Kia Niro 1.6 GDi HEV '4' Review
With its stylish crossover design and wealth of on-board technology, the Kia Niro is a five-door SUV that has undergone a refresh for 2019. It looks bolder and gains lots of extra kit to help it stand out in such a fiercely competitive sector.
- Nicely styled and easy to drive
- Loads of space for occupants and luggage
- Well equipped and boasts a seven-year warranty
- Quite noisy when driven hard
- Lacks dynamic driving appeal of some rivals
- Slightly unsettled ride over poorer surfaces
The Kia Niro is a full-sized SUV that has just undergone a refresh for 2019. It has sharper styling, both inside and out, along with a number of new technological advancements.
It’s spacious interior means there is ample room for all the family and the boot’s storage limits are impressive too. Kia has a reputation for selling cars with no hidden extras and the Niro is another fine example - you simply choose the trim level you want and that’s that.
There are some other tough decisions for Niro buyers though as the car is available as a plug-in hybrid, fully electric or self-charging hybrid.
Since sales began in 2016, more than 270,000 Niro models have been sold globally, with more than 100,000 units sold in Europe. The UK accounts for 14,000 Niro PHEV and Hybrid sales.
On the Road
The Kia Niro Hybrid is a self-charging model that is available in a choice of trim grades called 2, 3, and 4. We opted for the top-of-the-range 4 specification so expected to see all the bells and whistles - we weren’t disappointed.
The car is powered by a punchy 1.6-litre 139bhp petrol engine twinned with a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It produces 265Nm of torque and can sprint to 60mph from a standing start in 11.1 seconds, maxing out at 101mph.
The acceleration is instant and there is a constant level of power on tap which means overtaking slower-moving farm vehicles poses no problem at all. The handling feels nice and sharp for such a large vehicle meaning that it cruises with ease on fast-moving dual carriageways, but it is also easy to manoeuvre in busier town centres.
There is a six-speed auto dual-clutch transmission, but the new Niro now gets steering wheel-mounted paddles for added driver engagement. There are also Sport and Eco modes that alter the way in which the car reacts.
The new self-charging Niro Hybrid switches seamlessly between petrol and electric power, or uses a combination of both much of the time. The clever regenerative braking system converts kinetic energy to recharge the battery.
The Kia Niro hybrid starts up in near silence with the 43bhp electric motor working hard. Kick down hard on the accelerator and you’ll soon feel and hear the introduction of the 1.6-litre petrol engine.
Out on the open road, the Niro Hybrid is composed and nicely balanced with ample grip into corners. Being a high-sided vehicle there is a certain amount of body movement if driven too enthusiastically into bends, but it’s worth remembering that the Niro isn’t competing for sales in the hot hatch sector. It drives exactly as you would expect a full sized SUV to drive.
The steering is beautifully precise and offers ample driver feedback and when Sport mode is selected, the car’s throttle sharpens up, the steering feels weightier and the auto gearbox develops more dynamic reactions. Pop the car back into Eco and normal service is resumed and everything calms down again.
With fully-independent front and rear suspension and the nice slick-shifting six-speed auto dual-clutch transmission, the Niro Hybrid delivers a fine balance between on-road comfort and driver engagement.
Our car was sitting on 18-inch wheels which seemed like the perfect fit. The road-holding was flawless and only particularly poor surfaces sent the car slightly off balance.
The latest Niro retains its stylish crossover design but features a number of updates to increase its appeal. While instantly recognisable by its trademark ‘tiger-nose’ grille, the latest model gains new bumpers at the front and rear while the standard projection headlamps have been revamped, incorporating Kia’s unique ‘ice-cube’ design with LED headlamps on the 4 grade.
The bumper features new LED daytime running lights below the headlamps with a unique double-arrow layout, as well as LED fog lamps on grades 3 and 4.
At the rear of the car, new LED lights give the Niro a more distinctive and modern light signature. The new bumper design is finished with a silver-painted skid plate and incorporates new light reflectors and rear fog lamps in the corners.
Move inside and the latest model boasts a number of visual and material upgrades to improve the quality of the cabin. For example, the top of the dashboard is soft-touch while the dashboard and instrument panel have elegant new gloss black trim with satin chrome highlights.
Our range-topping model also boasted black leather upholstery, plus heated and ventilated seats, along with a heated steering wheel.
