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.