Kia Niro Review
The Kia Niro is a hybrid SUV that’s cheap to run, easy to drive and comes with lots of kit as standard – other SUVs have bigger boots though
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Cheap to run
- Well equipped
- Seven-year warranty
What's not so good
- Alternatives are more spacious
- A bit noisy at motorway speeds
- Expensive top-spec models
Kia Niro: what would you like to read next?
If you’re after an SUV that gives you a slightly higher driving position than a normal family car, is cheap to run and comes with a reassuring seven-year warranty then the Kia Niro could be right up your street.
Although the Kia Niro is reasonably priced, you don’t get the feeling corners have been cut in the interior. The materials on the dashboard are all soft to the touch and you get a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen as standard, which even comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring – you don’t get these on the entry-level Volkswagen Tiguan.
The Kia’s height adjustable driver’s seat gives you plenty of scope for getting comfy and two tall adults will find the back seats comfy for long trips. Three adults will find the back seats more of a squeeze than in the VW, however.
Things are a bit less roomy in the Kia Niro’s boot. It’s about as big as the Nissan Qashqai’s, but some way off the giant space in the Tiguan. That said, you can still fit a bicycle with one wheel removed if you fold all the Kia’s back seats down.
The Niro will set you back as much as a more practical VW Tiguan, but it’ll be a bit cheaper to run thanks to its clever hybrid system
Don’t think that because it’s practical and comfy the Kia Niro is just another SUV – it has a pretty neat trick under its bonnet. It comes with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor that can whisk you along in electric-only mode for around three miles so long as you don’t accelerate hard, but always works alongside the petrol engine to improve fuel economy – expect to get about 65mpg in real-world driving, which is very good for a family SUV.
Despite the Kia Niro’s high-tech engine, it’s as easy to drive as a normal SUV thanks to its quick-shifting automatic gearbox, relatively light steering and a good view out – making it a great choice if you do a lot of town driving. It’s not exactly fun to drive though, and the tyres are designed with fuel economy rather than grip in mind so it can’t corner anywhere near as well as a SEAT Ateca. It doesn’t lean much in corners though, and it’s comfortable so long as you avoid the upgraded 18-inch alloy wheels which make things a bit bumpy. Sadly it is a bit noisy at motorway speeds whatever wheels you pick.
You needn’t worry about safety, however – the Niro scored a respectable four stars in Euro NCAP’s 2016 crash test, meaning that the Kia Niro is a safe, well-equipped, reasonably priced hybrid SUV that’s cheap-to-run and practical enough for family life.
The Kia Niro has a logically laid-out interior that isn’t particularly eye-catching, but it feels well built and has loads of standard equipment
The Kia’s boot is reasonably easy to load but its hybrid system takes up space under the floor meaning it isn’t as roomy as some similar-sized alternatives
You'll have no trouble keeping the Niro's cabin looking neat and tidy thanks to its generous door bins and spacious glove box
The Kia Niro’s large doors make it relatively easy to climb into, but its seating position and roof aren’t quite as raised as in a Nissan Qashqai or VW Tiguan. It’s still more than big enough in the front for tall drivers to stretch out, however, and there’s plenty of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel to help you get comfy.
Every Kia Niro gets seat height adjustment for the driver as standard, and mid-range 3 models and above come with electrical adjustment with memory functions – especially useful if you share your car with someone else. Unfortunately, adjustable lumbar support to help reduce back ache on long journeys isn’t available on entry-level 2 cars.
Space in the back is pretty generous. The large doors make it easy for tall passengers to jump in and there’s lots of knee and headroom. Unfortunately, the Niro’s back seats aren’t particularly well padded and the rather hard central seat makes it less comfortable for carrying three abreast than the likes of a Tiguan or Qashqai.
Three kids will have plenty of space to stretch out but fitting a child seat to carry even younger passengers is a bit of a pain. It’s a breeze to lift the seat through the Niro’s wide door openings but the Isofix anchor points are hidden away behind the seat padding. A Tiguan’s clearly marked anchor points make this job much easier.
