It’s hard to get away from the news that petrol and diesel is on the way out.
Under the latest Government plans to cut pollution, car makers will have to stop selling regular combustion-engined cars by 2030.
Of course the writing has been on the wall for some time and while they move towards an all-electric future every manufacturer is already marching towards lower emissions with a mix of EVs and hybrid models.
Most of Kia’s range comes with some form of hybrid but the Niro was Kia’s first car to be built on a platform designed from the outset to carry only electrified drivetrains.
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Kia Niro HEV 3
- Price: £27,100
- Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol with 32kW electric motor
- Power: 139bhp
- Torque: 198b ft
- Transmission: Six-speed DCT automatic
- Top speed: 101mph
- 0-60mph: 11.1 seconds
- Economy: 54.3mpg
- CO2 emissions: 119g/km
The Niro comes in three degrees of electrification. There’s the e-Niro - a full-on battery electric car - the Niro PHEV, with a 8.9kWh battery and claimed 36-mile all-electric range, and this, the Niro self-charging hybrid.
Unlike the other two, which rely on big batteries to offer pure-electric driving, this version has a tiny 1.5kWh battery, with its motor designed to offer a boost to the petrol engine rather than replace it.
Kia says the self-charging Niro can run in all-electric mode for short distances in some circumstances. They must be incredibly specific circumstances and involve a sparrow pressing the throttle because anything more than a mere brush of the pedal causes the engine to kick in again and it’s incredibly hard to use it in EV-only mode. Other self-charging hybrids do a far better job of managing the small EV-only range that they offer.
And when the 1.6-litre petrol engine is in operation you’ll know about it as it’s not the quietest unit in the world - or the quickest. Even with the 32kW motor’s assistance, the Niro takes a leisurely 11 seconds to reach 60mph. Still, real-world economy of around 50mpg against a claimed 54.3mpg isn’t bad for a largish family car with a petrol engine.
And away from the drivetrain the Niro has some real strengths, not least of which is the amount of space it offers for your average family. At 4.3 metres long and 1.8m wide, it’s roughly the size of a Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla but feels more spacious than either of those standard hatchbacks or many of its crossover rivals. Behind an average sized driver there’s still more than enough leg and headroom for a 6’ 5” freak like me and set up for me to drive there’s still legroom for a tall child in the back. What’s more, there’s enough width in the rear bench to carry three passengers, which is not always a reality in some of the “five-seat” cars in this class. A 382l boot is the pay-off for the passenger space. It’s big enough for a pushchair or weekly shop but not much bigger than many superminis’ and there are plenty of B-segment crossovers that offer as much as 150l more space.
While it’s slow to get going, on the move the Niro acquits itself well too. It feels stable and secure in the way you want a family wagon, with a positive feel from the controls and reassuring body control. What’s more, it rides really well. On all but the most appalling city-centre roads it does a great job of being comfortable and shock-absorbing without losing that sense of body control.
The Niro range starts at £24,900 for the ‘2’ grade while our ‘3’ comes in at a shade over £27,000. As is usual with Kia’s mid-range models you’ll want for very little. A driver assistance package features forward collision avoidance, lane following and lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. The leather front seats are heated, as is the steering wheel and there’s a 10.25-inch infotainment system with live navigation and smartphone integration, plus wireless phone charging. There’s dual-zone climate control and air vents for the rear seats plus auto functioning headlights and wipers. If you want more than that a £2,500 step up to grade 4 brings full LED lights, heated rear seats, ambient lighting and a powered sunroof.
The regular hybrid Niro is clearly not going to be the go-to model if you’re serious about running in zero-emissions mode for any length of time - for that you’ll want the plug-in version or, even better, the 250-mile pure electric e-Niro. But those won’t suit every budget or lifestyle and the self-charging model is cheaper yet still easily returns 50mpg. It also has all the other positives of the whole Niro range - it’s spacious and comfortable with all the features you’d want from a family car.