A crossover with a petrol-electric powertrain ought to be a recipe for success. We’ve got nine months to find out if that’s the case with Kia’s first dedicated hybrid

One of my favourite cars to live with has been a Nissan Qashqai.

For six months in 2013-2014, I was the keeper of this most practical of crossovers. And I loved it. The Qashqai did everything we asked of it, and more, without once batting an eyelid. It was almost perfect – but what would such a package be like with a hybrid powertrain instead of the torquey diesel engines favoured by UK buyers? Surely, it would be the ideal combination of practicality and low running costs? Well, I’ve got the chance to find out with this Kia Niro.

This is new territory for Kia. For years, it has watched the slow uptake of hybrid and electric cars in the UK, waiting to dip its toe into what is becoming an important segment. With the launch of sister brand Hyundai’s Ioniq, the timing seemed right. Kia has taken the Ioniq’s platform and powertrain – in regular hybrid form only, rather than the plug-in versions, for now – and put it into a very on-trend crossover body.

On paper, it seems to be a smart move: a crossover with space for the family and their luggage combined with fuel economy that can rival the most frugal diesels but with lower running costs. What’s more, for now, a CO2 output of 101g/km means it will cost you nothing to tax in the first year and just £10 thereafter.

It’s worth noting, too, that although the Niro’s hybrid package is no longer a new phenomenon, it is new to Kia. It took Toyota several iterations of the Prius to finally build a hybrid that feels normal to drive, so Kia has to play catch-up, and quickly.

With a starting price of £21,295, the Niro is more expensive than many other cars of this size – and significantly pricier than titans of this class like the Qashqai. However, it’s £2300 cheaper than a Prius.

You do get plenty of standard equipment for that price. Every Niro comes with dual-zone climate control, automatic lights, cruise control and a lane keeping system.

Our upper-range 3 version of the Niro may not be the one that most owners will choose, but it’s a good opportunity to sample a wider array of the Niro’s kit. Our car is fitted with luxuries such as heated seats and steering wheel, an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, black leather upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and wireless phone charger. In fact, the only option fitted to our car is metallic paint.

Powering it is a 1.6-litre petrol engine, running on the more frugal Atkinson cycle, and a small electric motor. For the most part, it’s the petrol engine that provides power, with the electric motor cutting in to provide instant torque from a standing start, or to supplement the engine at cruising speeds.

Like most hybrids, the Niro uses a lithium ion battery pack to store electricity, but whereas other cars have to sacrifice boot space to hide the pack, the Niro’s is so power dense that it’s compact enough to sit under the rear seats. That means there’s a very usable 427-litre load capacity with the rear bench in place – and 1425 litres with it folded flat. In both cases, that’s slightly less than in a Qashqai, but it’s more than enough for two suitcases or a big weekly shop.

Our first impressions of the Niro, though, have been mixed. The car shifts seamlessly between electric and engine power and the six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox works better than the CVTs you’ll find in most other hybrids – but the throttle response is loose and leaves the driver feeling disconnected. In fact, there’s very little in the way of the fun driving style that Kia has promised Niro owners.

Our car arrived with just 195 miles on the clock, so some bedding in will be required before we can judge fuel economy with any clarity. Kia claims 64.2mpg combined, but so far we’re seeing around 42mpg.

When we road tested the Niro, this was one of our sore points, because its real-world fuel economy wasn’t breathtaking and its subdued driving style left us cold. Most SUV buyers choose diesel engines for their efficiency and more accessible torque, so if its fuel economy doesn’t improve, the Niro could find itself tripping up at the first hurdle.

The Niro has a tough task ahead as we ask it to try to at least match the ownership experience delivered by the Qashqai – a car that passed almost every test we threw at it with flying colours. But on the face of it, the hybrid Kia has the tools it needs to get the job done. We’ll be putting the Niro through a similar regimen to that successfully faced by the Qashqai, so it’ll be a fair comparison. Can it rise to the challenge? We’ve got the next nine months to find out.

