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MotorBar
Kia Niro 1.6 GDi HEV ‘3’ DCT
Click to view picture gallery“The Niro slots between Kias Ceed
  hatchback and their Sportage SUV
  and for many that makes it the perfect
  sized five-seater. It also comes in
  three distinctly different
flavours:
  self-charging Hybrid HEV; plug-in
  PHEV; and the very impressive
  all-electric e-Niro
...”


THE HYBRID NIRO doesn't need plugging-in as it pairs a petrol engine with an electric motor and compact battery pack that boosts fuel economy to extend the distances between pit stops. The Hybrid's 'e' side is a cleverly engineered bit of kit that sees it recoup energy during braking to keep the batteries, which are fitted beneath the rear seats, fully charged.

Because the self-charging hybrid set-up avoids any need to charge either at home or at public charging stations, the dreaded 'range anxiety' never enters your mind. Likewise, the upside of choosing the plug-in PHEV version is that it can take you up to thirty miles on pure electric power plus it will happily drive on its petrol engine alone if you can't — or don't — plug it in! The third power choice, unlike the Hybrid and PHEV, is the highly praised (and deservedly so) e-Niro. It doesn't have an engine at all — just an uber-clean electric motor that can keep you rolling along for 282 miles between re-charges.

Looking around
the cabin it
s obvious
that the Niro has been
designed with families
in mind. Getting aboard
is a breeze, courtesy of
wide-opening doors;
and getting to your seat
is an easy step-up.
Once comfortably settled
in either front seat you
ll
appreciate the class-
leading space: generous
legroom, shin-friendly
footwells, and a full fist-
and-a-half of headroom.
Feel free to wear
your hat!”
Slotted into the Hybrid Niro's engine bay is a conventional four-pot 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol engine that contributes 104bhp and which works hand-in-hand with a 32kW (43bhp) electric motor which together generate a combined 139bhp and a muscular 195lb ft of torque. This parallel hybrid set-up means that most of the time the petrol and electric power units work together but it can operate in all-electric mode for short distances when setting off, under gentle acceleration and when descending slopes or braking.

Not that you'll be aware of it mix-and-matching power sources once you're on the move because the technical side of things is fine and dandy. Another bonus is that in day-to-day driving conditions you rarely need to mash the accelerator, so combustion sounds just fade into the background.

The Hybrid set-up is a real win-win, not just for all those keen-to-go-green motorists living in built-up areas with no off-road parking (so no easy home charging) but especially so for those whose driving is done mostly in stop-start traffic because it's in the urban jungle that the hybrid drivetrain is at its most efficient (lots of braking energy recuperation!). That said, out on the open road its mpg figures still cut the mustard: officially, the Niro Hybrid's combined consumption is given as 54.3mpg (with 'touring' even better, at 62.8mpg). The 50+ figure was confirmed when we recorded 53.8mpg at the end of a week's hard driving. Given that we don't hang about, most owners should likely see the same — if not something higher. For the record, on several occasions on longer journeys we even saw 60mpg.

It's a nice powertrain with power sent to the front wheels via the six-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox (DCT) — a strong selling point this, because it is far superior to the Continually Variable Transmissions that are usually Hobson's choice in electric vehicles from some other EV carmakers. Transitions between the electric motor, petrol engine, and blended electric-petrol modes are seamless, with equally smooth gearshifts. And whenever you fancy, you can switch from the worthy Eco drive setting to Sport.

Tap the selector lever sideways from Drive into Sport and you'll instantly feel — and savour! — the difference. It's sharp pulling away from the lights, and just the job for some keen driving along twisty country roads; driven in Sport mode the hybrid feels more on the pace than its official 0-60mph time of 11.1 seconds indicates. Flat out you'll see 101mph which, given the UK's 70mph legal top speed, is more than you'll need. And at 119g/km, the Niro's CO2 emissions won't cause even green-hued owners any sleepless nights.

On the move the cabin remains satisfyingly quiet thanks to some very effective engine bay insulation — in everyday driving conditions the Niro's powertrain is rarely heard. In fact, unless you really stomp the accelerator, you could be in an all-electric machine. Which is great news on extended trips, especially when sailing serenely along at the legal limit.

