Kia Niro EX Hy­brid

Niro is an in­ter­est­ing ad­di­tion to both the hy­brid and SUV ranks, reck­ons Cathy Parker.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

Maybe it is hav­ing a bet both ways, but at the launch, Kia com­pared the Niro both to other hy­brids – re­gard­less of body style – and other SUV’S, and it stands up pretty well in ei­ther cat­e­gory. As a hy­brid, it sits to­wards the lower level of the price spec­trum at $39,990, bet­tered only by the Prius C and Corolla hy­brid, which don’t of­fer the same SUV ver­sa­til­ity. As a com­pact SUV, it stands up well against com­peti­tors – al­beit with a price pre­mium of around $8,000 – due to the hy­brid power train. You would def­i­nitely gain some of that $8 grand back with Niro’s claimed 3.8 l/100km com­bined fuel econ­omy (and we def­i­nitely saw low 4’s in reg­u­lar ev­ery day driv­ing). The Niro is also a tad larger than some of the other com­pact SUV’S, sit­ting only slightly be­low its medium-size brother, the Sportage (125mm shorter, 50mm nar­rower but on a 30mm longer wheel­base). The power train com­prises the new Kappa 1.6-litre GDI en­gine, which de­liv­ers 77kw and 147Nm of torque along with a 32kw elec­tric mo­tor (170Nm of torque) giv­ing a com­bined power of 104kw and com­bined torque of 265Nm – com­pa­ra­ble with more nor­mally pow­ered small SUV’S. Kia’s hy­brid uses a sim­ple par­al­lel sys­tem rather than Toy­ota’s more com­plex se­ries and par­al­lel mix or BMW’S se­ries ap­proach. The par­al­lel hy­brid has the elec­tric mo­tor and petrol mo­tor in line with each other, with ei­ther or both be­ing able to sup­ply power. It is a sim­ple and ef­fi­cient ar­range­ment, but it of­fers slightly lower econ­omy whilst sav­ing weight. The Niro styling is mod­ern with­out be­ing in your face, as is the in­te­rior – dom­i­nated by a the seven-inch touch screen which has the usual au­dio, re­vers­ing cam­era and Blue­tooth phone con­nec­tiv­ity. It also of­fers Carplay and An­droid Auto phone mir­ror­ing. There is no nav­i­ga­tion, but with phone mir­ror­ing, you can use Ap­ple Maps or Google Maps for this. Safety sys­tems in­clude au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, smart cruise con­trol and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing. The Niro has com­fort­able and sup­port­ing seats and pro­vides good legroom. On the EX, the seat ad­just­ment is man­ual, and the in­te­rior is cloth (the LTD model gets elec­tric ad­just­ment, leather and heated seats). The EX does not get a prox­im­ity key, so you do need to fetch it out of your bag/pocket to use the re­mote to open and the fold­ing key to start – some­thing which seems at odds with the high-tech na­ture of the ve­hi­cle. The luggage space is typ­i­cal for a com­pact SUV. Driv­ing is a bit of a mix – at low ac­cel­er­a­tion on just the EV mo­tor, progress is leisurely. If you need ex­tra per­for­mance, press harder on the ‘’go’’ pedal and the petrol en­gine comes in, which im­proves things. The per­for­mance still won’t set the earth on fire, but it gets the job done and the Niro feels more re­spon­sive on the open road than round town. The han­dling sim­i­larly is vice-free but un­ex­cit­ing. The steer­ing feels heavy, but the Niro does cor­ner with a flat at­ti­tude and has a good, com­pli­ant ride. It is nice to have some options in ecostyle SUV’S, which have been pretty lim­ited un­til now.

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