Kia has brought a new hybrid model to market, but the Niro is unexciting to drive, says Declan Colley.
Believe it or not, but Kia and its’ sister brand Hyundai have been tricking around with all sorts of alternative fuel sources for quite some time, but it is only recently we got to see their first serious hybrid cars — the Niro in the case of Kia and the Ioniq from Hyundai.
This week we test the Kia version and, frankly, we wish we hadn’t. It is not that the car is terrible or anything, but one gets the feeling that this is something of a stopgap thing from the Koreans and that they may just have a lot of better stuff in the pipeline.
This car is eminently passable by the standards of most of the hybrids out there. The fact of the matter is that most of the hybrids out there are anaemic and bland and completely unexciting to drive and this is just another one of them.
Certainly — as we saw last week with the Toyota C-HR Hybrid — things are moving along quickly for the genre and what was once insipid is now a touch less dull than was previously the case. The Niro, however, is resolutely old-school in its dullness.
On the plus side the car is very practical and very family oriented and, of course, very tax friendly; but, if you want even the tiniest bit of exhilaration in your motoring life I would heartily recommend you look for it elsewhere.
The nuts and bolts of the car are pretty standard. There is a 1.6-litre petrol engine on offer which is allied to an electric motor with a lithium-ion battery.
This is tied in with a six-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox and the combination of all that provides a motivational force which gives you some 141 bhp, 265 Nm of torque, a top speed of 162km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 11.5 seconds.
The car will also return a claimed consumption figure of 3.8 l/100 km (73 mpg), emit 88 g/km of CO2 and cost just €180 per annum to tax.
All of this is good and so too is the design of the car which has a SUV/crossover look and feel about it, making it possibly more of a winning choice for many families.
The exterior and interior are very nicely put together, so not only will the Niro look good in your driveway, but you will also feel pretty good about yourself when you’re driving it. If you’re that sort of person.
There is plenty of specification on offer and the equipping levels are very impressive, with all the infotainment and connectivity stuff the modern family requires.
While there is also plenty of interior space for front and rear passengers, I would issue a word of caution about the seats, which I found to be pretty short of support (making longer journeys something of a trial if you’ve got a dodgy back).
A lot of good elements to this car then — until you wheel it out onto the road. The ride is not too bad, though nothing to write home about, but the handling is not great. There is little or no steering feedback and you rarely have any real sense of what the front wheels are actually doing.
If you are wont to press on a bit while driving, you will find that the Niro doesn’t really like that sort of thing and will wallow around listlessly if asked any hard cornering questions.
Practicality and economy are big asks for many motorists these days and the Niro will serve people well on both fronts. What it will not serve up is enjoyment in any shape or form and to be honest I quickly tired of its’ tedious traits.
I have no doubt Kia will have much to offer in times to come when it comes to fuel sources other than regular petrol or diesel, but for now this is not the car for the job.
Certainly it will fit the bill for people who care not one jot about the sheer pleasure there is to be had from driving a good car, but for those of us who do care about such matters, then I have three simple words of advice: not this one.
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