New Kia Niro hybrid crossover revealed

The Kia Niro is the brand's first hybrid model. It is likely to go on sale in late Summer and will be up against a range of rivals from the Nissan Qashqai to the Toyota Prius...

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Matt Burt
11 Feb 2016 15:03 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

The Kia Niro is a brand new petrol-­electric hybrid model from the Korean manufacturer, unveiled at the Chicago motor show.

What is it?

Broadly speaking it is a rival for hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, but it also offers the practicality of crossovers like the Nissan Qashqai, which isn’t available as a hybrid.

Like the Prius, the Niro’s hybrid powertrain is a parallel system, which means it can shuffle between petrol and electric power without any input from the driver.

In terms of dimensions, the new model sits between two existing Kia models, namely the Soul and the Sportage, and has a 2700mm wheelbase.

The interior features an elevated seating position similar to that of the Soul, with a minimalist cabin design in line with many modern hybrids.

Boot space with the rear seats in place is around 450-500 litres, 

The Niro will be introduced under Kia’s EcoDynamics sub-brand, the name of which appears on many of its most frugal models.

What engines can I choose from?

There will only be one version available. At the heart of the Niro’s power supply is a new 1.6-­litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 102bhp and has been engineered specifically for hybrid applications.

The second power source is a 42bhp electric motor that's mounted on the transmission. The two motors work together to produce a total of 144bhp and 195lb ft of torque. The power is fed to the front wheels via a six-­speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

Fuel economy and CO2 emissions have yet to be officially ratified, but Kia engineers are targeting a CO2 output of 89g/km for the Niro. That isn’t quite a match for the latest Toyota Prius, but it is still extremely credible for a crossover.

A plug-in hybrid variant of the Niro will follow, later in the Niro's life cycle. 

How much equipment does it come with?

The car is scheduled to arrive in the UK towards the end of this year, and more precise details about its kit levels will be available closer to that time.

The version unveiled at the Chicago motor show came with the newest version of Kia’s infotainment and telematics system, which also features on the new Sportage, and boasts a 7in touchscreen.

The Niro’s crossover body style could give it an important advantage; the battery that powers the electric motor is situated underneath the rear seats to maximise cabin and cargo space and allow for a flat floor in the load bay.

Like the rest of Kia’s line-up, the Niro will be offered with a suite of technology including blind spot detection, cruise control, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking.

The Niro gets some new features, collected under the Eco-DAS (Driver Assistance System) banner. One of these is predictive energy control, which uses the navigation system and cruise control to anticipate topographical changes on the road ahead and actively manage energy flow, seamlessly determining when it's best to recharge the battery and when it's best to expend stored energy to optimise overall efficiency.

Although other brands have similar systems, Kia claims its version is the first in the industry to monitor and adjust for both imminent uphills and downhills.

It is also the first Kia to get a coasting guide, which aims to maximise fuel economy by essentially coaching the driver on when to coast and brake.

How much will it cost?

UK pricing has yet to be determined, but it will be critical in deciding how well the Kia Niro will sell. The Prius, against which the Niro’s hybrid credentials will be measured, costs between £23,295 and £27,450. The Qashqai range costs from £18,545 to £28,910. The Niro is likely to be competitively priced against the Prius, and it's possible that the Niro will undercut the Toyota.

How good are its rivals?

The Nissan Qashqai is one of What Car?’s favourite crossovers, earning a five-­star rating and a host of awards, and the new version of the Toyota Prius has also taken a step forward in terms of all­-round ability.

Anything else I should know?

If Kia’s claims are correct, the Niro could feature one of the most seamless hybrid systems yet to appear in a family car. Kia said its engineers paid special attention to achieving a "seamless" feel to the transition between electric and petrol propulsion. It also focused on braking feel from the regenerative braking system, to offer "consistent and linear" braking, the lack of which is another criticism of many hybrid cars currently on the market.