1.6 GDi DCT First Edition
was you had a straight choice:
petrol or diesel. Now theres a long
list of power units from full-blown
plug-in electric to petrol-electric and
THIS IS ALL DOWN not to the relentless march of advanced engineering but
to the drive for ever-lower emissions. The good news is that until the time
when all cars are zero-emitters there will be financial incentives for drivers
to 'sign up for a cleaner planet' in the form of low/no road tax, London Congestion
Charge exemption, and Government subsidies that can lop a worthwhile chunk off
of the purchase price.
So where does that leave Kia's right-on, all-new Niro hybrid, powered as it
is by a petrol-electric drivetrain? Slotted neatly into Kia's green-car line-up
alongside the fun-to-drive all-electric Soul EV, is where. And with a full set
of five doors and smart SUV cues, it's very much the avant-garde crossover,
albeit one with front-wheel drive. But where it differs from the herd is that
it's been designed from the off to be a hybrid.
instantly recognisable as a Kia courtesy of its trademark 'tiger-nose' grille,
the Niro's high-set headlights and sculptured bonnet front a sharply-raked screen
and cleanly-styled flanks that taper off above black-edged wheelarches. A subtle
roof spoiler, neat roof rails and a shark-fin antenna cap the chrome-embellished
glasshouse guessing the Niro's visual DNA owes much to Kia's California
design studio is a no-brainer.
by a petrol-
electric drivetrain, the all-
new Niro hybrid slots
neatly into Kias green-
car line-up alongside the
Soul EV. And with a full
set of five doors and
smart SUV cues, its very
much the avant-garde
All of which makes the Niro a smart looker, one that's priced from a tempting
£21K to just under £27K. Within that spread buyers get to choose between four
well-dressed trim levels, all of which come with a 1.6-litre direct injection
four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet, one that works in tandem with
a 43bhp electric motor to generate a combined 139bhp allied to a healthy 195lb
ft of torque.
When we say 'works in tandem' with the electric motor we mean exactly that:
for most of the time the electric motor supplements the petrol engine rather
than fully taking over from it. That said, it can operate in all-electric mode
for short distances: from pull-away, on a light throttle, when running downhill,
Not that you'd notice because the petrol engine and electric motor tag-team
harmoniously as they switch dominance. So who tops up the motor's lithium-ion
polymer battery? That's not something you need worry about because it looks
after itself thanks to the 'power harvesting' that occurs every time you brake
or decelerate and which charges up the battery pack located under the back seats.
Another big plus: while for most of the time there's a petrol-electric 'duet'
performing under the bonnet, it's good to report that the hybrid Niro is generally
'seen and not heard'. Adding to the smooth progress are the seamless gearchanges
served up by the autobox. And just to be clear: the drive from the two parallel
power sources is to the front wheels only via a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic
gearbox that also offers a manual mode to allow for sportier driving.
If you still think that 'eco' equates to second-tier performance, now's your
chance to think again because the Niro will top the 'ton' to reach a usable
101mph and nip from standstill to the benchmark 60mph in a keen 11.1 seconds.
we're talking figures, those for economy also deserve a mention: officially
the Niro's Combined Cycle figure is 64.2mpg; a week's driving on MotorBar's
punishing test schedule resulted in a commendable 56.2mpg. As good as that is,
a Niro has just set a Guinness World Record for the lowest fuel consumption
for a hybrid car after driving 3,715 miles coast-to-coast across the USA at
you still think that
eco equates to second-
tier performance, nows
your chance to think
again because the Niro
will top the ton.
Officially its Combined
Cycle figure is 64.2mpg;
a weeks driving on
test schedule resulted
in a commendable
The other important figure is, of course, the CO2 emissions for the comprehensively-
equipped Niro First Edition with its 18-inch wheels, that's a satisfactorily
'green' 101g/km which means nothing to pay for the First Year's road tax and
then a measly £20 annually for Year Two onwards. For the record, models with
16-inch wheels have CO2 emissions of 88g/km (and an official 74.3mpg figure)
so never pay a penny in road tax.
