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Overview

  • Kia's first dedicated hybrid and first ever hybrid in the UK
  • Priced from £21,295 to deliver low-cost, high-efficiency motoring in a stylish crossover package
  • Built on an all-new platform and featuring an all-new powertrain
  • Fuel economy of up to 74.3mpg with CO2 emissions from 88g/km
  • Available with the latest connectivity and driver assistance features

Kia's pledge to reduce the average CO2 emissions of its range by 25 per cent before 2020 takes another major step forward with the launch of Niro, the company's first dedicated hybrid model and first hybrid of any description in the UK. Niro, with combined fuel economy of up to 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions starting at just 88g/km, joins the all-electric Soul EV in Kia's green-car line-up and will soon be followed by the Optima plug-in hybrid.

Niro is not your run-of-the-mill hybrid. It delivers the high efficiency and low running costs of a petrol-electric car with the style, practicality and desirability of a compact crossover. It is based on an all-new platform which will only ever be used for electrified vehicles, and has an all-new powertrain featuring a 1.6-litre, 104bhp internal combustion engine and a 43bhp electric motor driving through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The compact five-door, five-seater Niro was a joint design between Kia's studios at Namyang in Korea and Irvine, California. The sleek crossover profile has a low drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.29, while extensive use of high-strength steel and aluminium in the body construction helps to keep down weight. Both are significant factors in Niro's low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Niro is not a hair-shirt fuel-saving car, however. Its horizontally structured interior exhibits the high-quality fit and finish of other recent Kia introductions like the Sorento, Optima and Sportage, and it is available with the latest connectivity and active safety technologies, including Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom, wireless smartphone charging, autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control and lane-assist, blind spot and rear cross traffic warning systems. In a first for Kia, it also offers Android Auto, which links Android smartphones to Google Maps navigation, Google Play music, hands-free calls and texts and voice recognition via pre-downloaded apps.

Hybrid sales in the UK and mainland Europe have doubled over the past five years and are expected to reach 700,000 annually by the end of the decade. Niro ensures Kia is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this growing demand. It is offered in the UK in a four-strong model range – designated grades ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘First Edition’ – all featuring a high standard specification.

Stand-out crossover styling comes to the world of hybrids

Until now, dedicated crossovers have largely been much of a muchness, shaped by aerodynamic considerations above style, practicality and desirability. But Kia does not do elevator music. When embarking on the Niro project it decided to go for a modern, attractive crossover body style with ample room for five people plus their luggage. One remarkable feat is that this has been achieved with a drag coefficient (Cd) of only 0.29, even on versions with roof rails.

The design features the subtly sculpted surfaces and sharp lines that instantly mark Niro out as a modern Kia, and includes the latest evolution of the brand's 'tiger-nose' grille as well as the familiar broad C-pillar. A wide stance gives pointers to the car's stability and low centre of gravity, while a long bonnet, short overhangs, elevated headlights and a rising shoulder line are other Kia hallmarks. The body tapers towards the rear, where bold wheel arches, a squared-off bumper with a diffuser section and high-mounted C-shaped tail lights emphasise its dynamic stance. Niro's crossover credentials are further highlighted by body cladding beneath the front and rear bumpers, along the sides and around the wheel arches. A subtle roof spoiler aids the car's aerodynamics.

At 4,355mm long, 1,805mm wide and 1,535mm tall, the compact Niro sits between the cee'd hatchback and the new Sportage SUV in size. Yet with a 2,700mm wheelbase and short front and rear overhangs it provides generous interior space.

This is reinforced by the styling of the interior, which has a wide dashboard set out on horizontal lines, like the new Optima and Sportage. There is an upper display sector with the instrument panel and infotainment screen at the same height, separated by a cabin-wide trim line from the lower control area, where the heating and ventilation and driver assistance switches are located.

High-quality, soft-touch materials maintain the ever-improving quality of the latest Kia range, emphasised by the smart black upholstery on grades ‘1’ to ‘3’ (cloth, cloth and leather or all leather), light grey headlining, a 3.5 inch TFT supervision cluster in the ‘1’ grade and a 4.2-inch TFT in all grades above with a high-gloss black inserts in the steering wheel, dashboard and door panels from the ‘2’ grade upwards. All but the entry-level model ‘1’ grades have a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, a 7 or 8-inch touchscreen navigation system and chrome interior door handles

The range-topping ‘First Edition’ model has stone grey leather upholstery and high-gloss white steering wheel, dashboard and door panel inserts, plus stainless steel pedals.

All-new hybrid powertrain promotes outstanding efficiency

Niro's powertrain, like its design, marks it out as something different from the norm in dedicated hybrid vehicles. While it pairs a petrol engine with an electric motor like the majority of hybrids, drive to the front wheels is through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox (6DCT) rather than the more commonly favoured continuously variable transmission (CVT). This gives more direct and immediate response with greater refinement, and incorporates a Manual Sports mode to allow keener drivers to select gears manually.