The Kia Niro’s door bins are very spacious – you’ll have no trouble fitting a large bottle in each front door – and the glovebox is reasonably roomy too. There’s some handy storage under the front armrest for keeping small valuables hidden and the cupholders in the centre console are easily big enough to hold a mammoth cup of service-station coffee.
The rear door bins aren’t quite as cavernous as those in the front but there’s still enough space for a medium-sized bottle. The folding rear armrest comes as standard with two (slightly smaller) cupholders, too.
The Kia Niro’s 427-litre boot isn’t the largest around but it’s more than big enough to carry a baby buggy and some soft bags. It trails the 430-litre Qashqai and relatively cavernous 615-litre VW Tiguan but its wide boot opening and square shape make it easy to pack full of large boxes.
There isn’t quite enough space under the adjustable boot floor to store the parcel shelf and the Kia Niro doesn’t come with a 12V socket or any handy hooks to stop your shopping rolling around.
Thankfully, you can fold the back seats down in a two-way (60:40) split if you need to carry some very long luggage in the boot and a passenger in the back at the same time. With both back seats folded away (you’ll have to lean forward to reach the catches beside the headrests) you get a nearly flat load bay that’ll make sliding heavy boxes up behind the front seats fairly easy.
The Niro’s outright 1,425-litre capacity is slightly less than the 1,585-litre Qashqai and 1,655-litre Tiguan but it’s still big enough to carry a bike – once you’ve removed one of its wheels.
The Kia Niro is easy to drive and comes with a frugal hybrid system as standard to help you save fuel, but it’s not particularly comfortable and is quite noisy at motorway speeds
Drive the Niro around town and you’d swear it’s a pure electric car. It’s only when you head out of the city that its 1.6-litre petrol engine kicks in to provide a little extra oomph
Every Kia Niro comes with a 1.6-litre petrol engine that drives the front wheels with the help of an electric motor and a compact hybrid system. You can get it as either a conventional hybrid or as a plug-in model that’s more expensive to buy but even cheaper to run if you have a charging point at home.
Both cars can drive around at slow speeds using just the cheap-to-run electric motor – ideal if you do lots of town driving – but they require a little help from the petrol engine when you accelerate hard. It kicks in with barely any delay and helps the Kia Niro cruise along quietly at motorway speeds.
Entry-level 2 models will return around 65mpg (compared to Kia’s claimed 74.3mpg) while higher spec 3 and 4 versions lose out by around 10mpg in real-world driving conditions because of their larger wheels. This still makes the Kia Niro one of the most frugal SUVs on sale. All three can accelerate from 0-62mph in a respectable (but hardly rapid) 11.5 seconds, too.
You get a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard on every Kia Niro (a similar unit will set you back around £1,500 on the VW Tiguan). The gearbox is smooth and really helps take the stress out of long journeys and seemingly endless traffic jams, but it’s not the most responsive gearbox around and sometimes hesitates before changing gear.
Unfortunately, the Kia Niro isn’t exempt from the London Congestion Charge – unlike other hybrids such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Toyota Prius.
The Kia Niro easy to drive around town thanks to its slightly raised driving position and standard automatic gearbox. The pillars between the windscreen and front doors don’t create any particularly large blindspots at junctions or in tight corners and all models come with rear parking sensors and a reversing camera to help make parking fairly stress free, too.
At town speeds you’ll hear barely a hum from the Niro thanks to its near-silent electric motor. Once the petrol engine lends a hand it’s a little louder but still a touch quieter than the diesel engines you’ll find in many other small SUVs.
Entry-level 2 models come with 16-inch alloy wheels as standard which help them iron out potholes reasonably well but the larger 18-inch wheels fitted to 3 and 4 models can highlight bumps in the road – especially around town.
Sadly, you’ll also hear quite a lot of wind and tyre noise at motorway speeds. You couldn’t call it excessive, but it makes the Kia Niro slightly less relaxing to travel in for long distances than a VW Tiguan.
All models come with lane-keeping assistance to help stop you wandering into the path of other cars on the motorway but automatic emergency braking (a system that’ll brake for you if it detects an imminent collision) is optional on all but top-spec 4 models. As a result, the Kia Niro missed out on a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating but its four-star score in the strict 2016 tests still makes it one of the safer small SUVs on sale.