The Niro's crossover-estate style body is good news for 'five+luggage'. With
an accommodating 2.7-metre wheelbase, you'll find it pleasantly spacious inside;
the stone grey leather-upholstered front seats are wide, supportive and ventilated
and have three-stage heating and power lumbar adjustment; the driver is further
cosseted with 10-way electric adjustment and two seat memory settings.
While externally it's no monster SUV, the Niro's well-proportioned body houses
plenty of room: in the front, despite the slightly raised crossover-style seating
position, there's a fist of headroom and good personal space around each seat
enough for the front passenger to stretch out fully without cramping
the legroom of the person sitting behind them; a large central front armrest
is of shareable proportions and, most important of all, the driving position
is first-rate, offering a clear view down the bonnet complemented by decent
rearward vision as well as effective door mirrors.
More good news the doors open a full ninety degrees so getting in/out
is a breeze, and the chromed door handles with blue LED night-time lighting
work smoothly. Use any door and the first impression is of a fresh-looking,
premium-grade cabin with a blend of finishes and quality materials that make
it both visually and tactilely interesting. The detailing is thorough, with
tastefully done chrome filleting, quality switchgear, and other elegant touches
such as white hi-gloss inserts in the doors, around the gear selector, delineating
the fascia, and on the steering wheel.
Along with a grippy, satin-black leather rim, the sporty three-spoke wheel is
fully multifunctional with logical and easily remembered remote controls for
just about everything your hands will rarely need to leave the wheel.
Better still, during the winter months the heated rim makes it even nicer to
its high-gloss black surround and crisp graphics, the large (eight-inch) central
touchscreen is another visual highlight; menu hopping is quick, and navigation
clear-cut with well-timed spoken directions and supporting graphic prompts shown
on the 4.2-inch TFT driver's info screen between the main dials directly in
front of the driver. The screen also provides the view from the rear-looking
camera when reversing, bolstered audibly by front and rear parking sensors.
with plenty of
connectivity and a
hi-fi theres a tray where
you can charge your
In fact the Niros cabin is
a great place to recharge
your own batteries,
not just those in your
The Niro's interior 'climate' is ably managed by the dual-zone automatic AirCon
while for extra efficiency there are driver-only settings. Today's road cars
really don't have any justifiable need for a rev-counter so full marks
to Kia for substituting a more useful 'power usage meter' showing Charge, Eco
and Power modes flanked to its right by a driver's info display and a traditional
speedo, although there's also a perfectly fine digital speed readout.
Connectivity is also well served in the Niro thanks to Android Auto (Google's
version of Apple CarPlay) that, like CarPlay, transfers a number of smartphone-based
apps (Google Play music, Google Maps navigation, hands-free calls and texts,
and voice recognition) to the 8-inch touchscreen.
You also get Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom which provides up-to-the-minute
information on traffic hold-ups, weather, speed camera locations and local points
of interest (Kia Connected Services is free for seven years from the time the
car is bought).
Additionally you get a DAB radio plus an eight-speaker, 320-watt JBL Premium
sound system, Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls and music streaming and sufficient
Aux and USB ports. Your smartphone isn't forgotten either there's a tray
where you can charge it wirelessly. In fact the Niro's cabin is a great place
to recharge your own batteries, not just those in your mobile!
Maximising convenience for the driver is the powered seat's 'easy access' feature
with three settings: off, normal, and extended. You may not be expecting the
push-down, foot-operated parking brake but it's actually very easy to get on
with. Attention to detail is thorough: for instance, the drop-down glasses holder
and glovebox are both damped; and the satin chrome-and-soft leather selector
lever knob is beautifully finished.