The petrol engine is a new version of the 1.6-litre direct-injection unit from the Kappa family, specifically engineered for use in hybrid cars. It develops 104bhp and 147Nm of torque, and conforms to Kia's policy of adopting high-efficiency downsized power units for all new models. The engine marks the first combination of an Atkinson combustion cycle, cooled exhaust gas recirculation, direct petrol injection and a long-stroke specification for maximum efficiency. The Atkinson cycle holds the intake valve open longer than in a normal Otto cycle engine and also reduces the compression ratio to extract a greater proportion of energy from the combustion process rather than wasting it as heat. Efficiency is further aided by an exhaust heat recovery system which speeds the engine warm-up process.

The combustion engine is paired with a 32kW (43bhp) electric motor developing 170Nm of torque and powered by a 1.56kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. Together, the two power units produce 139bhp, with 265Nm of torque available in first gear for rapid acceleration from standstill.

Niro is a parallel hybrid, which means that most of the time the petrol and electric power units work together. However, it can operate in all-electric mode for short distances when setting off, under gentle acceleration and when descending slopes or braking. A brake energy recovery system recoups energy normally dissipated as heat and stores it in the batteries for use later. The switch between all-electric, hybrid or petrol engine-only modes is seamless and varies according to the load being placed on the powertrain at any given time. This advanced powertrain ensures Niro is capable of up to 74.3mpg, with CO2 emissions from only 88g/km.

The in-house 6DCT gearbox is based on the 7DCT transmission fitted to other Kia models, and has been specially engineered to work with hybrid powertrains. The layout and gear train are light and compact, while new low-friction bearings and low-viscosity oil reduce friction, promoting greater efficiency, lowering reaction times and reducing noise. A new Transmission-Mounted Electric Device (TMED) allows 139bhp of both power units to be transferred in parallel to the drive wheels, with minimal energy losses. This differs from the power-split system typical of CVT transmissions, which convert a portion of engine output for delivery through the electric motor, resulting in a loss of energy. TMED allows the hybrid system to access battery power directly at higher speeds for swifter response.

An all-new platform exclusively for electrified vehicles

There will be no combustion engine-only version of Niro. Its all-new platform has been engineered exclusively for electrified vehicles, and a plug-in hybrid version (PHEV) will be introduced for the 2017 model year.

The platform has been designed to accommodate present and future electrical components within a compact vehicle footprint without intrusion into the spacious interior and luggage area. A slightly raised crossover-style seating position makes getting in and out easier and provides a superior view out.

The structure is particularly strong and includes 53 per cent advanced high-strength steel, which ensures that rigidity and safety do not compromise weight. This is aided by extensive use of aluminium for the bonnet, tailgate panel, front bumper back beam and several chassis elements, including the front knuckles, front lower arms and brake callipers. Even the parking brake pedal, which is made of fibre-reinforced plastic, contributes to the weight savings. To ensure body integrity and rigidity in critical areas, hot-stamped steel is used to reinforce the A- and B-pillars, roof rails and wheel arches.

Thanks to the long, 2,700mm wheelbase there is generous space for five people. There is up to 1,059mm of legroom in the front and 950mm in the rear; the class-leading headroom of up to 1,018mm in front and 993mm behind is greater than in many C-segment SUVs; and the 1,805mm wide body provides 1,423mm of shoulder room for the two front occupants and only slightly less, at 1,402mm, in the rear. At the same time there is 427 litres of luggage space (373 litres with luggage undertray), even with all five seats occupied, thanks to the location of the battery pack beneath the rear seat. This expands to 1,425 litres (1,371 with undertray) with the 60:40 split rear seats folded. The 45-litre fuel tank is located alongside the battery pack beneath the rear seat.

Newly designed front seats save 1.3kg each thanks to their high-strength steel frames, yet they are still able to cushion occupants against bumps and vibrations as a result of high-density cushions, while specially profiled springs and pads provide high levels of thigh, hip and side support.

No compromise in comfort and refinement

By re-engineering certain existing components, Kia has been able to ensure that Niro has a unique chassis specifically designed for a hybrid while being the equal of the brand's other compact models for ride comfort, handling and refinement

Niro's road behaviour begins with fully independent suspension all round, based on MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link arrangement with dual lower arms at the rear. It has been tuned to deliver maximum on-centre steering feel, high-speed stability and immediate response to steering inputs. Because each rear wheel is able to absorb bumps independently, shocks are less likely to be transmitted to the cabin than with a cheaper torsion beam rear axle, while the wide stance and low centre of gravity enhance stability.

Capitalising on the experience gained through the development of two generations of Optima hybrid (neither sold in the UK) plus the Soul EV, Kia has been able to give Niro consistent and linear deceleration characteristics and feel unusual in an electrified car. Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management, which collectively control skids when cornering or accelerating on surfaces with uneven levels of grip from left to right, are standard.

