By Mike Torpey on 2020-03-08 - 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 4
THE electric revolution may be gaining momentum by the day but for now the automotive buzzword begins with the letter H.
Hybrids are serious players in the new car arena - and when you pair these petrol/electric powertrains with an SUV bodystyle you're onto a winner.
Korean brand Kia launched its stylish Niro model as a hybrid-only variant, based on a platform which will only ever be used for electrified vehicles.
That was in 2016 and the interim period has seen hybrid sales not only double but also be expected to hit 700,000 annually this year.
It has also seen the arrival of both the all-electric e-Niro and a Plug-in Hybrid variant.
It's the Niro ‘self-charging' hybrid that dominates though and a new improved Niro hit the streets featuring the same 1.6-litre petrol engine as the original car boosted by a 32kW electric motor, which is concealed beneath the rear seats.
Together they generate 139bhp of power, low emissions of 99g/km and the potential for an average fuel return of 58.9 miles per gallon, though our own figure was slightly less at 54mpg.
What buyers of revamped versions also get is a new, sharper, exterior design with a fresh ‘tiger nose' grille, new bumpers front and rear, re-designed ‘ice-cube' headlamps and more wheel choices.
The cabin has also been upgraded with a gloss black trim and a larger 10.25-inch TFT widescreen for the main display on higher grade models.
This complements 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.
And the Niro now has an electric park brake in place of the previous foot-operated parking brake to release more room for oddments, and comes with a tyre mobility kit rather than a spare wheel to reduce weight and expand boot space.
As a five-door, five-seater the Kia could be described as fun, flexible and for the family. That's the intention anyway, and in the most part it works smoothly with a good all round view for passengers, easy access to all seats including ample room for child seats and a total carrying capacity of 1,380 litres with the seats folded.
Out on the road the Niro hybrid feels comfortable and well damped in urban conditions, though the six-speed DCT (dual clutch) gearbox could be slicker, and copes adequately with faster roads.
That said this is not meant to be a performance car, and errs much more on the side of efficiency. And to that end you get a digital readout showing battery info and electric motor use.
Prices start at Â£24,590 and there are three trim grades - ‘2', ‘3' and ‘4' - the base level running on 16-inch alloy wheels, the latter pair on 18-inchers, and all cars have the DCT automatic transmission.
Even the entry level ‘2' grade gets the likes of auto air-con, electric windows, privacy glass, reversing camera, six-speaker DAB radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and all have Kia's fully transferable seven year/100,000-mile warranty.
Move up to ‘3' trim and stuff like LED front fog lights, black leather upholstery, heated front seats and an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat enter the equation.
Kia Niro 1.6 GDi 4 Hybrid
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: 54.3
Insurance Group: 12
C02 emissions: 99g/km
Bik rating: 23%
Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles
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