Superb economy from

plug-in Niro

Kia Niro PHEV, 2017, front, action
Kia Niro PHEV, 2017, front, static
Kia Niro PHEV, 2017, side, static
Kia Niro PHEV, 2017, rear, static
Kia Niro PHEV, 2017, interior
Kia Niro PHEV, 2017, display screen

IT'S easy to be fooled by today's cars. So many look very much the same and I thought the Kia Niro was just a hybrid version of the Sportage medium SUV.

However, I soon found that it's actually shorter and lower than the Sportage, but also has a longer wheelbase, which allows the company to claim class-leading space inside.

As with the rest of the range, it comes with Kia's fantastic seven year 100,000 mile warranty, which is unbeaten in the industry

The company has not followed the majority of other hybrids like the Toyota Prius by using a continuously variable (CVT) automatic gearbox.

Instead it's smooth and very quiet 1.6 petrol turbo and electric motor drive through a silky smooth six-speed twin clutch automatic.

Pulling away from rest, the electric motor does all the work, but as soon as more than modest acceleration is needed, the petrol engine joins in seamlessly to provide it.

In traffic or in town, you can press the ‘EV' button, and then only electric power will be used until the battery is depleted.

That lithium battery is larger than the one in the standard hybrid Niro, and the electric motor more powerful, so with a careful right foot, Kia claims a maximum of 38 miles on electric power alone.

That's enough for many commutes - especially if there's a charging station at work - and a refill only takes about two and a quarter hours.

Few would expect such a hybrid to offer scintillating performance but in fact it has more than enough for the majority of owners, with a decent kick-down and also a ‘Sport' setting for the gearbox - which actually turns it into a manual.

But performance is not what such a car is about now is it. Economy, low emissions, low road tax and low business driver tax - that's what it's about.

Well, economy is excellent.On a commute with the usual traffic hold-ups, but without charging it every night (because my house doesn't have an outside plug with enough power) I got a superb 64.5mpg.

But using the charger and running on electric power as much as possible, the government figure is an almost unbelievable 217mpg.

That equates to carbon dioxide emissions of 29 grammes per kilometre and benefit in kind tax of just nine per cent.

Business drivers are going to love it.

Obviously, the automatic gearbox makes it very easy to drive and its laid back feel is just what many people like in their transport.

The seats are well-shaped and comfortable, and the ride is good over all surfaces, while at times - as is true of all hybrids I have driven - it feels over heavy because of the extra weight of the battery pack.

It takes the corners safely and surprisingly quickly and there is decent feel from the electric power steering.

Interior space is excellent, with big legroom front and rear and while the binnacle doesn't have a tachometer, it does have an energy meter showing how much electric power is being used, the level of power in the battery and more.

There is also a driving style gauge, and I managed to get this up to 80 per cent without using any special techniques.

Interior quality is very good - right up to the Europeans - with soft-touch materials and quality switches.

The ‘3' model I drove is very well equipped, with premium DAB stereo, Bluetooth, Android Auto to connect a phone and wireless phone charging.

FAST FACTS

Price: £30,840

Mechanical: 139bhp, 1,580cc, 4cyl petrol engine plus electric motor driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 107mph

0-62mph: 10.7 seconds

Combined MPG: 217

Insurance Group: 14

C02 emissions:29g/km

Bik rating: 9%

Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles

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