From £20,6457
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

Our Verdict

Kia Niro

Kia taps into the zeitgeist with an all-new hybrid compact crossover

  • First Drive

    2016 Kia Niro First Edition review

    New Kia Niro shows promise, but lower-end versions of the hybrid crossover may be worth investigating for the relative savings they offer
  • First Drive

    2016 Kia Niro review

    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 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.

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%

Join the debate

Comments
23

27 May 2016
It is better looking than the new Prius, that thing is horrendous! I've seen a few on the road now. Makes sense for Kia to make their Hybrid only a cross over. Not sure why they haven't fitted it to the Sportage, rather than an outright new model

29 May 2016
The hybrid doesn't fit the Sportage. It's gilding the lily by far, and would make the car too expensive.

27 May 2016
Sounds good despite your attempts to be indifferent to it. One point, quote "means you avoid the constant drone that blights CVT hybrids, such as the Prius and Outlander PHEV" as the Outlander PHEV has no CVT gearbox, or any gearbox as such that isn't true, at normal running revs the engine is almost undetectable, its only vocal briefly under hard acceleration but what car engine isn't then?

27 May 2016
The Apprentice wrote:

Sounds good despite your attempts to be indifferent to it. One point, quote "means you avoid the constant drone that blights CVT hybrids, such as the Prius and Outlander PHEV" as the Outlander PHEV has no CVT gearbox, or any gearbox as such that isn't true, at normal running revs the engine is almost undetectable, its only vocal briefly under hard acceleration but what car engine isn't then?

Clearly the reviewer has never driven Toyota/Lexus Hybrid as there is no drone from the CVT ( PSD), the only noise is engine noise brief from hard acceleration then drops to normal engine noise, that even cuts out when it can..
As for the Mitsubishi, there is no CVT thus no an ounce of drone. When will reviewers do real driving like those reveiwers in USA who are more balanced in their reviews..

28 May 2016
mpls wrote:
The Apprentice wrote:

Sounds good despite your attempts to be indifferent to it. One point, quote "means you avoid the constant drone that blights CVT hybrids, such as the Prius and Outlander PHEV" as the Outlander PHEV has no CVT gearbox, or any gearbox as such that isn't true, at normal running revs the engine is almost undetectable, its only vocal briefly under hard acceleration but what car engine isn't then?

Clearly the reviewer has never driven Toyota/Lexus Hybrid as there is no drone from the CVT ( PSD), the only noise is engine noise brief from hard acceleration then drops to normal engine noise, that even cuts out when it can..
As for the Mitsubishi, there is no CVT thus no an ounce of drone. When will reviewers do real driving like those reveiwers in USA who are more balanced in their reviews..

Suggest you come and drive one in somewhere like Galicia, Northern Spain. A 5% 10kms. autovia incline will change his mind

27 May 2016
If this is well priced and proves refined enough on UK roads, then I might consider it as a commuter car next year...

27 May 2016
Seems like a decent enough attempt at a low(ish) cost hybrid. Rear-end styling looks like a better resolved Jeep Cherokee, and the interior is pretty nice - standard stuff for a Kia these days.

AV

27 May 2016
This and the hybrid Toyota CHR will surely sell in droves as SUV seekers realise they can avoid unrefined, troublesome and dirty diesels.
Perhaps then Honda will wake up and allow us to buy their hybrids too. HRV hybrid anyone?

28 May 2016
AV wrote:

This and the hybrid Toyota CHR will surely sell in droves as SUV seekers realise they can avoid unrefined, troublesome and dirty diesels.
Perhaps then Honda will wake up and allow us to buy their hybrids too. HRV hybrid anyone?

The recent earthquake in Japan is having a big effect on deliveries currently - people are reporting 6+ months delivery for Toyota RAV4 hybrids - no doubt Hyundai/Kia will take advantage

28 May 2016
T-bar automatic transmission lever - Is this Kia's idea of retro?

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