By Mike Torpey on 2016-12-17 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Kia Niro 1.6 GDi 2
KOREAN brand Kia is banking on the F factor to draw in a whole new league of fans to its first ever hybrid model in the UK, the Niro.
Fun, flexible and for the family is how Kia describes this latest entry into the competitive crossover scene - and it's a car that seems destined to play a major role in the company's relentless push for sales.
Of course using a hybrid driving system, whereby a petrol engine is boosted by an electric motor, is nothing new.
What Kia has done though is combine this efficiency with an attractive and versatile SUV style.
And because the Niro is based on a new platform which will only ever be used for electrified vehicles, the stage is set for a plug-in hybrid version to follow next year.
A compact five-door, five-seater, the Niro has just a single engine option, a 1.6-litre GDi petrol unit developing 104bhp.
Paired with the 32kW electric motor, which is concealed beneath the rear seats, the car generates 139bhp and a useful 265Nm of pulling power in first gear.
Its fuel return is impressive at officially 74.3mpg, though my own average over 250 miles was 57.5mpg, and there's the potential at low speed around town to run exclusively on battery power.
Kia's stated intention is to cut the average CO2 emissions of its range by 25 per cent before 2020 and with a fumes figure of 88g/km, the Niro will certainly make a contribution.
Out on the road you can expect a smooth, comfortable ride - which I experienced shifting pots, pans, bedding and weights from one student gaff to another - and more than adequate performance on the motorway.
It's sufficient at least to satisfy most families, if not the thrill seekers.
Inside, there's a simple, effective wide dash layout, high quality fit and finish with soft touch materials, lots of connectivity gizmos and safety features plus ample space for five.
Prices start at £21,295 and there are four trim grades, the first two running on 16-inch alloy wheels, the latter pair on 18-inchers, and all cars have a dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Even the entry level 1 grade gets the likes of LED daytime running lights, auto air-con, electric windows, DAB radio and a trip computer.
Go up to the 2 trim as featrued here and stuff like roof rails, high gloss black trim highlights, leather steering wheel, rear privacy glass, a reversing camera and an underfloor tray enter the equation.
Kia Niro 1.6 GDi 2
Mechanical: 104bhp, 1,580cc, 4cyl petrol engine and 32kW electric motor driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 101mph
0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
Combined MPG: 74.3
Insurance Group: 12
C02 emissions: 88g/km
Bik rating: 15%
Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles
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