Kia Niro 1.6 GDi HEV ‘First Edition’ DCT 6-speed: Electric Mainline

The Kia Niro has been designed to answer a question that is becoming more and more relevant as we move further towards the end of fossil fuels and strive to become more efficient and economical with those resources remaining. There have been successful EVs (electric vehicles) Hybrids and full on plug-in hybrids over the last few years but none perhaps that have managed to capture such modernity and style in their design as this. 

Picking up the Niro’s information and you’re left in no doubt as to Kia’s intentions with the Niro as they state: Being responsible has never looked this fun – or been more exciting. The All-New Kia Niro is a game-changing hybrid Crossover that proves you really can have it all. A sustainable, fuel-efficient hybrid, with the style, technology and versatility of a Crossover. It’s the ultimate choice for those who care about the environment – and care just as much about driving pleasure. Have Kia achieved this aim or have they fallen short with their good intentions, after all, calling the All-New Kia Niro a game-changing hybrid Crossover is quite some boast.

Kia have clearly done their homework when sitting down to design the Niro as the decision to focus on a Crossover, mixing the current popularity of an SUV with a family hatchback is a winning decision as the Kia certainly looks upmarket and classy. With it’s 18″ alloy wheels, roof rails, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, privacy glass and the subtle additions of chrome door handles and beltline mouldings. Overall, the effect is quite stunning, especially in the Ocean Blue (metallic) of the ‘First Edition’ on test. And it’s not just styling for the purpose of looking good as the Niro packs a lot of technology into it’s design which allows it to deliver an impressive drag coefficient of just 0.29. 

Technology is abundant throughout the cabin and increases exponentially depending on which model of Niro you chose, yet even the base Niro ‘1’ is generously equipped, however the Niro ‘3’ and ‘First Edition’ have an 8″ touchscreen with satellite navigation and a stunning 8-speaker JBL® premium sound system, subwoofer and external amp, a heated steering wheel however, it’s the ‘First Edition’ that also adds heated/ventilated front seats that are also electrically adjustable, stainless steel door scuff plates, engine Start/Stop Button with smart entry system and even heated outer rear seats. But the Niro has another ace up it’s sleeve as Kia have raided the parts bin and selected the best that they have to offer. Proof, if it were needed, is the quite exceptional adaptive smart cruise control function, autonomous emergency braking and blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert. For the driver and passengers this is a fantastic place to spend time as it’s comfortable, well put together and the technology within is accessible and simple to use. Just as it should be.

But the Kia Niro’s reputation will surely depend solely on the ability of it’s hybrid power plant. Consisting of their new Kappa 1.6 GDi engine which produces a maximum output of 104bhp at 5,700rpm and a peak torque of 108 ft/lb at 4,000rpm, the perfect match for the Niro’s hybrid system. The system offers a combined maximum output of 139bhp with the Niro’s Permanent magnet electric motor providing up to 43bhp on its own whilst the electric motor also assists the petrol engine in hybrid mode and recharges the battery during deceleration. Mix all of this up to date hybrid technology with an all new automatic 6-speed DCT Dual Clutch Transmission gearbox which, Kia say, transfers engine/ motor power efficiently, and delivers dynamic acceleration and a smoother transmission and you have an extremely capable power train that propels the Niro along very efficiently. This is clearly not a sports car but the Kia still responds well to a heavier foot, changing gear swiftly and allowing the two motors, both petrol and electric, to combine and provide enough acceleration to overtake when necessary.

And it’s how the Niro works it’s hybrid technology that is so impressive out in the world of ‘real life’ motoring especially as the Kia offers a number of different driving modes so that it maximises the potential of the hybrid powertrain. Firstly, when starting out from a stop, the hybrid system relies entirely on power from the electric motor primarily as this helps reduce fuel use in stop and go traffic. But there will be times when the Niro is not just sat or crawling along in traffic so during gentle acceleration the system also uses power exclusively from the electric motor providing more than ample power to help increase speed. When accelerating harder, the petrol engine chimes in to work alongside the electric motor to fully utilise the 139bhp on offer and yet, when cruising at relatively constant speeds, the system goes into power-assist mode where the petrol engine is the main source of drive power. Just as importantly, the system’s regenerative braking takes advantage of every decrease in vehicle speed, capturing energy and storing it in the battery for future use. Overall the system is quick to get used to as it’s simple and works well enough to be able to forget about when on the go but to master the art of maximising MPG will take a few decent trips out.

The thing is, maximising mpg is what this excellent crossover is all about and you soon find yourself trying to drive to the Niro’s strengths, setting off gently to delay the petrol engine cutting in, lifting off the throttle when cruising on the straights or using gravity to help when going downhill. The technique is to simply save as much input to the throttle at all times, using full acceleration only when necessary and planning ahead as you drive anticipating potential issues on the route ahead so that you can avoid sudden braking or power. Smoothness really does reward you with quite superior mpg. Indeed, one of the Niro’s many clever features is the eco mode built within the excellent central display and duplicated on the tft screen in between the dials where you can see exactly where the motive power is coming from, whether it be battery, petrol engine or both and also the regenerative benefits of braking. Very, very useful.

Out on the roads of North and West Yorkshire the Kia performed exceptionally well proving itself to be a very comfortable cruiser, with plenty of adjustment in the cabin the driver and passengers are very well catered for, this is a car that is more than happy to travel the length and breadth of the county or further afield without issue. The steering responds well to driver input and as long as your not expecting sports car like thrills and spills, performs superbly allowing you to make decent progress in the bends and keep momentum up. The car steers, brakes and deals with the imperfections of the road in a manner that makes you feel like you’re driving a far more expensive car than you actually are. A clever trick to pull off.

Overall, this is a very special car, it has excellent build quality, a high specification and potentially up to a claimed 74.3 MPG, more than achievable as during my week with the Niro it was regularly showing 57-62mpg with no real effort being put into maximising the Niro’s potential. With Kia’s usual 7 Years / 100,000 miles warranty showing how much faith Kia have put into this relatively new technology and potential CO2 emissions of 88g/kg this, I very much believe, is the technology of the future available today.

Where will you go?

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