We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Max Earey
car review

The Kia Niro hybrid has record-setting fuel economy - so is it any fun to drive?

We put the very efficient Niro to the test.

KIA IS COMBINING two big motoring trends with the Niro – the desirability of a compact crossover and the fuel saving, lower emissions technology of a hybrid.

The Niro is built on an all new platform especially designed to underpin only hybrid and all-electric vehicles and is the first Kia hybrid available in Ireland.

It comes in two trims, EXL at €30,595 and EXL ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) at €31,295. Entry level models come very well equipped and get privacy glass, electric, heated and folding mirrors, heated leather front and rear seats, cruise control, speed limited, a heated steering wheel and wireless mobile phone charging. EXL ADAS gets Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Smart Cruise Control.


Max Earey Max Earey

The Niro is a neat looking car with a nice shape featuring a long roof and short bonnet. It has the Kia signature ‘tiger nose’ grille and interesting design flourishes like the scoops in the bonnet and low front and rear bumpers. It rides on 16-inch alloys – there is the option of fitting 18-inch alloys but these increase road tax and reduce the fuel efficiency.


Max Earey Max Earey

The cabin feels very well made and has a classy design with a good mix of soft and hard plastics and leather inserts. There is a decent amount of storage

The leather seats give a nice premium feel to the interior and they are very comfortable too. The heated seats and steering wheel are a nice and much appreciated feature in this wintery weather.

There is plenty of leg and headroom, even in the back. It may be a squeeze getting three adults across the back seat, but there would be no problem for two adults and a child.

Max Earey Max Earey

There is 373 litres of boot space and some clever under floor storage with an organisation tray. The lip of the boot isn’t very high so loading items in and out is pretty easy. Boot space swells to 1,371 litres with the rear seats folded and when folded there is an almost flat loading area.

The seven-inch touchscreen and infotainment system is very easy to read and use and works perfectly. The Super Vision Cluster with 4.2-inch colour LCD and trip computer is also clutter free and easy to read.

Under the bonnet

Max Earey Max Earey

Powering the Niro is a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol GDI engine, combined with a 32kW electric motor. Combined, the Niro has maximum power and torque outputs of 141hp and 265Nm.

The transmission is a new six-speed dual-clutch automatic, which has been re-engineered specifically for use with the Niro’s hybrid powertrain. Despite its crossover looks the Niro only uses a front-wheel drive transmission.

Max Earey Max Earey

The Niro is extremely economical. It emits just 88 g/km CO2 (combined), which places it in tax band A2 (€180 a year). Just this month, the Niro officially received a Guinness World Record title for the lowest fuel consumption driving across the USA from coast to coast in a hybrid car. The official figure set was 3.7 litres/100km (76.6mpg).

On the road

Max Earey Max Earey

When you first get going, the car uses pure electric power and pulls away very quietly and smoothly. Once you put the foot down the petrol engine kicks in and the transition from electric power to the combustion engine is very smooth. You barely notice it.

The Niro switches between petrol and electric power or uses a combination of both. In theory, with the right conditions, it can travel up to 5km on electric power alone at speeds of up to 120km/h. The battery recharges via regenerative braking or when the car is coasting.

Max Earey Max Earey

The cabin is very well insulated from wind and road noise, making it overall a very calm and relaxing place, especially when in electric mode.

Visibility is great and the reversing camera makes manoeuvring into tight spaces a lot easier.

The ride comfort is very good and there is plenty of grip. It seems very well suited for Irish terrain – smooth, comfortable and quiet on the motorway, surefooted on twisty wet country roads and absorbing urban lumps and bumps without fuss.

Max Earey Max Earey

The steering is nicely weighted, but it does lack a little feel. There is a Sport mode and when selected it dials up the reactivity a touch and opens up the throttle too… but this of course undoes some of the eco-warrior benefits.

What the Kia Niro isn’t is dynamic or exciting, but for me that is OK. When I was testing this car, I was based in Wicklow and had to travel a good fifteen minutes down an unlit, leaf-and-mud-covered boreen. All I wanted the Niro to do was get me home safety and without any drama. And it did that perfectly. The adaptive headlights were also a great help.

And I suspect for those that might be thinking of buying the Niro, a safe comfortable ride is more important than an exciting drive. If I had a car full of precious cargo I would be very appreciative of a calm, relaxing car which I feel comfortable behind the wheel and confident in its ability to get me where I am going safely. On safety, the Niro scored a full five stars out of five in the Euro NCAP safety tests.

Max Earey Max Earey

Is this the right car for you?

If you are looking for a refined trendy crossover, with good looks, a classy cabin, low emissions and good fuel economy then the Niro is the car for you.

There aren’t many hybrid crossovers on the market to rival the Niro, but here are some alternatives.

If you are looking for a hybrid that has lower tax (€170), greater fuel economy (3.3 litres/100km, 85.6mpg) and a larger boot (501 to 1,633 litres) then check out the Toyota Prius, although this is a regular hatchback not a crossover. Prices start at €31,450.

Also from Toyota is the C-HR hybrid medium-sized SUV, which has futuristic looks, a great interior and wonderful chassis, but less boot space (377 to 1,160 litres). Prices from €29,350.

Another option would be to have a look at the Citroen C4 Cactus, which, although a compact crossover, isn’t a hybrid. It does however fall into the same tax band as the Niro, with a better official economy figure (3.4 litres/100km, 83mpg) but less boot space (358 to 1,170 litres). Prices from €17,795.

None of these other cars match the seven-year / 150,000km warranty that comes with buying a new Niro.

READ: Car review – the all-new Renault Megane GT Line >

READ: Car review – the all-new seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq >