Kia Niro hybrid crossover arrives

Kia Niro Hybrid Crossover low res

Kia Niro Hybrid Crossover

Kia Niro, a new hybrid crossover, has gone on sale in the UK this week, priced from £21,295.

The new car combines a high-riding off-road stance with a hybrid powertrain and smooth body styling to achieve official CO2 emissions as low as 88g/km. Kia is pitching the car as a more stylish alternative to more “staid” hybrids, presumably aiming that barb at Toyota’s Prius.

Kia’s new hybrid will be offered in four relatively well-equipped grades, named 1, 2, 3 and, at the top of the range, First Edition. Starting prices run from £21,295 at the entry level to £26,995 for the First Edition.

Grades 3 and First Edition come equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, which are presumably the main culprit behind reduced economy. The two higher grades are rated at 101g/km and 64.2mpg, rather than the 88g/km and 74.3mpg of grades 1 and 2, which are both fitted with 16-inch alloys.

All four trim levels have identical power and torque figures, taking the same 11.1 seconds to reach 62mph.

The Niro’s powertrain employs a 1.6-litre petrol engine providing up to 104bhp, combined with a 32kW (43bhp) electric motor. The two can join forces or operate separately to drive the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Overall hybrid output is 139bhp and 265Nm of torque.

The Niro’s electric motor is integrated into the transmission, with a third clutch allowing the engine to remain dormant while the car sets off or travels at modest speeds under electric power alone.

The car’s 1.56kWh lithium polymer battery will not last long in EV mode, however. It lives under the rear bench alongside the car’s 45-litre petrol tank, and its primary job is to store and reuse energy from regenerative braking.

Strong competition for the new hybrid crossover will come from Kia’s sibling band, Hyundai. Its Ioniq hybrid hatchback went on sale in the UK two weeks earlier and is noticeably cheaper, with starting prices between £19,995 and £23,595 across three trim levels. Toyota’s Prius, by way of comparison, is more expensive than the Niro, with starting prices between £22,295 and £27,450.

Niro and Ioniq share the same underlying platform, with key dimensions such as the 2,700mm wheelbase identical for both vehicles. The pair also employ much the same petrol-electric powertrain and underlying component layouts, with only minor tweaks between the two brands.

Outwardly the Niro and Ioniq look very different, of course, with the Hyundai adopting a more familiar wedge-shaped template, reminiscent of earlier Toyota and Honda hybrids. It also promises higher efficiency, scoring 79g/km and 83.1mpg in official tests or about 10% better than the Kia Niro.

Hyundai has positioned Ioniq as a dedicated electrified nameplate, currently available as either a hybrid or a pure battery EV, with a plug-in PHEV edition due next year. Kia, meanwhile, has announced that a PHEV crossover will join the Niro range in 2017, though the company has yet to announce plans for an EV Niro. Kia, of course, already sells a battery powered Soul EV.

Kia has said the Niro’s body structure makes extensive use of hot-stamped, high-strength steel to provide a strong body without excessive weight. Aluminium has also been used to reduce the heft of the bonnet and tailgate as well as parts of the chassis. The company has yet to specify how much the Niro weighs overall, however.

The company has revealed a 0.29 drag coefficient, meaning the Niro is more sleek than, say, the Nissan Qashqai, which has a Cd figure of 0.32. BMW’s X1 also boasts a 0.29 coefficient, however, while the fourth-generation Prius and new Ioniq match each other at a much more slippery 0.24.

The Kia Niro comes with a full seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty, providing longer cover than other hybrids. Three- and five-year fixed-cost servicing plans are also available.

By Lem Bingley

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