Kia Niro 2022 rear right tracking
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The Kia Niro Hybrid and Niro Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) use the same 1.6-litre petrol engine and six-speed automatic gearbox, but the PHEV benefits from a more powerful electric motor. That gives it a combined output (when the petrol engine and electric motor are working together) of 180bhp, against the 139bhp of the regular hybrid. 

The Niro Hybrid feels quick enough for everyday driving, but when you need a bit more kick for joining a motorway or overtaking, it builds speed in a rather leisurely manner. It certainly doesn’t feel quicker than its official 0-60mph time of 10.4sec suggests.

Performance is again leisurely when driving in pure electric mode and you don’t get the instantaneous shove when setting off from stationary as you would with some pure electric cars. You’ll still have little trouble keeping up with low-speed traffic, and the petrol engine will kick in to lend a hand if needed when it’s set to EV mode.

The PHEV also has a larger 11.1kWh battery (the Niro Hybrid has a small 1.32kWh lithium-ion unit), which gives it an official electric-only range of up to 38 miles when fully charged. That beats the 31 miles of the more expensive Audi Q3 TFSIe and falls just short of the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid's 39-mile figure. In real-world driving, we'd expect the range to be closer to 30 miles. 

The Niro Hybrid can only drive in electric mode at low speeds for short distances (for example, in start-stop traffic or when parking). To help maximise the time you’re running on electric power, the Niro’s sat-nav system can recognise low-emission zones and will save its battery until you reach these areas on your journey.

How about the Niro’s handling? Well, for a family SUV, the Niro has plenty of grip, a predictable handling balance and progressive, naturally weighted steering. When you increase the pace, there's a fair amount of body lean, making the Niro feel a little lethargic when changing direction quickly.

The PHEV’s firmer suspension set-up and slightly sharper steering helps it feel a little more precise when threading down narrow country lanes, but keener drivers will still prefer the more alert and responsive Seat Ateca.

As with most hybrid cars, the Niro’s regenerative braking system recovers energy that would ordinarily be lost during braking, harnessing it to top up the battery. The settings range from Off to Level 3, and can be controlled using paddles behind the steering wheel when you’re in Eco mode (in Sport the paddles change gear). Even in its maximum setting, the regen effect is not strong enough to create a true one-pedal driving style, but it is effective enough that you rarely have to touch the brakes on a country road. 

The Niro is quiet when running on electric power alone, and the engine only becomes vocal when pushed hard. The engine note isn’t particularly pleasant but it's isolated enough from the interior to remain hushed. The rest of the time it fades into the background, sending virtually no vibration through the controls.

As you pull away, the transition from electric to petrol power is occasionally hesitant, but once you’re on the move, the power sources swap around impressively smoothly. You notice more wind and road noise at higher speeds than in the Karoq, but it’s nothing that will get too grating on a long trip.

Kia Niro 2022 rear right tracking
New car deals
Save up to £822
Target Price from £27,610
Save up to £822
or from £320pm
Swipe to see used and leasing deals
Nearly new deals
From £23,340
Leasing deals
From £294pm