Niro’s a hybrid hit
IN a motoring world festooned with acronyms Kia offers another with the Niro. The Koreans call it a hybrid utility vehicle, or HUV for those who delight in shortening everything to the same length as their attention span.
In truth, Kia’s opening salvo in the UK petrol-electric power market is more of a crossover than anything else with a hint of SUV styling introduced via an imposing face and bits of black body cladding down the sides.
Inside it is quite conventional without being boring. Fit and finish are good while nice touches include soft-touch plastics for the dashboard and a bit of bling for the controls which give proceedings a quality feel.
In common with most hybrids there is a classy digital display showing things like where power is being directed and the state of the battery. But beware, the bright graphics can be a bit distracting from what’s happening on the road unless you are careful.
There is also some clever technology available that both enhance connectivity and safety. Examples include the Kia Connected Services system featuring TomTom, wireless smartphone charging, autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control and lane assist, plus blind spot and rear cross traffic warning systems.
In a first for Kia, those with Android smartphones can now access Google Maps navigation, Google Play music, hands-free calls and texts and voice recognition via pre-downloaded apps.
The ‘2’ trim I drove is, predictably, the second of four levels offered with goodies including a smart sat nav system accessed through a seveninch colour touchscreen – also home to a reversing camera and a live traffic feed - which is positioned in the centre of the dashboard
Priced from £21,295 the Niro offers space for a family of five despite the fact it’s got the latest in battery technology hidden under the rear seats.
There is still a decent amount of headroom in the back while the boot, complete with underfloor storage, swallows holiday luggage or the weekly supermarket shop with ease.
But the big news is in the numbers. Carbon dioxide emissions are just 88g/km with average fuel consumption in excess of 70mpg.
This is achieved thanks to a successful double act that sees an economy-tuned 1.6-litre petrol engine aided and abetted by an electric motor powered by a state-ofthe-art lithium-ion battery which, like the car, is covered by Kia’s seven-year warranty.
The Niro loves being in emissionfree EV mode and will seek it out when appropriate so saving fuel while you’re battling with jams and rush-hour traffic.
The petrol-electric partnership gives the Niro 139bhp allowing it to reach 60mph from a standing start in a shade over 11 seconds on its way to a top speed of 101mph. It’s not blindingly quick, but it is no slowcoach either and matches up well with the hybrid competition.
The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is a smooth operator offering manual gear changes if you’re in a sporty mood. This, combined with sure-footed handling and a comfortable ride, make the Niro quite nifty to drive.
The light steering does lack a bit of feel but on the flip side requires the minimum of effort to manoeuvre the car into that tight parking spot.
The Niro is a solid first effort from Kia and looks set to be a hybrid hit.
TEST DRIVE KIA NIRO