Niro’s a hy­brid hit

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Keenan

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

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