Niro comes well equipped but the range-topping First Edition trim gets you the
lot, some of which has already been mentioned, but other items include a tilt-and-slide
glass sunroof with power blackout sunblind, keyless entry and locking plus keyless
start with an engine Start/Stop button, electric windows (one-shot up/down operation
at the front), electrically adjustable, heated and folding door mirrors (on
demand and automatically on locking and leaving), LED daytime running lights
and LED tail lights, heated outer rear seats, drive-away automatic door locking,
Solar glass with privacy glass on the rear windows and tailgate, rain-sensing
wipers, auto lights, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
travelling in the
back get accommodating
heated seats with
generous armrests and
relaxing backrest angles.
Theres also decent
headroom, dedicated air
vents and large side
windows, all of which
make it a limo-like place
to doze in comfort...
Active safety kit includes Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability
Management, tyre pressure monitoring, Lane Keeping Assist System (select from
standard or active modes), Hill-start Assist Control, Speed Limiter, Blind Spot
Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (prevents the driver from reversing out
of a driveway or parking space when there is a vehicle approaching from the
side), Smart Cruise Control (with three response settings: fast, slow, or normal),
a full set of airbags including one for the driver's knee, and a five-star EuroNCAP
It additionally has Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection that
brings the car to a halt if the driver fails to react to a potential accident.
The system covers three categories: City, which can avoid low-speed urban accidents
at up to 13mph; Inter-Urban, which operates between 31mph and 50mph; and Pedestrian,
which detects pedestrians and other vulnerable road users such as cyclists at
up to 44mph.
Although a compact 4.3 metres in length, the Niro has a 2.7-metre wheelbase
which is particularly welcome news if you're travelling in the rear cabin
for a start the accommodating outer rear seats are heated (two-stage) and come
with generous outer armrests as well as a wide well-padded centre one with a
pair of cupholders. Plus, wherever you sit, be it nearside, offside or in the
middle (there's good room for three side-by-side) you'll enjoy a relaxing backrest
angle. There's also decent headroom, dedicated air vents, and thanks to large
side windows the cabin feels airy; all of which make it a limo-like place to
doze in comfort.
round to the back and you'll find a full-depth tailgate that's neatly capped
by a high-level spoiler. The tailgate lifts up easily to reveal an accommodating
427-litre boot (which includes a handy eight-compartment under-tray) that's
easily loaded thanks to a low lip. Fold the 60:40-split back seats flat and
you get a seamless loadbay floor that will handle 1,425 litres of cargo. A hassle-free
roller blind makes keeping your luggage private a breeze.
it comes to
allied to minimal body
lean add up
to unexpectedly crisp
handling. Overall the
Niro is good to drive and
with standard-fit stability
and traction control
systems you can press
on with confidence...
Niro rides well and although the First Edition's 225/45 eighteen-inchers introduce
a tad more firmness than found on the standard 16-inch wheels, it's still an
agreeable ride. And when it comes to handling, the firm-ish independent suspension
allied to minimal body lean add up to unexpectedly (for a crossover) crisp handling.
To its credit the Niro always feels eager to please, helped by quick-to-respond
electromechanical power-assisted steering that 'keeps up' dynamically during
hard cornering. Overall it's good to drive and with standard-fit stability and
traction control systems you can press on with confidence.
Prospective customers will also be pleased to hear that if feels quicker than
it's on-paper figures would have you believe put a stopwatch to it and
you might see a second to the better for its 0-60mph time. Particularly if you
make use of the Sport driving mode easily engaged by simply flicking
the selector lever sideways to the right when in Drive. Those wanting more control
and stronger in-gear acceleration can select, move sequentially through, and
hold gears manually using the lever.
Big on interior space and big on kit but low on CO2 and road tax, the versatile
and affordable petrol-electric hybrid Niro makes a worthy alternative to oil-burning
crossovers. And in keeping with every Kia, it comes with a unique-in-the-UK
seven-year/100,000-mile warranty the best on any hybrid available in
Britain. Live with one for just a few days and you'll be thinking: Yes, I'll
take one! ~ MotorBar
Kia Niro 1.6 GDi DCT First Edition
Maximum speed: 101mph | 0-60mph: 11.1 seconds | Test Average: 56.2mpg
Power: 139bhp | Torque: 195lb ft | CO2: 101g/km