KIA NIRO: the gloves are off!

1226803_kia-niro-054IT’S Kia’s first ever UK market hybrid car and they’ve found a simple way to make it appeal to the British motorist – a heated steering wheel.

And purely by coincidence, the arrival’s of the Korean manufacturer’s latest offering saw the first really cold days of winter, giving us the chance to sample it at first hand(!).

1226799_kia-niro-050The compact five door five seat Niro is a hybrid with the styling of a crossover, and a very tidy one at that. It’s a collaboration between east and west, Kia’s design studios in Korea and California, and the sleek looking shape has a low drag factor of just 0.29, which coupled with its lack of weight (1500kgs) are assisting factors with its claimed fuel consumption (74.3mpg combined) and CO2 emissions (88g/km).

Mention the word hybrid and the assumption is it’s put together to appease the open-sandal wearing, Guardian reading fringe, but Niro skimps on nothing.

It has the style, practicality and appeal of a compact crossover, and one that is equally as well finished in terms of what is presented to you as the firm’s Optima and Sportage ranges. Which are all well up there in the quality stakes and all also have high levels of standard equipment. In terms of size it sits between the cee’d and Sportage in the Kia firmament.

The relevant bits under the bonnet are a 1.6 litre 104bhp petrol engine and a 43bhp electric motor coupled to a six speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.

1226787_kia-niro-0431226791_kia-niro-044And that’s one of its real plus points. There are few frills when it comes to getting up and running. Press the starter button, select drive and off you go, the electric motor dropping in and out as it sees fit. The petrol engine side of the equation is no ball of fire, but it provides adequate performance in a car where the accent is as much on efficiency and economy as it is on comfort and all-round practicality.

Hybrid sales in the UK and mainland Europe have doubled over the past five years and are predicted to reach 700,000 a year by 2020, and this car is going to be right in there challenging for your money.

Niro has an excellent driving position with plenty legroom for tall drivers, and there is still decent space behind for rear seat passengers, who incidentally also get heated seats like the front seat passengers.

It flows nicely on the road, soaks up bumps fairly well and has a fluid feel to it. Even on a long cross country run I was comfortable from start to finish and didn’t feel tired at the end. Which is a nice feeling to have as you lock up and walk away.
The tomtom based sat nav is easy to use and presents you with loads of information, as does the main instrument group.

1226811_kia-niro-067Whether you’re driving normally/economically/aggressively is logged on the display, and it’s one of those little quirks that subconsciously makes you want to get the best figure possible.

The dial to the left in the main binnacle tells you if you’re using power, being economical with the right foot, or charging the battery, and there’s a split gauge showing fuel and battery levels. Lots of info, easy to digest.

Little things that are attention to detail are things that always impress, like the recess in the outer edge of the rear seat lining that lets you properly ‘park’ the seat belt and help eliminate the annoying rattle of buckle on plastic.

There are four trim levels available – 1,2, 3 and First Edition, with prices starting at £21,295.

The tiger nose grille ensures it’s easily recognisable as a Kia – and you’ll probably be seeing quite a few of them about.

FASTFACTS: Kia Niro 1.6 GDi HEV First Edition; £26,995; 1580cc 16v , 104bhp; 43bhp electric motor; 6 speed DCT transmission; top speed 101mph, 0-60mph11.1secs; fuel – urban 74.3, extra urban 72.4, combined 74.3; CO2 88g/km; will it fit the garage? 4335/1805/1545 (l/w/h); seven year Kia warranty.

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