In our day and age, “green” mobility is becoming a must. Downsized petrol engines are doing already a quite remarkable job now, but there is a propulsion solution which really stands out in this age of transition where fully fledged e-mobility still meets practical barriers due to hitherto insufficient (re)charging infrastructure.
Indeed, the hybrid car is not only here to stay, but has a very bright future ahead. No small wonder that also Kia is adding a very refined and remarkable hybrid to its range. It does it also with a “crossover” body, which strikes an ideal balance between a hatchback and a SUV. We tested it for you, just read further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Well proportioned design
The Niro pleases not only with its technology, it also looks quite good. Under the masterful hand of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, who after starting with Kia, is now also lead designer at Hyundai in 2013 and now oversees a network of studios on three continents, the Niro got clean curves and excellent proportions. It is a “crossover”, which offers indeed a genuine alternative in the hybrid world, as it is brimming of practicality.
The Niro has a completely new platform, with a wheelbase of not less than 2,70 m which allows ample head- and legroom in the rear. Also the cabin follows the rules of good design, and is also quite luxurious in the use of its materials, and last but not least is very well finished. Hyundai group experience also tells when it comes to making all the commands and handles user friendly and intuitive. Indeed, getting acquainted with all the functions of the Niro is well and truly childs’ play.
Getting behind the wheel is easy, finding the ideal seating position too, with the driver’s seat being electronically adjustable (with memory) in the Executive Line equipment version we drove. When one has pushed the starting knob, the system starts checking itself, which is clearly indicated on the instrument cluster.
Flanking the speedometer there is no rev counter, but instead a telltale needle showing you whether you are driving “eco”, or charging the batteries when decelerating. When you put the throttle deeper, the needle will move to the “power” zone, where both petrol engine and electric motor join hands to propel the front wheels for more performance. You can also follow this on the eight inch central touchscreen, which combines all the functions in a self explaining and intuitive way.
Well-honed hybrid powertrain.
The hybrid setup in the Niro consists of a four cylinder 1.580 cc engine, , which is mated through a 6 speed dual clutch automatic transmission, with a 44 HP electric motor, both driving the front wheels. The petrol engine develops 105 HP at 5700 rpm, torque being 147 Nm. The electric engine is good for 170 Nm of torque, which is of course instantly available all throughout the rev range.
Total system power on kickdown is regulated at 141 HP, and this provides quite lively performance to the Niro. It will sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 11,5 seconds, top speed being 162 kmh. But of course it is above all the utter smoothness of the drivetrain, even when asked to deliver full power, and also the very good intermediate accelerations, as much power is continuously available at the merest push of the throttle.
The hybrid Niro is quite refined indeed, with no jerks or shocks noticeable when the system switches from e power to (combined) petrol power. The petrol engine is subtly audible when engaged, but that’s about it.
When driving with restraint, the Niro uses e-power quite often, which of course helps consumption in urban driving considerably. We achieved averages of around 4,5 liter/100 km in city driving without effort. Official figures are 3,9 liters/100 km, CO2 emissions being 101 g/km for the executive version with 18 inch wheels, 88 g/km for the lower versions.
Needless to say that the smooth e-power makes urban driving a very restful experience, one of the unique charms and advantages of e-power, especially when manoeuvring and parking.
Not only is the Niro good looking and mechanically refined, it offers also quite a bit of driving pleasure. Being light footed in town and on curvy roads, it steers with eagerness and precision through corners, staying neutral up to lightly understeered at very high cornering speeds.
Brakes are also sensitive and progressive, completing the picture of being an entertaining and predictable drivers’ car.
The Niro offers quite sufficient cabin and luggage space. Tall passengers even find more than enough head- and legroom at the rear. As the batteries are lodged under the rear seat, the Kia offers a fine, flat loading space with both backrests folded down, according to VDA norm 1425 liters of it. The Kia assists the driver with a host of electronic assistance systems. Noblesse oblige also in this segment, there is adaptative cruise control, dubbed Smart Cruise Control, which makes the Niro even more restful to drive over long distances. Indeed, the top level of our test car includes further numerous driver assistance systems, like Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Detection en Citybrake, which even recognizes pedestrians.
These driver assistance systems can also be had on the lower equipped versions, as an option. Stowaway space is also abundant, and we were also quite pleased with the JBL audio system, alas not playing the mpeg4 music files we have on our (music) sticks, so once and for all we take the decision to convert them into MP3 files so we can listen to our music favorites in all our test cars. But it has a DAB+ radio, and in the centre console it is also possible to induction charge your cell phone…
For caravan and boat lovers, it is good to know that with the optional extension package, which beefs up further the brake system and engine cooling capacity, this will be a hybrid which will be able to tow up to 1300 kg.
Stylish, well built, refined, practical and roomy, the Niro has many arguments up its sleeve. The strongest point is its hybrid drive system, which is smooth, frugal and bears witness to the high level of know how and engineering excellence Kia has achieved being part of the Hyundai group.
The Niro is a breeze to use, restful and entertaining to drive, and last but not least offers very good value for money. We suggest you take a good long look at it, when you consider to purchase a car in this segment. It offers you smooth, “zen” and environmentally responsible transport for years to come.
Hans Knol ten Bensel