SOMETIMES it's great fun to gauge the reaction of someone who isn't particularly interested in cars when I have a new vehicle to test.
For example, I picked up a friend in the Kia Niro and their first comment was: "Oh this is nice - what is it?" I explained it was the all-new Niro and got a puzzled look for my troubles. I added that it was a Kia and then the penny dropped.
Although my friend wasn't particularly sold on or particularly bothered about the power and performance figures or indeed, the quirky screen visuals that can monitor driving performance, they were impressed by a number of simple factors.
Firstly, how modern, comfortable and roomy the car was. Secondly, by the economy - the car cost Â£22,795 and could deliver very impressive combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg.
And finally, the car's beautiful handling.
The automatic gearbox was smooth and responsive and the cabin was very well-insulated against outside noise. And it was those factors that resulted in the Niro getting the thumbs-up.
The five-door, five-seat Niro is the South Korean company's first dedicated hybrid model and is another compact crossover to compete in the highly-popular segment.
In the Kia line-up, the Niro sits nicely between the cee'd hatchback and Sportage SUV models.
Power comes from an all-new 1.6-litre 104bhp petrol engine and a 43bhp electric motor which allows the Niro to complete the 0-60mph dash in 11.1 seconds (0-62 in 11.5 seconds) and then onto a top speed of 101mph.
Carbon emissions are low at a combined 88g/km.
It's a good-looking car with plenty of eye-catching features such as Kia's tiger-nose grille, the company's trademark long bonnet, short overhangs, elevated headlights, bold wheel arches, a roof spoiler, high-mounted C-shaped tail lights, 16-inch alloys, front fog lights and privacy glass.
Move inside and the Niro, like other Kia models, has a wide dashboard that helps to accentuate the width of the car and there is a wealth of technology to be explored.
The car came with a six-speaker sound system, DAB radio with MP3 compatibility, a seven-inch touchscreen with sat nav, Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming, air conditioning, a heated steering wheel, a reversing camera and parking sensors.
The car has a clutter-free, modern and upmarket feel to it with a mixture of cloth and leather upholstery, light grey headlining, satin finish interior door handles, leather trimmed armrests and lots of neat looking high gloss black finishes.
There is ample room for five adults to travel in comfort and the storage options are impressive too with a boot capacity of 427 litres, which is increased to 1,425 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. In addition, there are cup holders, a deep central storage bin, glovebox and practically-sized door pockets.
When put to the test, the Niro was a delight to drive. Okay, there are much faster and more dynamically-engineered options out there, but the Niro does perform well.
The acceleration is good and the power keeps on coming which means the Niro can cruise with ease at maximum motorway speeds. In town traffic, the car is agile and easy to manoeuvre, plus the high-seated driving position is a bonus with cars and pedestrians darting out from all angles.
I was also impressed by the six-speed automatic gearbox which was beautifully smooth and there was a constant supply of power on tap which is great for overtaking slower moving farm traffic on the country lanes. And even when pushed quite briskly the Niro remained nicely composed with very little sign of any body roll.
Kia has packed a comprehensive range of safety features into the car too, including anti-lock brakes, hill start assist, lane keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, cruise control and plenty more besides.
All in all, the Kia Niro is a great all-rounder for the active family. It's stylish, modern, practical, comfortable and good fun to drive. And, of course, it is supplied with Kia's excellent seven year/100,000-mile warranty for complete peace of mind.