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
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.
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
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.