - the black high gloss inserts are better looking in the lower specs.
Space & Practicality
Another area Kia have excelled at is the amount of space available in the Niro, driver and four passengers will fit very comfortably, there is plenty of legroom, headroom is class-leading and it puts a lot of larger cars to shame with how big it is, deceivingly so in fact. If you’re looking for something smaller than the sister Kia Sportage as this will tick all the boxes and in a cute way it’s almost like a mini Sportage in terms of looks.
If we’d had a camera hidden in the boot when we opened the tailgate I think you would have noticed how shocked our faces were, it is enormous! With 427-litres of space you could easily fit in three large suitcases and with rear seats folded flat this increases it to 1,425-litres with no encroachment from the battery powering the electric motor as this has been cleverly hidden underneath the rear seats.
The KIA Niro is priced from £21,295 for the entry level ‘1’ version with rising to £26,995 for the First Edition and it also comes with a seven-year/100,000 mile warranty.
We really liked the First Edition spec as there is plenty of equipment on it, but in any guise the Kia Niro should definitely be on the list of anybody looking to buy a hybrid. It’s not often we can say that we love a car but in this case we do as not only is it a practical, efficient model, it’s packed with technology and is a very good-looking crossover that isn’t too expensive.
Figures range between 64.2 and 74.3 in terms of MPG figures depending what size wheels you’re on and with CO2 emissions as low as 88g/km for the 1 and 2 trim levels it won’t cost anything in road tax so running costs instantly drop with the Niro.
Quality & Reliability
Major improvements from Kia have seen the quality of their cars match some premium rivals, materials seem durable, the high-gloss black trim adds some style and the cabin looks and feels plush.
Kia took the recent accolade of snatching the top spot in the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study with their Sportage model proving how reliable their cars are and it was also voted the Manufacturer of the Year for the second successive year at the Car Dealer Power 2016 Awards.
Safety & Security
The Kia Niro has been tested by Euro NCAP and not surprisingly received the full five stars as there are plenty of airbags and driver aids including as standard, hill start assist, cruise control, a tyre pressure monitor and a lane departure system. The top spec First Edition adds blind spot monitoring, smart cruise control that maintains distance to the car in front and autonomous emergency braking which will kick in should the driver fail to react to a potential collision.
The Kia Niro comes with an anti-theft system which includes an immobiliser and alarm, door deadlocks and speed sensing auto door locking.