“When it comes to mpg
the self-charging Niro
cuts the mustard:
officially, the combined
consumption is given as
54.3mpg (with ‘touring’
even better, at 62.8mpg).
The 50+ figure was
confirmed when we
recorded 53.8mpg at the
end of a week’s hard
driving. Given that we
don’t hang about, most
owners should likely
see the same. For the
record, on several
occasions on longer
journeys we even saw
60mpg...”
Looking around the cabin it's obvious that the Niro has been designed with families in mind. Getting aboard is a breeze, courtesy of wide-opening doors; and getting to your seat is an easy step-up. Once comfortably settled in either front seat you'll appreciate the class-leading space: generous legroom, shin-friendly footwells, and a full fist-and-a-half of headroom. Feel free to wear your hat! The ambiance is inviting and benefits from soft, tactile materials, smart hi-gloss black finishing, thorough attention to detail, and easy-to-find buttons and switchgear — not forgetting the classy, flush-fitting central touchscreen in the streamlined dash.

Black leather upholstery, with vented centre panels, covers the large seats. The bolstering is sensibly firm but not at all intrusive, so getting out again is easy. Three-stage heating is standard along with a heated rim for the three-spoke, good-to-grip steering wheel. The multifunction features (voice commands, phone, audio, driver's multi-mode computer, cruise, and speed limiter) are a doddle to use as everything is clearly marked. As the driver, you come in for some extra pampering with eight-way electric seat adjustment and power-adjustable lumbar support.

As you'd expect, the higher-riding Niro offers a commanding driving position allied to first-class visibility, so placing it accurately in tightly packed traffic is easy-peasy. Very handy too is the wide-view driver's door mirror. And if you are that rarity — a DIY reverser — then you'll be glad of the decent over the shoulder views; if you're more of a techie, then you can relax and rely on the reversing camera system (with active guidelines) and parking sensors fitted front and rear.

And the 'inner space' good news doesn't stop there, because there's plenty of storage for personal odds and ends: a huge bin in the centre console between the front chairs, large cupholders, overhead sunglasses case, decent-sized glovebox, bottle-holding front door bins, a front tray ahead of the selector lever with a WiFi smartphone charging bed along with USB charging jacks.

The oh-so-important infotainment system fitted in the Niro is fully fledged and comes with built-in 3D SatNav plus split-screen functionality (you can, if you wish, see the active map, check out the music list, and see the hybrid powertrain's energy flow side by side on the main 10.25-inch touchscreen). Courtesy of Kia's online Connected Services there are also speed camera warnings and traffic updates as well as plenty of voice control functions — for instance: "find filling station"; "find Starbucks"; as well as finding navigation destinations.

Other must-haves include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both with voice control), a DAB radio with MP3 compatibility, six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth with music streaming, fast-charge and standard USB ports, and an app to remotely connect with the car when you're physically apart.

The oh-so-important
infotainment system
fitted in the Niro is fully
fledged and comes with
built-in 3D SatNav plus
split-screen functionality
(you can, if you wish,
see the active map,
check out the music list,
and see the hybrid
powertrain
s energy flow
side by side on the
main 10.25-inch
touchscreen).
Plus, courtesy of Kias
online Connected
Services there are also
speed camera warnings
and traffic updates as
well as plenty of voice
control functions...”
The system is a cinch to use from the get-go, helped by physical shortcut buttons for snappy menu jumps and sharp graphics. Ahead of the driver is an easy-to-read 7-inch digital instrument cluster with crisp dials and critical info such as a large road speed readout along with EV and driving mode information. Everything, in fact, you'll ever need.

Kia have a reputation for throwing in lots of kit and the mid-range '3' model Niro is no exception with its comprehensive comms package (detailed above) that includes wireless smartphone charging, full leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 2Zone automatic AirCon (with a handy driver-only mode; and a climate button to display selected settings on screen — you still use the knobs and buttons in the climate panel to make adjustments), solar glass, rear and tailgate privacy glass, powerfolding heated door mirrors (on demand or auto on locking and leaving), adaptive smart cruise control with Stop-and-Go function, electronic parking brake with autohold, front and rear parking sensors plus a reversing camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, four electric windows with one-shot auto up/down function for the driver and front passenger, and some nifty-looking 18-inch alloy wheels.

