Kia Niro Review

Find out more about the Kia Niro in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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3
Out of 5

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Spacious
  • Well-equipped

Cons

  • High list price
  • Noisy at motorway speeds
  • Uninspiring looks
  • MPG

    65 - 217

  • CO2

    0 - 100 g/km

Model review

The Niro was Kia’s first model that was designed to be fitted with only hybrid powertrains. Kia wisely decided to make this car a crossover, and take advantage of the lucrative SUV market.

It was previewed with two concepts, before a production model was shown at the Chicago Auto Show in 2016. The Niro slots in the gap between the smaller Soul and the larger Sportage.

The Niro’s styling aimed to be more conventional than other hybrids available at the time, which can be seen in its design.

A plug-in hybrid version of the Niro went on sale in 2017.

Latest model

The latest model to join the Niro line-up is the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), which hit the market in September 2017.

As it’s a plug-in hybrid, it promises even lower emissions and running costs than the hybrid Niro, with Kia claiming it will return 217.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 29g/km, as well as a 36-mile electric-only range.

A fully electric Niro is also on the way, and was previewed by a thinly-disguised concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas at the start of 2018. The concepts boasts a 238-mile electric range. A toned down production version is expected to be shown in full before the end of 2018.

Value for money

The Niro range starts at £23,155 with the conventional hybrid model, rising to £27,995 for the plug-in hybrid model, including the government’s £2,500 plug-in car grant. All models come reasonably well-equipped, including 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, LED daytime running lights, a seven-inch touchscreen and a reversing camera. You’re definitely better off choosing a higher-spec car if you’re looking for a better trim level, though.

Despite the Niro not even being on sale for a year, there are already considerable discounts to be had. We saw a 2017 car with just 5,000 miles for sale for £17,000, which is already a hefty chunk off the price for a new one.

As the plug-in hybrid has only been on sale for a couple of months, there is even less of these for sale. That said, there are already chunky discounts available on the plug-in hybrid model. We saw a 2017 model for sale for £19,989 with 4,000 miles on the clock. This means that you can already get a sizeable £8,000 off the price off a new one in, even after just a few months. For this reason, it is definitely worth looking on the used market before you consider purchasing a brand new Niro.

Looks and image

The Niro isn’t a particularly inspiring car to look at, as it’s rather more conventional in its design. That was always Kia’s aim, though, as it didn’t want its hybrid car to stand out like other plug-in and electric cars do.

To drive, the Niro definitely favours a relaxed drive rather than a spirited one. There’s largely a smooth and refined transition between electric and petrol power, although on the plug-in hybrid you do seem to get a sudden burst of power when the engine kicks in. There’s also a Sport mode, although it is questionable the difference it actually makes to the way the car performs.

The dual-clutch automatic transmission is a very smooth gearbox to use, though, and is far better to use than the CVT gearboxes fitted to many electric and hybrid cars. The steering feels rather artificial and the low-resistance ‘eco’ tyres don’t exactly provide a lot of feel, but in normal driving it handles without drama.

Ultimately though, the Niro is designed to be a town car so it does begin to feel out of its comfort zone at motorway speeds. The Niro PHEV is a little punchier, with the engine eager to kick in under acceleration. Compared to the rapid Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4, the Niro PHEV does feel slow, though.

Inside, the Niro’s interior feels well-built and largely unchanged to the rest of the Kia range – minus the dials telling the status of the electric powertrain. The dials and central touchscreen look modern as well, although if you are into your tech, it is definitely worth choosing a higher-spec car for the benefit of having a larger touchscreen.

Space and practicality

There is plenty of space in the Niro to use it as a family car. It’s a similar size to the Cee’d hatchback, and even the batteries haven’t made a noticeable difference to the boot space, because of the underfloor storage. Unfortunately, the plug-in version doesn’t have this underfloor storage because this space is taken up by the bigger batteries. This does make it a bit impractical.

There is plenty of space in the front, and also in the rear, meaning there should be no issue trying to fit two adults in the rear. The middle seat is quite narrow, however.

Also, it doesn’t have the ride height of the bigger Sportage, which also means it is easier for children to get in and out of. There are also plenty of cubby holes to store away items, too, making it even better suited to use as a family vehicle.

Unlike many other electric or hybrid vehicles, the Niro can actually be used to tow with, providing you have the optional towing kit fitted that allows you to tow up to 1,300kg. This will certainly be a big selling point for anyone who wants to use the Niro to tow a small caravan or trailer.