KIA NIRO 1.6 GDI HEV 3

Price new £24,695 Price as tested £25,240 Options Metallic paint £545 Economy 42.0mpg Faults None Expenses None

Our Verdict

Kia Niro

Kia taps into the zeitgeist with an all-new hybrid compact crossover

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Comments
11

10 April 2017
So the Kia Niro may be tapping in well ahead of time with the hybrid SUV, especially in big cities where diesel drivers are about to be penalised ...

10 April 2017
With all that tech 42mpg just isn't good enough, my father in laws A3 COD hovers around 52 (admitted outside town).
£24,695 is pushing it a bit though SUV's always seem to carry a bit of a premium over normal hatchbacks so it can get away with that, especially with all that bling.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 April 2017
xxxx wrote:

With all that tech 42mpg just isn't good enough, my father in laws A3 COD hovers around 52 (admitted outside town).
£24,695 is pushing it a bit though SUV's always seem to carry a bit of a premium over normal hatchbacks so it can get away with that, especially with all that bling.

This is Surely bigger than an A3 so will probably be less economical, it should hopefully prove as economical as a diesel Q3 though, my dad's honda insight which is more comparable size wise to an A3 hovers around high 50s to 60s on runs and high 40s to low 50s around town which I think is excellent especially as its nearly a decade old design, and I have never found the cvt to be the problem autocar often reports it to be, quite the opposite actually, really smooth in operation with manual paddle operation to over ride as an when necessary. In fact it surprises me Honda no longer do hybrids. Hopefully this will do well as I like hybrids and would have one if I could afford to buy one.

10 April 2017
si73 wrote:
xxxx wrote:

With all that tech 42mpg just isn't good enough, my father in laws A3 COD hovers around 52 (admitted outside town).
£24,695 is pushing it a bit though SUV's always seem to carry a bit of a premium over normal hatchbacks so it can get away with that, especially with all that bling.

This is Surely bigger than an A3 so will probably be less economical, it should hopefully prove as economical as a diesel Q3 though, my dad's honda insight which is more comparable size wise to an A3 hovers around high 50s to 60s on runs and high 40s to low 50s around town which I think is excellent especially as its nearly a decade old design, and I have never found the cvt to be the problem autocar often reports it to be, quite the opposite actually, really smooth in operation with manual paddle operation to over ride as an when necessary. In fact it surprises me Honda no longer do hybrids. Hopefully this will do well as I like hybrids and would have one if I could afford to buy one.

Might be marginally bigger but it’s a lot slower and is designed for high mpg (comes with a battery). So with all that tech I stand by the statement 42mpg is pretty poor with all that tech, I reckon a petrol Qashqai or Suzuki S cross would be pretty much the same

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 April 2017
xxxx wrote:
si73 wrote:
xxxx wrote:

With all that tech 42mpg just isn't good enough, my father in laws A3 COD hovers around 52 (admitted outside town).
£24,695 is pushing it a bit though SUV's always seem to carry a bit of a premium over normal hatchbacks so it can get away with that, especially with all that bling.

This is Surely bigger than an A3 so will probably be less economical, it should hopefully prove as economical as a diesel Q3 though, my dad's honda insight which is more comparable size wise to an A3 hovers around high 50s to 60s on runs and high 40s to low 50s around town which I think is excellent especially as its nearly a decade old design, and I have never found the cvt to be the problem autocar often reports it to be, quite the opposite actually, really smooth in operation with manual paddle operation to over ride as an when necessary. In fact it surprises me Honda no longer do hybrids. Hopefully this will do well as I like hybrids and would have one if I could afford to buy one.

Might be marginally bigger but it’s a lot slower and is designed for high mpg (comes with a battery). So with all that tech I stand by the statement 42mpg is pretty poor with all that tech, I reckon a petrol Qashqai or Suzuki S cross would be pretty much the same

----------------------

OK but imagine you typical company car owner on a fuel card not too bothered by economy, this could leave them £100 a month more in their pocket than a Qashqai and probably even more over an A3. Other reviewers have got mixed economy nearer 50 for the Niro, Testdriven averaged 61mpg on theirs. Also there is a 'sport' button that reportedly livens the car up a fair bit.

