The Kia Niro crossover now comes in hybrid, plug-in and full electric guises

Like its Hyundai Ioniq sister model, the Kia Niro offers three levels of electrification, and arguably it gets better with the more electric input there is. The standard hybrid can't match the better-developed Toyota Prius for smoothness or efficiency, but the plug-in version has a decent all-electric range, while the e-Niro is an EV class leader for how far it can go on a single charge.

The other draw of the Niro is its SUV-style body. That means it's pretty practical, if not all that pretty, and it looks more conventional than a Prius. The hybrid/electric drive system doesn't compromise interior space in any way, either. If only the Niro was a bit more special to drive. It's merely reasonable, while fitting a DCT gearbox to the hybrid model doesn't really give it much of a driving advantage over a Prius, either.

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Kia Niro 1.6 GDi hybrid DCT 2

2016 saw the Kia Niro first arrive in the UK, but the range has expanded and there are now hybrid, Niro PHEV and electric e-Niro models for sale. The hybrid version was the first to appear in 2016, with the plug-in PHEV arriving in 2017 and the full electric model debuting in 2019.

This template of three alternative fuel options in one body is one that's used by the Hyundai Ioniq, which is the sister car to the Niro, albeit in a hatchback body, rather than an SUV one. Beyond that, the three versions of the Niro each have their own rivals. For the hybrid these include the Toyota Prius and a number of small diesel hatchbacks and crossovers, led by the likes of the Peugeot 3008 and Volkswagen Golf, the PHEV version has to go up against the Prius Plug-in and MINI Countryman S E, while the all-electric version shares running gear with the Hyundai Kona Electric, and takes on the Nissan Leaf, VW e-Golf, BMW i3 and Renault Zoe.

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One aspect of the Niro that is likely to appeal to buyers is its SUV style body. It's more upright and conventional than cars like the Prius, and this alone could sway buyers into the Kia if they're not fans of the Toyota's futuristic shape. In an effort to distinguish the electric e-Niro from the hybrid versions, this model gets a smooth body-coloured nose incorporating a charging socket, replacing the grille seen on the hybrids, but is otherwise identical to its hybrid siblings.

The hybrid models feature a 104bhp 1.6 GDi (Gasoline Direct Injection) petrol engine and a 43bhp electric motor for an overall combined output of 139bhp (accounting for power losses between the two drive systems). A six-speed twin-clutch DCT gearbox is fitted, which marks the Niro out from the CVT-equipped Prius, although it behaves very much like a CVT in everyday driving.

The Niro is as simple to drive as any other automatic, but it's not very interesting to drive
Good economy and low emissions are a given, but they're not quite on par with a Prius just yet
Conventional crossover styling will be appealing to buyers who don't like the radical Prius
There's decent space as the car is designed around its hybrid drive system
This is new technology for Kia, so there might be issues, but the seven-year warranty will help confidence

Power for the electric motor comes from a lithium-ion polymer battery, which is rated at 1.6kWh in the standard hybrid and 8.9kWh in the plug-in version. While the hybrid version runs on electric power as and when it can, the plug-in has an estimated electric-only range of 36 miles. If you do lots of short trips and keep the battery topped up, then that means you could bring your petrol station visits down to a bare minimum.

The e-Niro also uses li-ion polymer batteries, but they are far larger, at 39kWh for the short-range model and 64kWh for the longer range version, which are the same as the Kona Electric. As with the Kona, the bigger battery comes with a more powerful 201bhp electric motor, compared to 134bhp for the small battery. Claimed range for these two is 193 miles for the standard car and a generous 301 miles for the large capacity version.

The Niro range currently comprises 2, 3 and 4 trims, but the plug-in version only comes in mid-spec 3 trim. Another difference is that the plug-in features 16-inch wheels, rather than the 18-inch rims found on the hybrid version. Hybrid prices start from around £23,500, with the plug-in model priced at around £31,000. Prices for the e-Niro are yet to be announced, but this model will benefit from the Government's Plug-in Car Grant, which knocks £3,500 off the list price.

Last updated: 
27 Nov, 2018