Niro's exceptional refinement proved particularly challenging to perfect because of the hybrid powertrain. Contributing towards this are asymmetric engine mounts to minimise powertrain movements at the attachment points in the subframe, high-density under-bonnet insulation, an acoustic shield with a special support structure to improve the sound of the combustion engine when accelerating in the most commonly used speed ranges, and the adoption of a 6DCT gearbox in place of a CVT.

Road noise is minimised by high-insulation rigid bushes in the front subframe, high-strength steel in the rear wheel arches and additional insulation in the A- and B-pillars. The low drag co-efficient (Cd) of 0.29 contributes towards the suppression of wind noise, aided by laminated windscreen glass, a cowl over the front windscreen wipers, specially profiled door mirror casings and – as an example of the attention to detail of Kia's engineers – covers over the holes in the roof rails, which sit flush on the bodywork.

The best of connectivity and advanced driver aids

An environmental car does not have to be a fundamental car, and Niro is available with the most advanced connectivity services and active driver aids.

Every version has a Lane Keep Assist System, Hill-start Assist Control, Cruise Control and a Speed Limiter. Grade ‘2’ adds a 7-inch touchscreen navigation system with European mapping, a Reversing Camera and Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom. This provides up-to-the-minute information on traffic hold-ups, weather, speed camera locations and local points of interest. Kia Connected Services is free for seven years from the time the car is bought. Further additions for grade ‘3’ are an 8-inch touchscreen navigation system with European mapping, a wireless mobile phone charger and an eight-speaker JBL Premium sound system with a 320-watt external amplifier. Meanwhile, the top-of-the-range First Edition version also has Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection with a Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Smart Cruise Control.

Autonomous Emergency Braking and Smart Cruise Control are optionally available on grades ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’ in an ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) package. With these features fitted, Niro has been awarded a five-star crash-test rating by Euro NCAP.

Every Niro has a DAB radio and is able to support Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and music streaming.

Niro is also the first Kia with Android Auto, which works with Android smartphones running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher. Android Auto connects the user's smartphone to the car's infotainment system and, through pre-downloaded apps, gives access to a variety of services such as Google Maps navigation, Google Play music, hands-free calls and texts and voice recognition.

Niro in the UK

The four-model line-up in the UK begins with grade ‘1’, but this is far from a no-frills entry-level version introduced solely to allow a headline-grabbing start price. In addition to its advanced safety features it has 16-inch alloy wheels, a high-gloss black radiator grille with a black and chrome surround, dual automatic air conditioning, an automatic windscreen de-fogging system, LED daytime running lights and tail lights, a 3.5-inch TFT supervision cluster, all-round electric windows and electric exterior mirror adjustment, a DAB radio, USB and AUX ports and a trip computer.

Upgrading to level ‘2’ introduces high-gloss black trim highlights and a leather-covered steering wheel and gearshifter, black cloth and leather upholstery, roof rails, privacy glass on the rear windows and tailgate, chrome interior and exterior door handles, reversing sensors, an under-floor tray, rain-sensing wipers, a ventilation duct in the rear of the cabin and electrically adjustable, heated and folding door mirrors with high-gloss casings.

The step up to grade ‘3’ brings 18-inch alloy wheels, black leather upholstery, front parking sensors, heated front seats and steering wheel, a power-adjustable driver's seat plus powered lumbar adjustment on both front seats and stainless steel scuff sill plates. This is all in addition to the JBL upgraded audio system, larger navigation screen and wireless mobile phone charger.

The ‘First Edition’ model is distinguished by its unique grey leather trim and white interior inserts, but also exclusively provides a smart key and engine start/stop button, heated outer rear seats, ventilated front seats and an electric tilting and sliding sunroof on top of its additional active safety features.

Market, warranty and after-care

In keeping with every Kia, Niro comes with a unique-in-the-UK seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty, subject to wear and tear conditions. The warranty – the best on any hybrid available in Britain – is fully transferable should the car be sold before the time or mileage limits have been reached.

Niro is available with Kia’s Care-3 and Care-3 Plus servicing packages, offering retail customers fixed-cost, inflation-proof servicing for three or five years. All work is carried out by trained technicians using genuine Kia replacement parts and specified oils. All packages cover the car, not the owner, so are transferable should the vehicle be sold.

UK Niro line-up

Model
Price
Total power bhp
Total torque Nm
0–60 mph sec
Max speed mph
Average mpg
C02 g/km
Insurance
‘1’ 1.6 GDi 1.56kWh lithium-ion 139bhp 6DCT
£21,295
139
265
11.1
101
74.3
88
12
‘2’ 1.6 GDi 1.56kWh lithium-ion 139bhp 6DCT
£22,795
139
265
11.1
101
74.3
88
12
‘3’ 1.6 GDi 1.56kWh lithium-ion 139bhp 6DCT
£24,695
139
265
11.1
101
64.2
101
14
‘First Edition’ 1.6 GDi 1.56kWh lithium-ion 139bhp 6DCT
£26,995
139
265
11.1
101
64.2
101
12