Safety kit is also well-specced with Forward Collision-Avoidance assist with emergency braking, electronic stability control, lane-keep and lane-follow assist, a full suite of airbags, Projection headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED front fog lights, auto lights (including automatic dip/main beam switching), auto wipers, hill-start assist, height-adjustable front belts, tyre pressure monitoring, and ISOFIX child seat top tethers and anchor fixings.

At a manageable 4.3 metres nose-to-tail the Niro is a comfortable fit with our crowded roads: not so big that finding a parking bay is ever a challenge but still roomy enough for four adults to travel in real comfort. The generous glazing, including a full-depth third side window, and the abundance of space makes for a relaxing and airy cabin. Even six-footers up front won't cramp the generous legroom (or six inches of knee-room) of those travelling in the rear, who also enjoy excellent headroom (a full fist of it) and, thanks to a low central floor hump, plenty of wriggle room for their feet.

Comfy backrest angles combined with decent padding and built-in lower back support makes travelling in the rear equally as satisfying as sitting alongside the driver. The easily shared drop-down central armrest comes with integrated cupholders and all back-seat users benefit from the central air vents. Also appreciated are the number of in-cabin storage spots dotted around the interior; in the back these include decent-sized bottle-holding door bins and front seatback pocket pouches.

It helps, too, that the Niro rides well, even on 18-inch wheels. Its suspension soaks up the rough stuff to serve up a fluent ride around the houses and even stays calm (and carries on smoothly) along patchy secondary roads. It is also more than agile enough to press on whenever the driver wants to. Just because SUVs are taller than regular hatchbacks people think they'll lean more when cutting through the twisty bits. Not so the Niro: its body control is well managed, the steering accurate and the grip plentiful, and it handles tidily and reassuringly.

Cruising motorways,
its high-speed stability
adds yet another layer
of confidence. The proof
of the pudding is in the
driving: during our week
testing the Niro, storms
Eunice, Franklin, and
Gladys battered the UK
but the Niro took the
worst they could dish out
and came through it all
safe and with not a hair
out of place...”
Cruising motorways, its high-speed stability adds yet another layer of confidence. The proof of the pudding is in the driving: during our week testing the Niro, storms Eunice, Franklin, and Gladys battered the UK but the Niro took the worst they could dish out and came through it all safe and with not a hair out of place.

A helpful by-product of the regenerative braking is that simply lifting off the accelerator will provide a useful degree of what in a conventionally powered car would be termed 'engine braking'. In the Niro this means that when, say, approaching a red traffic light, you can simply lift off the power and let the 'drag' from the regen brakes gently slow the car. This also makes for a much more laid-back driving style that will undoubtedly be very much appreciated by your passengers. For more urgent stops from higher speeds just hit the brake pedal as you would in a traditional petrol- or diesel-powered car. Do so, and you'll find the Hybrid's brakes to be very reassuring with reliable pedal feel.

The Niro's boot will swallow a practical 382 litres of luggage — sufficient to accommodate a family's staycation kit or more mundane items such as golf gear or a baby carriage. Anybody who has had to haul sizeable white goods around will tell you that it's not so much the height of the boot's load sill above the road (although the Niro's is helpfully low) that's a problem when loading or unloading as the height of the lip.

There's no load lip to speak of at the end of the Niro's boot so lifting heavy items in or out is a no-fear task. Folded forward, the 60:40-split rear seatbacks lay completely flat, making light work of transporting flat-pack furniture and the like. More good news — very wide-opening rear doors; and the size of their apertures make for not just effortless passenger entry/exit but also no-hassle access to cargo at the forward-end of the 1,380-litre loadbay. Also particularly handy is the eight-section storage tray beneath the boot floor and, on the outside, roof rails. Many owners will also appreciate the Niro's braked 1,300kg towing ability.

A fine family 'holdall', the boldly styled Niro Hybrid is obligingly spacious and comes with the looks, practicality, and desirability of a compact crossover/SUV. Conveniently self-charging, it also delivers high mpg and low running costs. So, for not that much money you get an easy-to-live-with, easy-to-drive and convincing all-rounder that, for many owners, will be the cat's pyjamas! ~ MotorBar
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Kia Niro 1.6 GDi HEV '3' DCT | 28,115
Maximum speed: 101mph | 0-60mph: 11.1 seconds | Test Average: 53.8mpg
Power: 139bhp | Torque: 195lb ft | CO2: 119g/km

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