Kia Niro Road Test (2016)

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ELECTRICAL CONNECTION


As demands and customer expectations increase so does the need for every manufacturer to include a hybrid in their range of cars. The rush to serve this need has resulted in a variety of petrol-electric hybrids predominantly of the plug-in variety that are at best lackluster at worst neigh on useless. Requiring a full mains charge from a dedicated charger that provides a maximum of thirty miles or thereabouts on the proviso the journey covers as near to flat roads as is possible, many hybrids are still heavily reliant on their petrol engines whilst their ability to self regenerate electrical charge is lamentable.


In other words, most current hybrids only work if they can be driven within very specific parameters and easy access to chargers. If not, apart from their appeal in respect of taxation breaks zero or minimal road tax and of course the owner’s chest inflating dedication to having gone green, most hybrids struggle to come anywhere near to their equivalent petrol or diesel versions when it comes to economy and the initial purchase price. Equally, most hybrids are based around an existing model that was never designed for hybrid power, yet another reason as to why they don’t work well.


Completely self-contained which means it doesn’t require a charger either at home or on a street corner, the car was purposely designed as a petrol-electric hybrid, Kia’s Niro the first of its type within the range. A first since its Kia’s first hybrid unlike their all-electric and seriously underwhelming Soul EV and the first of Kia’s hybrid specific vehicles.


Available in four specifications all of which are powered by an identical 104 hp, 4-cylinder petrol and 43hp or 32kw lithium-ion polymer battery electric motors the pair produce a combined 265Nm of torque. Together with the practical SUV estate style exterior delivering a drag coefficient of 0.29 and a 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission the combined 139hp produces 11.1 seconds 0-60 and a top speed of 101mph, a ‘Sport’ mode allowing the driver to enhance the Niro’s response times as and when needed.


Working in parallel the electric motor assist the petrol engine when needed, become the main motive power in and around town or on short distances whilst electrical power is continually topped up when the car is coasting or during braking. This means owners can expect up to 74.3mpg or 64.2mpg should they decide to opt for the slightly larger wheels. Ironically, whilst the smaller wheeled ‘1’ and ‘2’ spec Niros enjoy zero road tax due to their Co2 figure of 88, the larger wheeled ‘3’ and ‘First Edition’ models will incur road taxation due to their higher 101 Co2 figures.      


The Niro itself provides ample room for five adults, head, shoulder and shoulder room one of the Niro’s other priorities along with 421 litres of luggage space, cargo capacity increases to 1,425 litres with the rear seats folded plus an additional 100kg roof rail capability. Tag on the Niro’s 5.3 meter turning circle and Kia’s new hybrid reinforces the new model’s practicality.


On the road the Niro is noticeably undemanding of its driver, leaving the occupants to enjoy Kia’s increasing attention to detail and quality of finish. Most of the main controls have been sourced from existing new models, soft touch surfaces, high grade trim and upholstery up to Kia’s now familiar standards. Sat on MacPherson struts and multi-link suspension along with anti-roll bars and gas filled dampers, the ride is soft and pliant although body roll can become apparent on tightening corners. The main difference is the instrumentation, eco and electrical power meters constantly updating the driver as to how much electrical power is held in reserve, the direction of flow and the amount of regeneration both they and the car are producing.


There’s even a gauge that informs you as to your driving style and how aggression you’ve been, faster driving and overtaking giving the Niro cause for rebuke. As green as any Kia currently gets the Niro breezes happily along delivering acceptable levels of performance. But even in ‘Sport’ the Niro is still green at heart, the car gathers pace rather than accelerates hard whilst the steering’s power assist remains light, feedback maybe not quite as pronounced as maybe it could be. However, given the customers the Niro will attract, performance and sharper handling isn’t a priority, it’s the eco credentials and practical packaging.  


Carrying as always Kia’s famous 7-year warranty, Niro prices start at £21,295 for the entry level ‘1’ climbing to £26,995 for the launch First Edition version. But attractive as they are the ‘1’ is the one to go for. The smaller wheel and low rolling resistance tyres means no road tax whilst this basic Niro embodies everything the green buyer is looking for, the Niro’s self-contained concept a significant step in hybrid development.     



By; Mark Stone



Kia Niro Road Test