THE STYLISH NEW KIA NIRO HY­BRID BRINGS FRU­GAL MO­TOR­ING TO THE CROSS­OVER MAR­KET

Kia’s first pur­pose-built hy­brid car has landed in the UK aim­ing at bring­ing petrol-elec­tric ef­fi­ciency to the cross­over seg­ment. We check it out.

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - JAMES FOSSDYKE

WHAT’S NEW?

There’s some­thing fa­mil­iar about the Niro, but it’s an all-new car. Sit­ting close to the Sportage, but nev­er­the­less at the foot of Kia’s SUV range, the jacked-up hatch­back is the first car Kia has de­signed solely to be a hy­brid.

As a re­sult, al­most ev­ery sin­gle thing about the Niro is new. There’s a new chas­sis sup­port­ing a new pow­er­train, and the whole lot is cov­ered by a com­pletely new body. Only a few in­te­rior trim­mings have come straight from the Kia parts bin.

At launch, the only engine op­tion is a 1.6-litre four-cylin­der petrol unit as­sisted by an elec­tric mo­tor, although Kia is promis­ing a plug-in hy­brid for 2017.

LOOKS AND IM­AGE

At first glance, the Niro is un­mis­tak­ably a Kia - that tiger-nose grille and the slant­ing lights en­sure it sticks to the brand’s sig­na­ture ‘face’ - but plac­ing it is a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult. Is it a jacked-up, beefed-up Cee’d? Or is it a shrunken Sportage?

Ei­ther way, it’s rea­son­ably good look­ing, but the fact that it looks like so many cars rolled into one might risk tak­ing away any per­son­al­ity that was lurk­ing in there.

In­side, it has that same fa­mil­iar-yet-new look, which has come as a re­sult of pinch­ing im­por­tant parts such as the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem from the Sportage, but ad­ding its own be­spoke pan­els.

De­spite the fact it has lifted so much from its sta­ble­mates, though, it’s re­mark­ably well built.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

The Niro is very marginally larger than the 500X it com­petes with, but only by a few cen­time­tres. None­the­less, that dif­fer­ence, com­bined with the Kia’s less wantonly stylish body and bet­ter pack­ag­ing, means the Niro is the roomier car.

The most ob­vi­ous sign of this comes when you open the tail­gate. There’s a 373-litre boot back there, which is 23 litres larger than the Fiat’s. Take the un­der­floor tray out, how­ever, and you can mark that up to 421 litres.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

Hy­brid cars are of­ten as­so­ci­ated with re­fine­ment, but oddly enough, the Niro doesn’t ac­tu­ally ma­jor on quiet­ness. There is near-si­lence on in­ner-city roads, but some tyre noise on the mo­tor­way.

Of course, this isn’t helped by the fact the Niro’s com­bi­na­tion of elec­tric and petrol power only af­fords it 139bhp, which means the sprint from 0-62mph takes 11.1 sec­onds.

There is one sur­pris­ing silver lin­ing, how­ever, and it’s the han­dling. The Niro’s steer­ing is vague and light, but it grips well and the way it con­tains its body roll is a match for any of its ri­vals. It’s rea­son­ably com­fort­able, too, although it does fid­get a lit­tle bit on pit­ted road sur­faces and the plush leather chairs of higher-spec vari­ants make it seem com­fier than the more util­i­tar­ian seat­ing found on less gen­er­ously equipped mod­els such as our ‘2’-spec test car.

The Niro’s big­gest sell­ing point, though, is ef­fi­ciency. The ba­sic ‘1’ and mid-range ‘2’ mod­els will both re­turn more than 74mpg and emit just 88g/ km of car­bon diox­ide - fig­ures which put the Kia ahead of ri­vals with even the lat­est diesel en­gines and put you com­fort­ably into zero road ter­ri­tory.

VALUE FOR MONEY

At £21,295, the ba­sic Niro is ex­actly £7,000 more ex­pen­sive than the cheap­est Fiat 500X, and that’s a big old price dif­fer­ence for two cars that are sep­a­rated in size by mere cen­time­tres. But of course the cheap­est 500X isn’t a hy­brid and you get less kit and so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

The Niro is more prac­ti­cal, though, and there’s that big ef­fi­ciency ben­e­fit. Both are pow­ered pre­dom­i­nantly by 1.6-litre petrol en­gines, but the Niro’s elec­tric mo­tor al­lows it to re­turn 74.3mpg and 88g/km CO2 emis­sions, while the Fiat’s unas­sisted engine only man­ages 44.1mpg and 147g/km CO2 emis­sions.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Model: Kia Niro ‘2’ 1.6 GDI HEV

Price: £22,795

Engine: 1.6-litre petrol and elec­tric mo­tor

Trans­mis­sion: Six-speed au­to­matic

Per­for­mance: 0-62mph in 11.1 sec­onds, 101mph top speed

Econ­omy: 74.3mpg

Emis­sions: 88g/km

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