The Kia Niro may appear to be yet another entrant into the compact crossover market, but it offers something a little different at this price point. Like the Toyota Prius, the Niro is a hybrid that uses an electric motor and battery pack to help out its 1.6-litre petrol engine.
That means emissions as low as 88g/km and fuel consumption that should rival the most frugal of diesel-powered alternatives. As we’ve come to expect from Kia, it’s likely to be good value, too. Although prices haven’t been confirmed, they should undercut the Prius by a couple of thousand pounds while offering more equipment and a seven-year warranty.
It should be more practical, too. The conventional shape and an advanced battery pack mean competitive boot space, and plenty of room for passengers. Although there’s no four-wheel drive option, this shouldn’t matter to the vast majority of buyers.
What is the 2016 Kia Niro like to drive?
Hybrids don’t usually have a reputation for being fun to drive, but Kia claims the Niro bucks this trend. Our experience with the car suggests that while it’s certainly nice to drive, fun may be pushing it a little.
Considering the height of the Niro, there isn’t a lot of body roll when you corner quickly and the steering is better than other Kias we’ve tried. That’s not to say it’s full of feel but you don’t have to make lots of small corrections to keep it in a straight line on the motorway. There’s not much grip with the economy-orientated tyres that were attached to the 16in wheels of our test car.
Where the Niro does impress is in how the petrol engine and electric motor work together through the six-speed automatic gearbox. You can barely detect the engine turning on, and the car switches between power sources smoothly. There is occasionally a brief hesitation when pulling away, though.
Refinement is another strong point, only when pushed hard does the engine get thrashy, the rest of the time it works quietly in the background sending virtually no vibration through the controls. Considering we saw an indicated 64.2mpg, it could be a real selling point for those tired of clattery diesels.
What is the 2016 Kia Niro 1.6 like inside?
Unlike some hybrid cars that gain their electrification at the expense of boot space, the Niro’s battery is small enough to live under the back seat. That means there’s a similar amount of room at the very back as you get in a Nissan Qashqai.
There’s virtually no load lip and a flat floor making it easy to put heavy items in the boot. Fold the rear seats down and there’s only a slight incline, so stashing flat-pack furniture shouldn’t be an issue either.
Moving to the rear seats, we were impressed by the amount of space on offer considering the exterior dimensions. Even those over six foot tall will find there’s plenty of head and leg room even if a similarly sized driver is behind the wheel.
Up front, you’ll find a dashboard that should be familiar to anyone that has been inside a modern Kia recently. There’s both a strong family resemblance and a similar mix of materials, too. In other words, the areas you touch regularly feel good, but there are harder plastics lower down the dash.
Should I buy one?
Unfortunately, we are yet to know firm UK pricing or what equipment you’ll get as standard. If the sub-£22,000 price suggested is coupled to the usual, generous levels of kit you get with other Kia models, the Niro may very well be worth considering.
Sure, it isn’t a driver’s dream, but it is pleasant to drive and for the most part comfortable. Vitally, it seems to offer impressive levels of spaciousness, economy and refinement. It’s certainly a car we’ll be interested in pitting against rivals when we get one in the UK.
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What Car? says...
Engine size 1.6-litre petrol, hybrid
Price from £22,000 (est)
Torque 195lb ft
0-62mph 11.5 seconds
Top speed 100mph
Fuel economy (official) 74.3mpg
CO2 output 88g/km