That the Niro doesn’t score more highly here is perhaps because Kia has tried to achieve a little too much with the car – chasing efficiency, performance, refinement and handling dynamism has inevitably stretched the fabric of the car’s driving experience somewhat thin.
On the 16in wheels and Michelin Energy Saver tyres that are standard on the entry-level 2 and all PHEV models, the car has limited reserves of outright grip, but spring rates some way stiffer than the crossover norm create quite crisp handling response from the suspension.
It’s a combination that makes the car feel wieldy and eager up to a point, but not desperately sophisticated or engaging thereafter.
Kia’s electromechanical power steering set-up produces quite heavy, muted steering feel. It’s moderately direct and weights up as cornering forces rise but ultimately does little to entice you into the driving experience or tell you when those front contact patches are running short of grip.
The car’s adhesive limits are pretty modest, too. That firm suspension refuses to let the body roll very much and it’s quite noisy and brittle-feeling over bumps.
Corner hard and you’ll find those grip levels are at least broadly well balanced, the car being prone to sliding at either axle – and doing so quite suddenly once you’ve breached its comfort zone, only for the ESC to intervene quite hard and late in proceedings.