Kia Niro 2 1.6 GDI

Kia Niro, 2016, front, action
Kia Niro, side static
Kia Niro, 2016, front
Kia Niro, front action
Kia Niro, rear action
Kia Niro, side action
Kia Niro, 2016, rear, static
Kia Niro, rear
Kia Niro, 2016, boot
Kia Niro, boot (2)
Kia Niro, dashboard
Kia Niro, rear seats

KIA is a company of contrasts when it comes to cars.

It has produced some truly head-turning models and some very run-of-the-mill models and even its technology underneath ranges from familiar to "fancy-that".

It is full of surprises and so is the new Niro crossover hybrid.

Some car manufacturers seem to go out of their way to make a hybrid look different, to make a statement about where they are going rather than why they are going that way.

The Niro is, compared to many models on the market, a fairly conventional looking sports estate but it actually conceals a modern petrol/electric powertrain which demands no special skill or approach from the driver. And that is probably the reason it is going to be a success.

Built on a dedicated petrol and electric hybrid car platform there is a single power train with 104hp 1.6 engine and 43.5hp electric motor pushing out power through a six-speed DCT gearbox with overdrive on fourth, fifthand sixthgears.

Start-up is in electric mode and therefore near silent but above walking pace the familiar internal combustion engine kicks in and takes over most work with the electric motor used to boost performance or cut in when light-load conditions dictate such as cruising or creeping in traffic.

Probably because of the gearing and the tuning map, the Niro 2 we drove - there are four trim versions - was not very quick off the mark, lacked mid-range punch and the top speed was not what you might expect from a 1.6 litre model.

That said, it was very smooth at all times and unless pushed hard or through the manual-mode on the gearbox, it was quiet as well.

Select manual mode or really boot the throttle and it was much noisier but road rumbles seemed ever present. Wind and other mechanical noises were very low.

The plus side of the long gearing was good overall economy of 48mpg and we often saw it heading into the mid-50s at a steady motorway speed, but it fell away on country roads with more variable conditions.

The handling was safe and sensible, not at all challenging, and there was a tendency to run wide on tight turns if you were in a hurry but lifting off brought it neatly back on line.

It absorbed bumps with some noise and generally very well but it also rolled around corners and even wallowed over undulating surfaces.

Every version has lane keep assist, hill-start, cruise control, stability control, air-con, alloy wheel and electric windows and door mirrors, LED daytime running lights, DAB radio and computer.

Grade 2, the most sensible level due to its price and low taxes, additions include a seven-inch touchscreen, sat nav, reversing camera, Kia's online Connected Services and reversing sensors.

Grade 3 adds 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, front parking sensors, heated front seats and steering wheel, electric adjustable driver's seat and upgraded audio system, larger touchscreen and wireless mobile phone charger.

I liked the secondary controls and instruments, with a power meter replacing a tachometer, but noted the lack of column paddles with this particular DCT system, suggesting it's not really intended for a sporting driver.

The infotainment system was big and very clear, easy to use and comprehensive thanks to the 2-level integrated mobile apps.

Temperature control was very good throughout and its sophistication would not be out of place on a much dearer car, backed up by powered windows but no sunroof.

You have a slightly higher sitting position in the Niro, low waistline to glass, parking sensors and reversing camera, good wash/ wipers and really good bright headlights.

Oddments room was good, the loadspace low and wide and easily increased with offset folding back seats.

Access to the cabin was also good and the seats infront were wide and wrap-around, much flatter but still comfortable in the rear.

There was good room for five with decent rear legroom noticeable and plenty of headspace throughout.

You may be a fan of it, not all are, but it has a foot operated parking brake like so many models destined for the US market but otherwise the major controls are very familiar.

The gearchanges are really smooth, the steering was vibration-free and the brakes effective with modest pedal pressure.

FAST FACTS

Kia Niro 2 1.6 GDI

Price: £22,795

Mechanical: 139bhp, 1,198cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 101mph

0-62mph: 11.1 seconds

Combined MPG: 48

Insurance Group: 12

C02 emissions: 88g/km

Bik rating: 15%

Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles

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