Kia Niro - The Power To Surprise
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
The world is turning its back on the diesel engine. High pollution levels in our city centres are seeing to that and so local authorities are beginning to introduce punitive charges to deter the worst polluters.
The attraction of the diesel engine is of course its economy, with some of the latest batch being able to return 60+mpg with ease. For the high mileage driver, petrol power has not been a viable option.
There is now another way as manufacturers are now looking to eco-friendly hybrid powertrains to deliver decent real world economy.
Hybrid sales in the UK and Europe have doubled over the past five years and are expected to reach 700,000 annually by the end of the decade.
One of the latest models to appear on the market is the new Kia Niro, promising sub 100g/km CO2 emissions and excellent economy thanks to an efficient 1.6-litre petrol engine with electrical assistance.
The internal combustion engine produces 104bhp and works alongside a 43bhp electric motor sending power through a six-speed dual clutch gearbox (no CVT transmission here thank goodness).
The compact five-door Niro boasts a low drag coefficient of just 0.29, while extensive use of high strength steel and aluminium help keep weight down.
In the UK the Niro is offered in designated grades '1', '2', '3' and 'First Edition'. All feature a high standard specification.
My '2' grade test car comes competitively priced at £22,795 on the road, undercutting its most obvious rival, the well-established Toyota Prius.
If you are used to a diesel engine, the Niro's overall refinement will come as a pleasant surprise. Only if you extend the engine fully does an air of harshness intrude.
The engine and electric motor work together in harmony, but there is a little hesitation from time to time. A little disconcerting at first, as if the electronics are trying to decide where to take the power from.
The afore-mentioned six-speed gearbox operates smoothly and you can change gear yourself if you feel so inclined.
A four hundred mile round trip mostly on motorways saw the trip computer reading a little over 50mpg. More gentle A-road exploits saw this improve on occasions to closer to 60mpg.
As a fast road cruiser, the Niro proved to be surprisingly adept. The comfortable ride was appreciated and wind and road noise were well contained.
Driving thrills on my favoured local test route were few and far between, but I suspect no one is going to buy a Niro for its sporting prowess.
Kia has been making excellent interiors for quite some time and the Niro
keeps up the good work. Soft-touch plastics abound and it all feels well put together.
There is ample space for four six-footers to travel in comfort with head and legroom aplenty for all.
The boot is reasonably sized, the battery being cleverly sited under the rear seats. These can be easily folded to accept longer loads.
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As a first attempt at producing a hybrid vehicle, the Niro shows that Kia understands what is required and I expect to find other models in their range offering the technology sometime soon.
In the meantime, the Niro offers comfortable family-sized transportation, low running costs and a 7-year warranty, all at very competitive prices.
Kia Niro 1.6 GDi HEV '2' DCT
Price £22,795 on the road
1.6-litre 104bhp petrol engine + 43bhp electric motor
6-speed dual clutch gearbox
Combined economy 74.3mpg
Emissions 88g/km CO2
0-62mph in 11.1 seconds
7 year/100,000 mile warranty
Kia Niro - The Power To Surprise, 24th February 2017, 12:00 PM