It’s hard to imagine a car more conspicuously of its time than the all-new Kia Niro.

For a start, it is that most prized family-sized possession: a compact crossover – supposedly as useful as a double-decker pram and three times as covetable.

And second, it’s a hybrid and therefore as overtly voguish and right-on as a soy cashmere jacket.

It isn’t, though, a plug-in model – for now, at least.

Instead, like the Toyota Prius, its electric motor is generally run in parallel with a petrol engine via an automatic gearbox.

However, its use of well-established technology doesn’t prevent the Niro from potentially standing out.

This is the first Kia hybrid to be available in the UK, after all – a notable bullet point when you consider that its parent, the Hyundai Motor Group, has been successfully dabbling in alternative-fuel solutions for well over 20 years.

It is also not a late-to-the-party adaptation of existing architecture. Instead, the Niro is built on an entirely new platform that is destined to underpin only hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

So although it may not be first to the trough, you can bet your bottom dollar that the South Korean manufacturer is here to stay and that this slightly inconspicuous crossover is just the starting point for its ambitions.

None of that, of course, necessarily makes the Niro a decent prospect, especially in a segment now so well stocked with conventional alternatives.

The new model, starting at £21,295 for the entry-level 1 version, must compete with those head on if it wants to earn a significant number of stars in this road test.

We tested the mid-range 2 model likely to be favoured by buyers. 

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Kia range

Driven this week

  • Jaguar E-Pace 2018 review hero front
    Car review
    20 April 2018
    Can Jaguar’s compact SUV bring flair and dynamic polish to a fast-growing class?
  • Audi TT RS Coupé
    First Drive
    20 April 2018
    The Audi TT RS has the looks, a vociferous engine and the supercar-baiting performance, but is it too uncompromising to use as a daily driver?
  • Lamborghini Urus review 2018 hero front
    First Drive
    19 April 2018
    The supercar maker's new 4x4 is massively capable wherever it goes, while being extremely conspicuous and costly while it does it
  • Skoda Kodiaq
    First Drive
    19 April 2018
    High-spec seven-seater Kodiaq begins its family life with a lot to prove — for Skoda and SUVs
  • Ford Focus RS Race Red Edition front
    First Drive
    18 April 2018
    Ford drafts in some tasty extras for this limited-run Focus RS swansong edition