10 April 2017
The Apprentice wrote:
xxxx wrote:
si73 wrote:
xxxx wrote:

With all that tech 42mpg just isn't good enough, my father in laws A3 COD hovers around 52 (admitted outside town).
£24,695 is pushing it a bit though SUV's always seem to carry a bit of a premium over normal hatchbacks so it can get away with that, especially with all that bling.

This is Surely bigger than an A3 so will probably be less economical, it should hopefully prove as economical as a diesel Q3 though, my dad's honda insight which is more comparable size wise to an A3 hovers around high 50s to 60s on runs and high 40s to low 50s around town which I think is excellent especially as its nearly a decade old design, and I have never found the cvt to be the problem autocar often reports it to be, quite the opposite actually, really smooth in operation with manual paddle operation to over ride as an when necessary. In fact it surprises me Honda no longer do hybrids. Hopefully this will do well as I like hybrids and would have one if I could afford to buy one.

Might be marginally bigger but it’s a lot slower and is designed for high mpg (comes with a battery). So with all that tech I stand by the statement 42mpg is pretty poor with all that tech, I reckon a petrol Qashqai or Suzuki S cross would be pretty much the same

----------------------

OK but imagine you typical company car owner on a fuel card not too bothered by economy, this could leave them £100 a month more in their pocket than a Qashqai and probably even more over an A3. Other reviewers have got mixed economy nearer 50 for the Niro, Testdriven averaged 61mpg on theirs. Also there is a 'sport' button that reportedly livens the car up a fair bit.

I think you're moving the argument, specific drivers "not too bothered by economy" then why buy a Hybrid? Anyhow my initial point was this car was designed with economy in mind and is fitted with expensive batteries it tested at 42 MPG "in the real world", which is not great!

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 April 2017
Only if you buy a used one registered before April 17, surely. The government has effectively removed any financial incentive to buy a hybrid, with the Kia costing £130 to tax after the first year. So it's all down to any fuel saving it makes...

10 April 2017
Interesting, a review from Autocar's point of view but no mention of the Niro's USP, its REAL reason to even exist in hybrid form so here it is, a company car tax payer choosing a Niro 2 (well kitted but 88g/km) over a Qashqai 1.6dci Techna will pay HALF the amount of tax on it, to those many (and you may well pity them if you wish) that are not actually too bothered about throttle response or country lane prowess its a very persuasive advantage.

10 April 2017
It would help though if the author could note what sort of driving has given rise to that figure. If the car has been trawling the motorway at 80mph then I'm not surprised, but if it has been doing more local work where the hybrid should excel, then that's poor even for a brand new car in its run in period. I wonder how the Niro will fair when it is subjected to the new fuel economy tests. All told the Niro seems a bit of a disappointment. I thought a hybrid crossover would suit my lifestyle and driving needs, but it uses more fuel and has a smaller boot than my Civic. Plus by all accounts it not much to drive either.

10 April 2017
Poor thing, a whole technology condemned on being misunderstood in its purpose and a one off testers rough economy on the thrash back from the dealers! - Its not about economy anyway, its about emissions and tax! - half of new cars are sold to companies/fleets so it matter! (even if it doesn't to Autocar and its honourable readers). The hybrid (and remember its not a plug-in) has the advantage of having an inherently under-powered engine for steady cruising boosted by a battery/motor like a virtual turbo when more go is needed. This 'turbo' is largely 'free' to run as it uses surplus energy from the engine or regeneration braking kept in a battery. Hence the mean CO2 drops, especially as the test course is so undemanding. Its not so long ago petrol cars of any size meant 30mpg. If this can (as in other peoples hands) do 60mpg then its pretty good I say. If it can put £100+ tax a month in your pocket at the same time, even better.

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