Kia Niro review
The Kia Niro is small hybrid SUV that's designed to do battle in what is a hotly contested corner of the market. Its list of rivals is extensive and doesn't just include SUVs; cars like the Toyota Prius and Toyota Corolla are among the best self-charging hybrids around, while there's also the sportily styled but less practical Toyota C-HR and a raft of efficient conventional diesel and petrol family hatches and SUVs. There's also the Hyundai Kona Hybrid, which is a more stylish and equally efficient and well-equipped version of the Kia.
There are a few plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options worth considering, too, including the PHEV variant of the Niro itself and the MINI Countryman ALL4, while Kia’s sister company Hyundai produces the Ioniq Hybrid – a five-door hatchback that shares much of the Niro’s running gear.
All of this means the potential Niro buyer has a number of rivals with a broad range of desirable qualities, but there’s not much direct competition if you want the usability of a 'self-charging' or full-hybrid powertrain with a relatively conservative exterior – and of course the practicality of the SUV-like crossover body.
Unlike the Niro PHEV, you don't have to plug this hybrid Niro into the grid to get the best out of it, but of course neither do you get the benefit of a significant electric-only range. Under the bonnet, Kia has fitted a 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine, paired with an electric motor to produce 139bhp in total. The drivetrain also includes a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The problem is that the Niro hybrid's economy and efficiency isn't quite up to scratch with rivals like the Prius, although the good news is that our colleagues at Auto Express managed nearly 60mpg from the pre-facelift Niro hybrid (which had the same powertrain in a slightly less efficient tune) in everyday use, so you can expect to match the official figures quite easily.
That might be cold comfort for company-car buyers who will still have to pay more BiK tax than they would on a plug-in hybrid rival, though.
The entry-level trim is the Niro 2, which looks pretty good value, with an eight-inch touchscreen navigation screen, reversing camera, auto lights and wipers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, LED tail-lights and daytime running lights – all for less than £25,000.
The mid-range Niro 3 gets bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, upgraded audio and a leather interior with heated seats, while the range-topping Niro 4 adds smart cruise control and advanced safety goodies like autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitoring and a seven-inch colour TFT readout for the driver. For under £30,000, that's a pretty good deal, but the Niro doesn’t benefit from any government grant or even exemption from the London Congestion Charge.
On the road, the Niro is unremarkable but neat and tidy, and absolutely fit for purpose – as well as generally comfortable. Mind you, we would like the engine to be a bit less intrusive when it kicks in after the intermittent electric running you get around town, and the CVT gearbox in a Toyota Prius is smoother, too.
Still, the Niro is easy and relaxing to drive, and with a well built and well equipped interior, most occupants should have few complaints. The five-door estate body is roomy and practical, adding to the Niro’s family-friendly appeal.
The advanced driver aids that are standard across the range are second to none at this price. They include adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, traffic-sign recognition and autonomous emergency braking, which combine to offer a semi-autonomous driving mode. Of course, Kia's seven-year warranty package is also unbeatable, and especially desirable for buyers considering holding onto their Niro for a while.
If you’re not too worried about a sporty drive and just want to get safely from A to B in relative comfort with the family onboard, and with impressive real-world fuel efficiency, then there’s a lot to recommend here.
For a more detailed look at the Kia Niro Hybrid, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.