Kia Niro Review
The Kia Niro is a small, easy-to-drive SUV that’s cheap to run and well-equipped, but alternatives are more exciting to look at and have bigger boots.
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If you’re looking for a small family car that comes with a raised driving position, a cheap-to-run hybrid system and a reassuring seven-year warranty, the Kia Niro is well worth a look.
Unlike some SUVs – Toyota C-HR, we’re looking at you – the Kia Niro doesn’t try to wow you with space-age styling. Rather than model itself after a prop from the next instalment of Star Wars, the Kia Niro looks more like a jacked-up hatchback.
It’s a similar story inside, where the Kia Niro gets an intuitive – but pretty unexciting – dashboard that feels nice and solid and comes with a 7-inch touchscreen as standard. Like the Toyota C-HR, you get smartphone mirroring as standard but it isn’t quite as easy to use as the system in a Skoda Karoq.
The Kia Niro isn’t quite as roomy inside as the Skoda, either, but there’s still plenty of space to carry two adults in the back seats and a couple of bulky suitcases in the boot.
So, the competition has the Kia beaten when it comes to boot space, but the plucky Niro has a trick up its sleeve – or rather under its bonnet. Instead of a conventional petrol or diesel engine, the Kia Niro comes as standard with a hybrid drive system that lets it potter along for around three miles at a time without using any fuel.
The Kia Niro is as expensive as some larger, arguably posher SUVs, but its clever hybrid system means it’ll use less fuel and cost you less to tax.
After this, or when you accelerate hard, the Kia’s 1.6-litre petrol engine chimes in to lend a hand. Working together, these help the Niro return around 65mpg – good going for a practical family SUV. If you do lots of short journeys and have somewhere to charge it regularly, there’s also a Kia Niro plug-in hybrid that’s worth a look.
In addition to this techy engine/motor combo, you also get an automatic gearbox as standard that helps make the Kia Niro dead easy to drive in traffic. The raised driving position helps, as do the large windows, but there’s no getting away from the noise produced by the Kia Niro’s tyres and bluff body at motorway speeds.
Don’t go expecting this high-riding SUV to be much fun on a twisty road, either – for that you’ll want to check out a SEAT Ateca – but it is pretty comfortable to travel in for long periods. So long as you avoid the optional 18-inch alloy wheels, that is.
Some extras you will want to consider include the upgraded safety tech for entry-level cars, but so long as you tick a few sensible options boxes, the Kia Niro makes a good, cheap-to-run family SUV. Head over to our Kia Niro deals page to see how much you can save on your next car.
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 backache 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 has 427 litres of bootspace. It 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 though, and the Kia Niro doesn’t get 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 Kia 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 an economical 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 near-silent 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 without feeling strained 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 economical SUVs on sale. All three can accelerate from 0-62mph in a respectable (but hardly rapid) 11.5 seconds.
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 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 starts up to lend 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 along with automatic emergency braking to help prevent avoidable collisions.
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.