Kia Niro review

The Kia Niro is an SUV-style hybrid that’s more practical than a Toyota Prius, but less efficient. It’s more conventional to look at, too, while the driving experience is a competent but rather unengaging

£23,490 - £27,720
Hybrid

Pros

  • Roomier than a Toyota Prius
  • Conventional-looking design
  • Relatively good value

Cons

  • Not as efficient as a Prius
  • Ride quality not the best
  • Unengaging driving experience

The Kia Niro is a hybrid SUV with a five-door body that’s designed to take on the wide range of fashionable rivals with conventional powertrains. However, the Niro comes with a Toyota Prius-style self-charging hybrid powertrain, and as such finds itself in competition with a more varied range of rivals, including the Prius itself, and the more sportily styled but less practical Toyota C-HR. There are a few plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options worth considering, too, including the MINI Countryman ALL4, while Kia’s sister company Hyundai produces the Ioniq Hybrid – a five-door hatchback that shares much of the Niro’s running gear.

All of which means the potential Niro buyer has a number of rivals with a broad range of desirable qualities, but there’s not much direct competition if you want the usability of a 'self-charging' hybrid powertrain with a relatively conservative exterior – and of course the practicality of the estate-like crossover body.

The Kia Niro is also available as a plug-in vehicle, but we’re concentrating here on the 'self-charging' hybrid, which is arguably the easiest version to live with. Unlike the Niro PHEV, you never need to plug your car into the grid to get the best out of it, but of course neither do you get the benefit of a significant electric-only range. But the efficient powertrain does mean you’ll visit fuel pumps less frequently than you otherwise might.

Under the bonnet, Kia has fitted a 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine, paired with an electric motor to produce 139bhp in total. The drivetrain also includes a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and unless you count the plug-in version, there are no other powertrain choices. It works pretty well, giving diesel-like fuel economy and decent CO2 emissions – Kia claims up to 74.3mpg for the former and 88g/km for the latter – but you’ll get better numbers out of a Prius (83mpg and 78g/km).

While you can’t have much say over your Niro’s powertrain, there's at least a variety of trim levels to choose from. The entry-level is the Niro 2, which looks pretty good value, with a seven-inch touchscreen navigation screen, reversing camera, Android Auto smartphone connectivity, LED tail-lights and daytime running lights – all for comfortably less than £24,000.

The mid-range Niro 3 gets bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, an eight-inch touchscreen, upgraded audio and a leather interior with heated seats, while the range-topping Niro 4 adds smart cruise control and advanced safety goodies like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and blind-spot detection. For a whisker under £27,500, that looks like a pretty good deal, but the Niro doesn’t benefit from any government plug-in car grant or even exemption from the London Congestion Charge.

On the road, the Kia Niro is unremarkable, and we certainly wouldn’t describe it as fun to drive. The steering is light but pretty vague and the ride quality is a little too bumpy to be truly comfortable. On the positive side, although an 11.1-second 0-62mph time means it's no rocket-ship, the dual-clutch gearbox makes acceleration seem less strained than the Toyota Prius' unusual constantly variable transmission (CVT) automatic does.

In fact, the Niro is easy and relaxing to drive, and with a well built and well equipped interior, most occupants should have few complaints. The five-door estate body is roomy and practical, too, adding to the Niro’s family-friendly appeal, while the availability of advanced ‘autonomous’ safety technology – standard on the Niro 4 but also offered on lesser models – will doubtless further the car’s appeal. Of course, Kia's seven-year warranty package is unbeatable, and especially desirable for buyers considering holding onto their Niro for a while.

If you’re not too worried about a sporty drive and just want to get safely from A to B in relative comfort with the family onboard, there’s a lot to recommend here.

For a more detailed look at the Kia Niro Hybrid, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.