At first glance, the Kia Niro is a practical and likeable 5-door crossover – currently a popular style combining all of the virtues of a family hatchback and an SUV. Look a little closer and you’ll soon discover the Niro is really a very special vehicle – it only comes with hybrid or all-electric power. There’s a petrol/electric self-charging hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and an all-electric model called the e-Niro, and they’re all very appealing cars.
From the outside, there’s little to distinguish the Niro from the array of SUV crossovers. Its lines are neat, unfussy and modern, without looking remarkable in any way. Kia designed it like that to show that you don’t need to be making an outlandish choice when buying a used electric vehicle. There’s nothing weird or eccentric about choosing a Niro. Just good common sense.
The SUV-style design means it has a higher driver position, while the sloping rear makes it seem less boxy and more car-like. It uses the same lines and patterns as many other crossovers. Perhaps the most eye-catching elements are the impressive alloy wheels.
Apart from that, if you removed the badges even expert car-spotters might struggle to identify the Niro. This car simply doesn’t need a fancy design to make it stand out.
There’s nothing weird or eccentric about choosing a Niro. Just good common sense.
What’s it like to drive?
Easy and relaxing would sum it up, just how we like our Sunday mornings. All have a 6-speed automatic gearbox and predictable handling characteristics. They are easy to control around town, and relaxing on longer motorway trips. When operating electrically, progress is almost silent and smooth. Even when the hybrid engine kicks in alongside the electric motors, it doesn’t intrude. All offer a refined way to travel, while rarely being an exciting drive.
The trio of different Niro varieties have different characteristics. The all-electric e-Niro has been hailed as a game-changer for bringing very rapid performance and a long emission-free range to ordinary car buyers. The hybrid models are less extraordinary, and perhaps more affordable for more owners.
The soft, comfortable suspension probably suits the hybrids. It does feel like it dulls the sporty potential of the e-Niro a little.
Easy and relaxing would sum it up.
The Niro would be a good contender in the medium crossover market, even if it had ordinary engines. It’s light, airy and spacious inside. It might be the car of choice for those who value eco-credentials above interior luxuries, nevertheless the cabin is well appointed with a classy, understated quality.
Most are fitted with sat-nav, climate-control and reversing cameras. Higher trim levels offer heated leather seats and steering wheel. And in all versions there’s good head and leg-room in both the front and back seats. So you can be sustainable and comfortable.
Niro drivers are faced with a sensible and clear dashboard. Everything is easy to find and there’s a solid feel to the controls and trim. The touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use, even if it won’t amaze you with its features. Note that there was a Kia style make-over in 2019 and cars after that have bigger screens and slightly neater dashboards.
Newer models may also be fitted with Kia’s own mobile connected service giving real-time traffic and weather information, perfect if you’re planning a trip to the beach.
The Niro’s doors open wide for easy access, while the boot is not as big as some other crossovers – at 427 litres, it’s much less than the Toyota Prius’ impressive 502 litres. You get the most boot space in the self-charging model. In the e-Niro, the plug-in hybrid needs more battery room.
In all versions, the batteries limit underfloor storage and the narrowness of the space limits what you can fit in there –having them located here does free up boot space. There’s also the option of folding the back seats flat to increase space dramatically. So whether you’re planning an adventure and need to load up the camping gear, or packing lightly isn’t in your vocabulary and need space you’re taking two large suitcase and a carry-on – the Niro has you covered.
Running costs and reliability
This is the nitty gritty of the Niro. It’s the extraordinary power systems that make it so special. The self-charging hybrid returns a creditable maximum of around 60mpg. The plug-in hybrid’s official figures are over 200mpg. The e-Niro is purely electric and can offer a range of up to 282 miles on a charge. Who needs petrol stations anyway?
Kia has a great reliability reputation and offers 7-year warranty from new, so any used Niro will still be covered by the manufacturer against problems. And if that’s not enough, a recent survey found the Niro was so far one of the most reliable cars on the road.
What cinch loves
The sensible design and simple competence of the Niro belies the fact that this family crossover is a groundbreaking vehicle. Particularly in plug-in hybrid and all-electric forms, it brings sustainable motoring closer for all motorists and will slash your fuel bills.
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Town and country drivers
From the outside the Niro looks like a sensible family crossover –under the skin it’s one of the vehicles that will change the motoring world at a price that ordinary motorists can start to consider.It won’t be any sacrifice switching to electric power, the Niro is ultra reliable, comfortable and spacious, and relaxing to drive too.
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