Carzone drives Kia’s first ever hybrid, the Niro
Pros: Comfortable and refined, strong economy credential, smooth drive
Cons: Bland styling, no dedicated electric mode
The popularity of hybrid cars is growing here in Ireland and in response to the trend, Kia recently launched its first ever hybrid model, the Niro. Falling somewhere between the family hatchback and SUV catchment in terms of size, the Niro is an interesting new alternative to cars like the Renault Captur, Mazda CX-3 and indeed Toyota’s best-selling hybrid car, the Prius. We spent a week with the Niro on Irish roads to see how it compares with the current competition.
What is it like?
Hybrids have a tendency to look futuristically different to most other cars on the road but that is not the case with the Niro, which adopts a more commonplace look. It mixes SUV styling with hatchback lines and looks like a mix of the latest Kia Sportage and Kia cee’d models in terms of design. We like the swooping LED side repeaters up front, the arching shape of the front and rear bumpers and the teal paint scheme of our test car.
The Niro feels like many of Kia’s models as you step inside, which is a good thing. Everything is well built, the dashboard is clearly presented and it is easy to get comfortable behind the wheel with plenty adjustment available from the driver’s seat. The Niro is not as modernistic as other hybrid cars like the latest Toyota Prius or Hyundai IONIQ, but details such as badging on the dashboard, a hybrid system monitor in the touchscreen display and a power meter instead of a rev counter hint at its hybrid underpinnings.
The Niro hybrid features a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine supported by an electric motor and battery system to deliver a combined power output of 141bhp. It can cover 0-100km/h in 11.5 seconds but it feels more energetic at low speeds and during city driving. The transmission is a six-speed automatic that shifts smoothly and features a sporty tiptronic mode for punchier performance, but there is no dedicated EV or electric-only mode unlike many of the class leading hybrid cars on the market right now.
Out on the road the Niro grips well despite the added weight of the hybrid’s battery system, which is located under the rear seats. It is one of the best handling hybrids we have driven recently and is very easy to drive around town; parking is a doddle thanks to great visibility from the driver’s seat. The ride quality is smooth but firm at lower speeds, but things do get noisier above 60km/h and noticeably so on rough roads.
Hybrid buyers will focus on economy and we found the Niro performed well in this regard with a mixture of city and motorway-based driving. We achieved up to 4.8-litres per 100 kilometres in economy (60MPG) and with annual road tax coming in at €180, day to day running costs in the Niro are comparatively low to other traditionally powered SUVs cars. Environmentally conscious buyers will note the Niro’s low 88g/km CO2 emissions output, although this increases significantly if larger optional 18-inch alloy wheels fitted.
Prices for the Niro start from €30,595, which is considerably lower than the new Toyota Prius, and it is more practical too. In comparison to conventionally powered SUVs like the new Renault Kadjar and Hyundai Tucson, the outlay of the Niro seems comparatively steep however. Unlike most other hybrid cars, the location of the Niro’s batteries does not sacrifice boot space and that means the boot is similar in size to the new Nissan Qashqai (427 litres). Four adults will find it easy to get comfortable with decent head and legroom on offer and there are plenty of storage bins throughout the cabin, which will prove useful to family buyers.
Base specification is good with features like rear LED lights, a 4.2-inch touchscreen system, heated steering wheel, parking assist and leather heated seats fitted as standard. Both Smart Cruise Control and an Autonomous Emergency Braking system are optional along with optional 18-inch alloy wheels, which improve the car’s look but reduce economy and comfort. Despite being categorised as a small SUV, the Niro is only available with two-wheel drive and it does not have any real off road driving credentials.
Carzone verdict: 3.5/5
The Niro carves its own niche in the hybrid segment unlike many other cars, which have followed the Toyota Prius template. As a small SUV, it is more practical than most and well suited to everyday driving, and for those reasons it makes a very good family car. The Niro’s pricing is competitive and it is affordable to run if driven with an eco-conscious approach, although it’s not quite on par with the competition in this regard.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Kia Niro
Prices from: €30,595
Price as tested: €30,595
Annual Road Tax: €180
Engine: 1580cc four-cylinder petrol / electric motor
Power/Torque: 141hp, 147Nm
Top Speed: 162 km/h
0-100km/h: 11.5 seconds
Body style: SUV
Boot Space: 427 litres