Kia Niro - eco hero

Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, front, action
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, side, action
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, rear, action
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, rear, static
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, front, static
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, interior
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, front seats
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, engine
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, boot
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, boot, underfloor storage
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, instruments
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, power display
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, rear seats
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, display screen
Kia Niro, First Edition, 2016, door trim

CROSSOVERS are fast becoming the must-have type of car and Kia is upping the ante with its first hybrid - a model which delivers on every front.

The Niro is the Korean car maker's first attempt at petrol-electric power in the UK and its interpretation of the eco-friendly technology is something of an eye opener.

Exceptional fuel economy is possible - pushing 100mpg if really careful - and under any circumstances the Niro should be good for an average of more than 50 to the gallon.

The Niro is priced from £21,295 and slots into the current Kia line up in between the cee'd family hatchback and the Sportage SUV.

It's a good-sized family five seater with plenty of space front and back and a decent amount of boot space, complete with underfloor storage.

Looking more SUV than high tech hybrid the Niro's design is refreshingly conventional.

The same is true of the interior where the dash has a proper, traditional feel.

That's not to say it's old fashioned, the Niro is anything but, and all versions in the four model range come with the likes of lane departure warning, cruise control, twin zone air conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity.

Sat nav is standard on all but the basic model and for £22,795 the Niro comes with a reversing camera, a live traffic feed and a seven-inch display screen in the centre of the dashboard.

What makes the Niro tick is a 1.6-litre petrol engine tuned for economy which is hooked up to an electric motor running off a high capacity lithium-ion battery.

Together they develop 139bhp which gives the Niro a 0 to 60 time of 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 101mph. In terms of acceleration that's on par with other hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.

Where the Niro differs is with its transmission. Kia has opted for a six-speed dual clutch semi-automatic set up as opposed to a continuously variable gearbox as favoured by most other hybrid makers.

It makes the Niro much more driveable with some real bite through the gears - and it can be used manually if required for a sporty feel.

The Niro is surprisingly quiet on the road and left to its own devices is very fuel efficient.

The electric motor is permanently hooked up to the engine and the Niro will drop into emission-free EV mode whenever it can - and that includes driving at motorway speeds.

Kia claims an official fuel return of 74.3mpg with emissions of just 88g/km and the Niro is a car which is very lean in traffic.

With careful use of the throttle we managed to exceed the official mpg figure by some margin although a foible in the trip computer readout means that the best that will be seen is 99.9mpg.

Under everyday conditions the fuel economy is more likely to be around 55 to the gallon and with a 10 gallon tank it has a good amount of range.

Higher specification models come with 18-inch alloys instead of 16-inch rims and that takes the official fuel return down to 64.2mpg with a CO2 rating of 101g/km but overall the larger wheels had little impact on real world economy.

As with any other hybrid there are extra instrument displays to show off power flow, battery state and more detailed energy usage including battery regeneration under braking.

This may be Kia's debut on the hybrid scene but the system it has developed is very effective. Not once in drives of more than 50 miles did the battery capacity fall below 50 per cent, enabling the Niro to maximise the benefits of electric assistance.

The battery pack - which like the car itself is covered by Kia's seven year warranty - is slung below the rear seat so it does not impinge on luggage space which ranges from 427 to 1,425 litres making it a nicely practical car.

Higher grade versions are priced from £24,695 and include extras such as a wireless phone charging platform, an upgraded 320W JBL sound system and a larger eight-inch touchscreen.

To kick off the Niro's arrival Kia is offering a top specification First Edition model at £26,995 which comes with added safety systems including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors and a cross traffic alert system which warns of approaching traffic when reversing.

Some of those features, including the emergency braking system, are available as options on lower grade versions in a package priced at £350.

The First Edition cars also come with white gloss highlights in the interior trim - a finish which may reflect its clean credentials but may not be to everyone's taste.

Nevertheless, the Niro is a very complete package and a car which will become a trailblazer as Kia broadens its electrically powered line up.

The company has no plans to offer the Niro with a conventional combustion engine only - either petrol or diesel - and next year it will be available as a plug-in hybrid with greater electric-only range and an externally rechargeable battery.

By then Kia will have increased its eco line up to four with the Niro hybrid joining the battery powered Soul EV and a plug-in version of the larger Optima saloon due for release this autumn.

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