Kia Niro

Damien O’car­roll finds Kia buck­ing the trend – in a pleas­ant way.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

Kia’s Niro bucks the “weird” trend of both the elec­tri­fied seg­ment and the small SUV seg­ment by aiming at “strictly con­ven­tional” with its de­sign. Sitting in the same plat­form – and shar­ing its driv­e­trains – with the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro is 125mm shorter and 50mm nar­rower than the Kia Sportage, but the wheel­base is ac­tu­ally 30mm longer. In­side there’s a sin­gle in­stru­ment clus­ter that com­bines a fuel gauge, bat­tery charge me­ter and eco-driv­ing assistant with­out be­ing in the least bit flashy or in­ter­est­ing. Kia is bring­ing the Niro to New Zealand in three mod­els: two with hy­brids and a flag­ship plug-in hybrid that can cover 55km on pure elec­tric power. All mod­els have lithium-ion bat­tery packs. The EX hybrid kicks off the range at $39,990 and fea­tures adap­tive cruise con­trol, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and lane­keep as­sist. The higher-spec­i­fi­ca­tion $43,990 LTD adds blind-spot warn­ing, lane-change as­sist, rear cross traf­fic alert, front park­ing sen­sors and leather up­hol­stery. The PHEV model is only avail­able in LTD spec­i­fi­ca­tion, gets the same equip­ment as the hybrid and costs $55,990. While there isn’t a pure-ev ver­sion of the Niro yet, it is al­most cer­tainly com­ing. All Niros are pow­ered by a 1.6-litre di­rect- in­jec­tion petrol en­gine and sep­a­rate elec­tric motor, with a six-speed dual-clutch gear­box and both pow­er­trains have a com­bined out­put of 104kw/265nm. Sitting on its 16-inch wheels the hybrid EX achieves a com­bined av­er­age 3.8L/100km in the com­bined cy­cle, while the LTD on its 18-inch rims sees con­sump­tion rise to 4.4 litres. As a re­sult, the PHEV LTD drops down to 16-inch al­loys to be the su­per-eco model, with a com­bined av­er­age of just 1.3L/100km, which in­cludes a full charge of elec­tric­ity, re­mem­ber. On the road you could never ac­cuse the Niro of be­ing a rocket – the hybrid gets to 100km/h in 11.5 sec­onds, while the PHEV man­ages it in 10.8 sec­onds, but it is ac­tu­ally a rather pleas­ant thing to drive be­cause, un­like most other hy­brids, it has a proper gear­box. The six-speed dual-clutch gear­box hap­pily gets on with the busi­ness of be­ing eco-friendly, while ac­tu­ally re­main­ing rather en­gag­ing when you show a bit more en­thu­si­asm as well. Ex­tremely pleas­ant, thor­oughly un­threat­en­ing and re­mark­ably fru­gal (par­tic­u­larly in PHEV form), the Niro avoids the tra­di­tional pit­falls and ex­cesses of both the Ev/hybrid and small SUV seg­ments. It is in no way ex­cit­ing, how­ever.

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