The Niro was awarded four stars by Euro NCAP, and five stars for vehicles with the optional driver assistance pack fitted. While standard safety equipment is a bit limited, the optional pack adds autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, cross-traffic alert (for when reversing out of parking spaces) and blind spot monitoring. With all this kit fitted, it makes it a very safe car indeed.

Power and range

Two drivetrains are available on the Niro –a conventional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.

The standard hybrid model uses a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine combined with an electric motor. This version is better-suited for town use, with a 0-60mph time of 10.9 seconds. Kia does not claim an electric range on its own, because the engine and electric motor work more in tandem, rather than separately in the way that it does with the plug-in hybrid model.

The Niro PHEV uses the same 1.6-litre petrol engine in the other model, but with a more powerful 60bhp electric motor, allowing for a total power output of 139bhp, slightly more than in the hybrid. This makes it a little quicker to drive, with a 0-60mph time of 10.2 seconds. The Niro PHEV has an electric-only range of 38 miles, although this is more likely to be around 35 miles in real-world conditions. Its electric capacity can be charged from empty to full in two hours and 15 minutes.

Running costs

The Kia Niro should be a cheap car to run, on both the hybrid and PHEV versions. The hybrid Niro will return a claimed 74.3mpg on the combined cycle and emits 88g/km of CO2. You’ll have to stick with the smaller 16-inch alloy wheels for those emissions, as the larger 18-inch rims and a high-spec can bump the CO2 up to 101g/km – quite a hefty difference. It will cost £130 to tax per year, and sits in a lower company car tax bracket than most petrol and diesels, although is not quite good for business users as the Toyota Prius.

The Niro PHEV is even cheaper to run, with Kia claiming it will return 217.3mpg on the combined cycle. We’ll add that it‘s unlikely you’ll ever reach anywhere near this figure in normal driving, though. It also emits just 29g/km of CO2, meaning it sits in the lowest 9 per cent benefit-in-kind bracket, qualifies for the London Congestion Charge exemption and is also eligible for the governments £2,500 grant towards plug-in hybrids.

The standard hybrid Niro sits in insurance groups 12 to 14, while the Niro PHEV is placed in group 13.

Things to look for

The Kia Niro is still a new car so it’s hard to be sure how reliable it is. However, Kia has scored consistently high in reliability surveys in recent years, and you also have the added peace of mind of Kia’s renowned seven-year warranty – the longest offered by any manufacturer.

Rivals

The standard Niro Hybrid’s rivals include the Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris Hybrid and Lexus CT. As for the PHEV version, its direct rivals are the Mini Country Cooper S E All4 and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – the only two current plug-in electric crossovers on sale around this size. Other plug-in hybrid rivals include the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Audi A3 e-Tron and Hyundai Ioniq.

Which Niro to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

1.6 GDi Hybrid 2 5dr DCT

Most MPG

1.6 GDi PHEV 3 5dr DCT

Fastest Model (0-60)

150kW First Edition 64kWh 5dr Auto E-niro Special Editions

Trims Explained

Four trim levels are available on the Niro – 2,3, 3 PHEV and 4. The PHEV model is only available in one trim level – 3 PHEV.

2

Standard equipment includes a seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and European mapping, Kia Connected Services, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, smartphone connectivity, rear privacy glass and LED daytime running lights and rear lights.

Prices for the ‘2’ start from £23,155.

3

The ‘3’ trim level adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a larger eight-inch touchscreen, an eight speaker JBL sound system and front parking sensors. It also comes with black leather upholstery, heated and electric front seats, a heated steering wheel and wireless phone charging.

This model costs from £25,135.

3 PHEV

The ‘3 PHEV’ is only available on the plug-in hybrid model. As its name suggests, it is based on the ‘3’ model. The spec is largely the same to this, although adds standard safety kit such as autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.

The price for the PHEV is £27,995 – including the government grant.

4

The top-of-the-range ‘4’ grade comes with push button start and smart entry, bi-Xenon headlights, memory-function front seats and an electric sunroof. It also comes laden with safety kit including autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot detection, rear-cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.

This model costs £27,385.

Summary

  1. Available as a standard hybrid and a plug-in
  2. Comfortable
  3. Standard hybrid struggles at motorway speeds
  4. Very well-equipped
  5. Practical family car
  6. … although slightly less so on the PHEV model
  7. Much prefers leisurely driving
  8. Quite expensive
  9. Comes with a seven-year warranty
  10. Well-built interior

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