In size at least, the Niro is intended to sit below the Sportage in Kia’s crossover line-up.

Its look, another Peter Schreyer design, is familiar: the front end bears the latest evolution of the brand’s ‘tiger nose’ grille and the rear gently tapers over chunky wheel arches.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Concealing the reversing camera in the rear windscreen wiper housing is one of the cleverer design touches. Shame the list stops soon after that

The appearance is conformist, then, but also rigidly unmemorable.

The platform on which it sits has been specially formatted to accommodate electrical components, including not only the motor and battery pack in the Niro but also future advancements, such as all-electric models.

With extra weight an inevitable factor of such features, attention has been paid to the architecture’s mass: the structure is 53% high-strength steel and Kia has employed lighter-still aluminium in the Niro’s bonnet, tailgate panel, front bumper and a number of suspension elements in a chassis made up of front MacPherson struts and a multi-link rear. Meanwhile, the A and B-pillars and wheel arches usehot-stamped steel to enhance rigidity.

The platform’s packaging means that both the 45-litre fuel tank and the 1.56kWh lithium ion polymer battery (which, at 33kg, is said to be the lightest, most efficient pack yet deployed by Kia) fit side by side under the rear seats.

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The fuel tank feeds a new 104bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine and the battery powers a 43bhp electric motor mounted within the standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The gearbox, based on the seven-speed unit in the Cee’d, is fundamental to accessing the full potential of the two power sources, which work in parallel to drive the front wheels, and is said to be superior to a continuously variable transmission, especially in its responsiveness at higher speeds.

The combined peak outputs are claimed to be 139bhp and 195lb ft, although buyers may be disappointed to learn that those healthy figures are available in first gear alone.

The Niro’s engine, like that of the Prius, uses the more efficient Atkinson combustion cycle and, also like the Prius, the Niro has a brake energy recovery system to help recharge the batteries. The reduced load on the motor afforded by electrification means Kia can claim combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 88g/km. That’s significantly less than is produced by the MPV-shaped Prius+.

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