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. The updates in 2020 went some way towards addressing some of the car’s weaknesses, but not its dynamics. The same is true of the PHEV, which remains one of the most affordable of its type, even if this USP has been undermined by the abolishment of Government subsidies for cars of this type.

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 has made a splash in the growing hybrid market, even if it’s a sufficiently contrived, muddled car to drive to prevent it from vying for class leadership. That said,  the long waiting lists prove that for many buyers its many strengths easily outweigh the odd demerit.

Back to top