One of the questions asked at the local press conference for the Niro was whether or not this was an SUV that happened to be a hybrid, or a hybrid that happened to be an SUV. This is a great question because, it’s important to know what the emphasis is on. The answer KIA Ireland gave us was that this was an SUV that happens to be a hybrid. What this means is, that while the hybrid technology is indeed a nice touch, this car is more about being a car as opposed to it being another hybrid vehicle on our road.
This is not a plug-in hybrid; it operates off regenerative energy. Therefore, to get any real fuel economy benefits from the vehicle, drivers will have to change their driving style – which is simple enough, and probably safer for our roads too. Drive more economically, and you will get much further in this car. Right, that’s enough hybrid talk.
This is a compact SUV, or Crossover/CUV as they now appear to be called. It looks a lot like a smaller version of the Sportage. It dons the beautiful tiger nose grille and once you sit inside, you notice that the driving position and height is excellent. You get a commanding view of the road in what is effectively a small car. While all of this is positive so far, it just doesn’t have the same exterior visual appeal that you would find in the Sorento or the Optima. It looks like just another crossover/SUV/CUV, or whatever the acronym is. Small SUVs are so common now, it seems to be more and more difficult to find anything exciting about their physical appearances.
Exteriors aside, the interior of the Niro is presented excellently. Everything feels nice to the touch, the leather seats (which may or may not be pleather) look and feel good. They’re comfortable too. The dash looks like what you’d find in the Sportage or the Sorento, and the infotainment system is easy to use. There are two 12V sockets to the front as well as Aux-in and USB connectivity. I imagine that the 12V sockets don’t do much to maintain battery power. – there’s even another 12V socket in the centre armrest!
Space to both the front and rear seems good too. The boot is spacious at 427 litres and there are hidden compartments under the false floor. A smartly placed battery (under the back seats) means that it gives better than expected room here.
As this was a local launch, the amount of time we actually spent driving the Niro was limited. However, we did notice some things. There is a small amount of road noise that comes through to the interior, but it’s not overly intrusive. The steering wheel feels great in our hands and it takes corners nicely. The display where the instrument binnacle sits is quirky too and it shows information about the battery and fuel use. It also scores you’re driving under three headings; Economy, Aggressive and Normal. My score, and yes this is a slight boast, was 75% economical, 25% normal and 0% aggressive – aren’t I great!
In terms of fuel economy, well, I didn’t drive enough to create an informed opinion on this. KIA says that the car can achieve a combined fuel economy of 3.8 l/100km. However, to receive an economy like this you will definitely have to adapt your driving style to suit a hybrid vehicle – otherwise you would probably be as well off in a diesel or petrol car. Then again, if you want a car that burns less CO2 per km, then a hybrid engine is normally greener than a standalone combustion engine. The Niro burns 88 g/km CO2, which means this is extremely inexpensive to tax.
Apart from the battery, the Niro uses a 1.6 litre GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine. The battery and the engine are mated to a six-speed double-clutch transmission.
Prices for the KIA Niro start from €30,595. The government recently announced that they will continue to offer VRT reduction for hybrid and electric vehicles, which means that you should be paying from €29,095.
We haven’t had enough time with the Niro yet, but KIA are a good brand and this car is certainly promising. No, we don’t think that it will sell in massive numbers yet, but as Europe’s rules regarding CO2, etc., start getting stricter, KIA are now getting into a good position. We look forward to a full test drive of this vehicle.