The Kia Niro will be one of the greenest cars in the compact crossover class when it goes on sale later this year. We drive it to see what else it has to offer

What is it?

The Kia Niro may look like a fairly conventional crossover, but underneath is a brand new platform and a very eco-friendly hybrid powertrain. Shared with the Hyundai Ioniq, it promises sub-100g/km CO2 emissions thanks to the efficient 1.6-litre Atkinson Cycle petrol engine with electrical assistance.

Combined power output is 139bhp, which is channelled through a standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox – there’s no CVT gearbox here. Thanks to the power-dense nature of the lithium-ion battery, it’s able to sit beneath the rear seats so it doesn't reduce boot space. 

Size wise, the Niro is a bit bigger than the Cee’d hatchback, but smaller than the Kia Sportage SUV. Although prices are yet to be confirmed, it won’t be the cheapest crossover on the market due to the hybrid powertrain. Even so, it should be a good couple of thousand pounds cheaper than a basic Prius.

What's it like?

The question is, have they pulled it off? Well, yes and no. On a mixed test route in and around Frankfurt, the Niro seemed to steer better than any recent Kia product we’ve tried. On the motorway, the car tracked straight and true without needing the constant correction that other models from the Korean company require.

Sadly, clear roads and corners were in short supply on our brief drive, so on-the-limit impressions will have to wait. What we can say is that the Niro resists roll well and doesn’t take much persuasion to get its front tyres squealing. Thank the low rolling resistance tyres on the 16in wheels of our test car for that.

Of course, no one is going to buy a Niro for driving thrills. More to the point, the car proves comfortable for the most part, although it does transmit shoddier road surfaces into the interior more than some rivals. This, of course, comes with the traditional caveat of needing to get one back in the UK before we can pass full judgement.

That said, the electric motor and petrol engine work together smoothly with only the briefest of hesitations every now and then. Kia has worked hard to reduce noise and vibration from the four-cylinder engine and it shows. Listen carefully and you can hear it fire up, but only just.

Step out of a diesel car (you can't get anything but the petrol hybrid in the Kia) and into the Niro, and it’s the lack of vibration through the controls that you’ll really notice; it’s very refined under normal use. The engine does start to sound thrashy near the top of the rev range, though.

Still, the use of a six-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox means you avoid the constant drone that blights CVT hybrids, such as the Prius and Outlander PHEV. There’s even the option to change gears yourself by knocking the gearlever backwards and forwards.

Inside, you’ll find a dashboard that should be familiar to anyone who has been inside a modern Kia recently. There’s both a strong family resemblance and a similar mix of materials too.

That means plenty of squidgy plastic on the top of the dash and front doors along with a steering wheel and gearlever that feel good too. Areas you don’t interact with as much are hewn from harder plastics, but they look decent enough and will no doubt prove hardy – after all, the Niro still gets Kia’s seven-year warranty.

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It’s roomy, too; front seat passengers have plenty of space but then, you’d expect that. What’s really impressive is the head and leg room for those in the back. You could happily seat a pair of six-footers on the rear bench even with similarly sized adults up front.

The boot is also competitively sized thanks to the battery being stored under the rear seat. A family’s clutter should go in without issue and owners will appreciate the low load lip and almost flat cargo area with the rear seats folded.

Should I buy one?

Considering the ongoing popularity of crossovers and the ever increasing numbers of hybrid vehicles being sold, we suspect a fair few folks may be interested in the Niro, and our first impressions suggest that those people won’t be disappointed.

It may not be outright exciting, but it handles tidily enough and offers plenty of room inside for most family lifestyle needs. It’s frugal too; unlike some hybrids that look good on paper but fail to deliver in the real world, we saw an indicated 64.2mpg on our hour-long test route.

However, our German adventure suggests that the Niro may not be all that settled on the UK’s fairly awful roads and we still don’t know firm UK pricing and specification. We look forward to getting our hands on a right-hand drive model a little later in the year, when we can lay these uncertainties to rest and find out if the Niro is as much of a game-changer in this class as it potentially seems on first impressions.

Kia Niro

Location Frankfurt; On sale Autumn; Price £22,000 (est); Engine four-cylinder, 1580cc, petrol, hybrid; Power 139bhp at 5700rpm (combined); Torque 195lb ft at 1000-2400rpm (combined); Gearbox six-speed dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1425kg; Top speed 100mph; 0-62mph 11.5sec; Economy 74.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 88g/km, 15%

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sierra 2 June 2016

French prices released 01/06/16

Motion €26,990 (£20,959)
Active €28,990 (£22,500)
Premium €32,990 (£25,600)
Carmad3 1 June 2016


£22,000 wow what happened to the promised £18000 we were told of in earlier reports. £4000 more is quite a leap in possible price and would stop me buying it. SHAME!!!!
Pete-Suffolk 31 May 2016

Kia Niro

Aside from all the talk about the technical details. It looks good! After the latest Sportage, that is quite a surprise. Much neater grille treatment. Neater rear as well. Looks pretty handsome to me. So all in all, looks like a real alternative to the competition.