What’s remarkable is that the aesthetic actually works better on the Niro. Where the EV6 and Sportage have a bit too much shiny black plastic and scratchy surfaces for their price point, those cheaper materials sit more comfortable in the more affordable Niro. In fact, the designers have seized the opportunity to introduce some creative touches.
Instead of the usual elephant-skin texturing, they’ve gone for a stone-like surface on the plastic door and dash panels, and there are flashes of colour to keep it all light. The trim panels are plastic but in the higher trim levels, they look like tarnished brass. The seats and headlining use recycled materials, and leather is not an option.
Amid all the style, function hasn’t been forgotten, with plenty of easy buttons and switches. Kia’s switchable dual-purpose touchbar for the ventilation and the infotainment shortcuts is a little fiddly, but we’ve seen far worse solutions.
The seats are comfy and supportive, and the lofty driving position will be appreciated by SUV buyers, but taller drivers will wish for some more reach adjustment in the steering. The Niro has Kia’s standard infotainment system, which requires a cable for smartphone mirroring but is otherwise easy to use.
What is the new Kia Niro like to drive?
To drive, the Niro is… fine. The old one was lacklustre at best, and on the evidence of its commercial success, the new one probably needn’t do much more than that. However, given the dynamic sparkle evident in the EV6, we had hoped a little more progress.
The powertrain is largely carried over but Kia still claims the new Niro is more than a second faster to 62mph, at 10.4 seconds. Our road test at the time found that Kia's figure was extremely conservative, and while we didn't attach the timing gear to the new one, we wouldn't be surprised if it still drops under the 10-second mark. It also feels less reluctant than before.
From a standstill to about 40mph, the electric motor makes the Niro feel pleasantly torquey. At higher speeds, the engine has to work harder. It means the hybrid Niro is not exactly fast, but it's adequate and Kia has done a good job keeping the engine noise out of the cabin. The only time the engine feels slightly coarse is when it unexpectedly has to fire up, especially from cold. Overall, this is possibly the most refined hybrid in its class.