It took Toyota four model generations to come up with a Toyota Prius – the car with which Kia’s first dedicated hybrid must inevitably be compared – that feels normal to drive.

And by ‘normal’, we mean fully realised: broadly uncompromised on driveability and handling as well as being efficient.

Kia’s landmark hybrid is ambitious but somewhat poorly resolved

Kia must be given the freedom to grow at its own pace, but the Niro certainly feels like a first attempt, even though in many ways it shouldn’t.

It’s cleverly packaged, keenly priced, well equipped, swift enough in outright terms and dynamically passable.

But in real-world use, the Niro lacks easy driveability, accessible efficiency and ride and handling sophistication. And somehow it fails to make the electric part of its powertrain work hard enough to provide a convincing selling point within its driving experience.

Being handsome, practical and appealingly good value, the Niro will make the splash in the growing hybrid market that Kia desires, but it’s a sufficiently contrived, muddled car to drive to prevent it from vying for class leadership – at least for now.


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