Here’s a Kia that can’t stop winning awards.
This has been quite a year for the new Niro chalking up UK Car of the Year best crossover, and Women’s World Car of the Year among a string of gongs.
Niro laid the foundations for Kia’s electric programme in 2016 as the first hybrid model. From its humble beginnings it is now the second best selling model, offered as hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all electric, in fact more than 40 per cent of the company’s sales have electric power.
So what makes Niro so appealing? It is not a car to take to a track day, or attempt to go off roading, but when it comes to performing its duties as a medium sized family SUV it ticks all the boxes.
New Niro really is new, sitting on a new platform, a restyled body that is bang on trend, and an eye catching digital dashboard, taking styling cues from Sportage and EV6 which were the first to receive a radical change in Kia’s design direction.
Let’s get straight into the cabin because that is where we can see some of the key changes. Niro has grown in every direction bringing it more into line with its rivals so there is more space for passengers and luggage which has grown by 15 litres.
There is ample room for four adults, five with a bit of a squeeze for the one in the middle, and backseat headroom is fine. This is, after all, a high sided SUV and Kia has avoided getting sucked into the current trend of a sloping coupe style roofline which can have taller folk brushing heads with the roof lining.
A neat addition are USB-C ports in the front seat back rests making it easy for passengers to charge mobiles and the like. There is also wireless charging in the centre console on all but the entry level model.
The new dashboard layout has the wow factor and mirrors the wide screen design first seen in new Sportage although it looks even better with a gentle curve towards the central touchscreen. The graphics are pin sharp and the system takes no time to fathom because the most used functions, heating and radio, are separate with physical buttons. If you want to be pampered voice commands will do the job so the driver’s eyes are always on the road.
My HEV model uses a 1.6 litre petrol engine backed up by a 32kW electric motor that contributes 43bhp and charges on the move, but what about this for a clever new feature. A green zone mode can be configured so the car automatically switches to electric drive in built up areas, or roads near schools and hospitals, to reduce noise and exhaust emissions.
Neighbours would also be pleased if ‘silent running’ was employed.
Don’t expect too much in the way of performance. Acceleration off the line is no more than adequate and the engine note is a tad noisy if pushed to the top end of the rev range but given the Niro’s family role flooring the fast pedal is not likely to happen that often. Economy, with the help of the electric motor, is good so low to mid fifties should be a given.
Safety features high on the spec list and there is plenty of it including adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, and cross traffic avoidance which saved my bacon while reversing out of a side parking space in a Kia XCeed a few months ago. It brakes the car when an approaching vehicle is picked up in the radar sensors.
Niro is one of those annoying cars for people like me who have to look beyond the gushing promotional spiel because it is more or less faultless, and it has the bonus of a seven year warranty.
However I did find one area that is perhaps below par and that is a lot of hard plastic below the waistline and the boot side walls, but I am still giving Niro a nine out of 10.
Niro HEV 3 6sp automatic
£31,560 (starts £28,810)
1.6 litre; 139bhp
0-62mph 10.8secs; 100mph
106g/km. 1st tax £185
Boot: 451-1445 litres
Towing capacity: 1300kg
Insurance group 21