As far as driving refinement goes, the Niro does a worthy job of protecting its occupants from any road surface, wind and engine noise and these only become noticeable at higher speeds as is the case on most high-sided SUV-styled cars.
In the car
Finding a comfortable driving position within the Niro takes a matter of seconds with powered seat adjustment with memory settings, along with full manual tilt and reach steering wheel adjustment.
The driver’s all-round visibility is excellent and all controls, dials and readouts are perfectly positioned for ease of use without any driver distraction.
The car is equipped with a new 10.25-inch TFT-LCD widescreen for the main display on trim levels 3 and 4, with a 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster for the driver included on grade 4. Entry level 2 models have an 8.0-inch touchscreen and 4.2-inch TFT instrument binnacle.
Creature comforts are plentiful with a wealth of on-board technology at your disposal. Our car featured full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, an eight-speaker JBL sound system, a DAB radio, Bluetooth with music streaming and a navigation system. The front and rear parking sensors, along with a reversing camera help make light work of any parking issues.
New on the latest car is the UVO CONNECT system giving owners access to real-time information such as weather and traffic updates, points of interest, fuel prices and parking spaces.
There is also an UVO App which, amongst other things, can inform the driver about any diagnostic data concerning the car and help find the vehicle’s location just in case you forget where you left it.
With its crossover packaging, the Kia Niro is like a TARDIS inside with oodles of space for five occupants to sit comfortably.
The car is just over 4.3 metres long and has a wheelbase of 2,700mm. Factor in the high stance and generous 1.8-metres width and the Niro is a very practical car for any active family. The boot is well-sized ranging from 382 to 1,425 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats folded flat. There is also some extra space hidden beneath the boot floor to hide goodies away.
Throughout the cabin there’s plenty of storage compartments, including a generously-sized glovebox, central cubby box, door pockets with a section for a water bottle, rear door bins, front cup holders with rear ones in the fold-down armrest, nets in the front seatbacks, a sunglasses holder and a couple of trays - one of which is for the wireless mobile phone charging.
With its wide-opening doors, the Niro offers easy access for anyone with mobility issues or to fit a child seat for example.
And with the occasional family break in the countryside a possibility, the Niro offers an optional Towing Pack, enabling the car to tow loads of up to 1,300 kg in weight (braked).
So, getting down to the nitty-gritty. How much is the Niro to buy and what are the day-to-day running costs like? Firstly, there is a Niro to suit all needs from the self-charging hybrid priced from £24,590, to the plug-in hybrid costing from £31,945 and finally, the fully electric e-Niro which costs from £32,995 (including the Government plug-in car grant).
Our test car was supplied in range-topping 4 trim level so was the most expensive of the self-charging hybrid models with a price-tag of £29,270. As is the Kia way there were no optional extras on the car so no unexpected price hikes to watch out for.
According to official figures, our car could achieve a combined 54.3mpg under the more stringent WLTP testing with carbon emissions of 99g/km. This CO2 output would result in a first-year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £130 which would increase to £145 after the first 12 months.
The insurance rating for our test car was group 13.
Kia has an excellent reputation for developing cars that are reliable and in recent years the standard of the build quality has improved immensely. It is a company that always scores very highly in customer satisfaction surveys and frequently puts some of the so-called premium manufacturers to shame.
The Niro looks sturdy in its design and all the switchgear, upholstery and on-board technology feel like they will survive the test of time. To date, there haven’t been any issues to report with the powertrain technology either.
And it’s always worth remembering that the Korean company offers the best warranty package in the industry, so the Niro comes with a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty which is fully transferable should the car be sold prior to the time or mileage limits being reached.
There are also a number of ‘Kia Care’ service plans which offers customers a range of servicing packages within its first seven years.
The Euro NCAP rating for the new Kia Niro has yet to be confirmed. However, the earlier model received a dual rating when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety score. While the standard car gets four stars, any models kitted out with the optional Advanced Driving Assistance Pack gain the full five stars.
Our model didn’t have the pack but was loaded with safety kit. Features included anti-lock braking, electronic stability control, forward collision-avoidance assist, blind-spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, intelligent speed limit warning, lane follow assist, hill-start assist, Isofix fixings and a full suite of airbags.
The car is also fitted with an advanced anti-theft system including an immobiliser and alarm.