Kia have begun to dip their toe in the ever-expanding segment of hybrid power-trains and with the introduction of the Niro, it would appear that they are taking it quite seriously. You only have to look out on to the busy road network around Ireland to realise that the crossover and SUV segment is thriving. Kia have decided to build on this alongside the constant demand for alternatives to petrol and diesel engines with the introduction of the new Niro Hybrid crossover.
So, what is it exactly? Essentially the Niro is a crossover powered by a 1.6 litre petrol engine alongside a lithium-ion polymer battery pack, 32 kW electric motor and six-speed double-clutch transmission. It is claimed to emit just 88 g/km CO2 (combined), and as being capable of using just 3.8 litres of petrol for every 100 km of driving. The hybrid market worldwide is constantly changing. Up until recent years there were limited models available through only a number of brands but this has all changed as manufacturers have realised that they too must move with the times and the customers’ demands.
The new Kia Niro is very clever in that as Kia’s first step into this market that have identified two areas which are expanding and produced a brand-new model to suit. The question is though, is the Niro functional and practical? The answer is a resounding yes.
Visually to look at it does have a certain appeal to it. The Niro has been built on a whole new platform which appears to create a lightweight, aerodynamic and dynamic drive. The Niro retains the Kia signature front grille along with the iconic headlights which we have grown to recognise as the brand expands. The crossover silhouette of the Niro sits slightly bigger than the Cee’d and shorter and lower than the Sportage. A new alloy wheel design has also been designed dedicated towards the Niro.
Inside, the Niro is graced with an almost wrap around interior with defined horizontal lines while providing a perception of a very spacious cabin. Seating space throughout the Niro appears to be generous in both the front and rear seats for the segment that it falls into. Boot space in the Niro is not compromised by the introduction of the hybrid power supply. This is thanks to the fact that the battery power supply in the Niro is located under the rear seats so as not to intrude on the boot space. There is virtually no loading lip either which makes it very easy to loading and unloading cumbersome loads. All the materials within the cabin appear to be finished to a high quality offering soft touch yet durable surfaces. Up front, the binnacle provides real time driving information in relation to where the power is being drawn from, battery, engine or both. A large 7-inch touch screen infotainment system is then also located in the center of the dash. All the relevant driving, Bluetooth and entertainment information can be access from here with ease. The Niro also has a wireless charging pad which will charge all compatible devices and even remind you if you have left your phone in the car when you are leaving.
On the road, the Niro drives very well. The transmission is the latest version of Kia’s 6DCT, based on the same architecture as Kia’s efficient new 7DCT, developed in-house for the recently-upgraded Kia cee’d. The 6DCT has been re-engineered specifically for use with the Niro’s advanced hybrid powertrain, delivering a more direct and immediate response than a traditional electronic continuously-variable transmission (e-CVT). While engaged in normal driving gear changes are performed automatically and there is also the option to slide the gear selector into manual sport and select gears manually.
Given the height of the Niro, body roll is almost non-existent even when you corner quickly and the feedback and weight of the steering is also impressive. Where the Niro really shines is the seamless use of the petrol engine and the electrical motor together. You barely notice the change between electric and petrol and they are mated perfectly with the automatic transmission. It still manages to turn heads as you pull away from traffic lights and passers-by just hear……well, silence!
The Niro is available in Ireland in one trim level, EX. Included in this spec are 16-inch alloy wheels, auto light control, rear LED lights, privacy glass, heated leather wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system to name but a few along with a host of safety features.
Engine Size – 1.6 GDI & 32 kW electric motor
Fuel Type – Hybrid
Power – 139 bhp (combined)
Torque – 265Nm
Acceleration (0 – 100km/h) – 11.1 seconds
Top Speed – 161 km/hour
Consumption (Combined) –3.8 litres/ 100 kilometres
CO2 emissions – 88g / km
Road Tax – € 180
Base Price – € 30,595 less €1,500 VRT rebate
Price as per model tested – 29,095