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.