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.
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%