Steve sets to find out whether Kia’s first attempt at a compact hybrid SUV is a good one, and whether you should consider purchasing one
The word Niro is an interesting one because it is pronounced the same regardless if its spelt Niro or Nero. Why is this relevant to a car review I can hear you ask? Well the word Niro/Nero will mean different things to different people. For example coffee connoisseurs will think of the coffee shop, to Trekkies they’ll think of the baddy in the 2009 Star Trek franchise reboot film and for me I think of Kia’s new compact SUV. This also brings me nicely to my photo location which is the National Space Centre in Leicester, which I have chosen as a nod to the Trekkies but also as the Kia and the Space Centre have something in common – the focus on the future.
The Kia Niro was shown as a concept car at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show and was subsequently released in 2017 and as previously mentioned is Kia’s first attempt at a hybrid SUV. The Niro is available with a 2wd 1.6 four cylinder petrol engine combined with a 1.56 kWh battery which together produce 139bhp and is mated to a 6 speed automatic gearbox. The MPG figures for the running gear is also impressive which is claimed up to 74.3mpg, and to reinforce the Niro’s fuel efficiency Kia currently holds the Guinness world records for the lowest fuel consumption of a hybrid vehicle, reaching 76.6mpg when a Niro travelled from Los Angeles to New York City.
Like the rest of the Kia range the spec levels are measured on a numbered system which is as follows:
2 is the entry level trim but is still well spec’d and compromises of 16” wheels with plastic trims, chrome door handles, rear spoiler, privacy glass, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, front fog lights, electric windows front and rear, steering wheel controls, automatic dimming rear view mirror, rear parking sensors with reversing camera, 7” touch screen which includes Sat Nav, Bluetooth, digital radio and Apple car play/android auto compatibility. OTR Price: £23,490
3 includes everything of spec 2 but adds 8” radio screen as opposed to 7”, front parking sensors, wireless phone charging, 8 speakers with subwoofer, heated steering wheel, 18” alloy wheels, black leather heated seats with lumbar support and electronically adjusted. OTR Price: £25,470
4 is the top spec model and includes everything from spec 2 and 3 but adds Bi-Xenon Headlights, sunroof, adaptive cruise control, aluminium pedals and engine start/stop button. OTR Price: 27,720
Regardless of spec level the Niro comes with an array of airbags for the front, side, knee and curtain airbags as well as being made of high strength steel and aluminium which all help give the Niro a 4* NCAP safety rating. As with the rest of the Kia range the Niro also comes with the 7 year 100,000 mile warranty, which will give piece of mind for those concerned about the hybid technology going wrong.
Driving the Kia Niro
The car I have on test is a Niro with the 2 spec level which I had for a duration of four days which really allowed me to get to understand this car and has an OTR price of £23,490. On entering the cabin I cannot fail to notice the vast amount of space there is for both front and rear passengers, I found it truly staggering and deceptive despite the Niro’s size. Don’t think that the boot has been compromised either because it too is a good size at 427 litres which is more than the current Ford Kuga which holds 406 litres! The main cabin isn’t short of storage space either, as there are door pockets front and rear as well as cup holders and storage under the armrest. Sitting in the cabin I found the seats comfortable but felt they could have benefited from lumbar support which I know is available on the next spec level up. Head room was also very good and the Niro could carry four adults with ease and the interior materials came over with a quality feel.
Being the entry spec model this Niro was fitted with the 7” touch screen infotainment system with Sat nav and a digital radio which I felt was positioned well within the dash as well as being easy to read. In addition the Sat Nav was clear and precise, and gave instructions in plenty of time even if it was with a very authoritarian tone. The digital radio was easy to use with a reasonable sound through the 6 speakers but would probably be better on the higher spec models which have 8 speakers and a subwoofer.
Starting the engine and pulling away I found the Niro responsive and quiet which is impart due to the battery which also aided with acceleration and economy where I averaged between 44 -54mpg. However not all is rosy with the Niro’s running gear as I found the automatic gearbox to be its Achilles heel. I felt the auto gearbox held onto gears for too long, and was I surprised that on the motorway it would not engage into 6th gear and in order to active 6th I had to put the car into manual mode. Obviously the drawback of the Niro staying in 5th gear on the motorway is twofold, as it makes the engine louder and less economical. On the other hand I did find the gearbox smooth and not jerky which definitely puts it ahead of some of its rivals. Furthermore at higher speeds I found there was low wind noise, however the road noise was loud but this could have been down to the tyres.
Moving onto the steering I found this to be light but precise and instilled confidence when going through tight bends or roundabouts which was also helped by a good suspension set up and little body roll. As you would also expect the brakes too, are very good and stopped the Niro on a dime.
The Motorists Guide View:
In my opinion, the new Niro is an excellent first attempt at a hybrid SUV by Kia and one I was very impressed with. I found it was built well and had a fantastic amount of space within the cabin for both front and rear passengers, as well as finding the engine/battery more than adequate for any driving conditions and yet very economical. The only drawback I found with my test car was the automatic gearbox which despite being smooth and not jerky, I felt held onto gears for too long and wouldn’t change into 6th when on the motorway. Other than this I found the Kia Niro a pleasure to drive and a car worth considering if you are in the market for a compact SUV.
Curb weight: 1587kg