The Kia Niro compact crosover was a genuine game-changer when it was originally launched in 2016.
Available as a self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or 100% electric with a 282-mile range, it offered practicality, peace of mind and economy at an affordable price.
Becoming Kia’s most successful model after the larger Sportage, more than 70,000 Niros have found homes in the UK – 55% of which have been fully electric.
New from 2022, the all-new second-generation Niro is again offered with three powertrains, However, it’s now slightly bigger (65mm longer, 20mm taller and 10mm wider), while the interior features a higher proportion of sustainable and recycled materials.
Pricing starts at £28,810 (Niro Hybrid), followed by the Niro Plug-in Hybrid (£34,075) and the Niro EV from £37,295 (Note: it’s no longer badged ‘e-Niro’).
There are three trim levels (‘2’, ‘3’ or ‘4’) and a choice of eight colours, with top spec ‘4’ models offered with an eye-catching two-tone paint option which features the C-pillar in contrasting Steel Grey or Black Pearl, depending on the chosen body colour.
As ever, there’s a difference in spec and equipment between the trim levels, but goodies such as LED headlights, rear parking sensors and camera system, a touchscreen display with DAB radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, along with driver assistance technologies including Forward Collision Avoidance with car, pedestrian and cyclist recognition and junction crossing – and Smart Cruise Control.
Top-of-the-range ‘4’ grade models get a head-up display, twin 10.25-in touchscreens, an instrument cluster display, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats, a power operated tailgate, electric sunroof, an uprated Harman Kardon premium sound system, driver’s side memory seating, and front passenger lumbar support.
There’s also Remote Smart Parking Assist, Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist and PU vegan leather seat coverings, containing Tencel from eucalyptus trees.
The new Niro EV combines a 64.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and a 201bhp electric motor.
Torque is rated at 188 lb ft, and it can accelerate from 0-to-62 mph in 7.8 seconds. More importantly, an electric driving range of 285 miles is claimed.
Recharging from 10-80% takes as little as 45 minutes, which is apparently up to nine minutes quicker than the outgoing e-Niro.
In colder months, the system uses navigation-based conditioning to pre-heat the battery when a charge point is selected as a destination, which helps shorten charge times and optimise battery performance.
The latest Niro has a bolder look with angular design cues and a hint of its bigger brother, the Sportage. And those sharper looks continue to the rear corners which feature high-set, upright boomerang-shaped lights.
The smart interior is attractive, and well designed, with those twin displays giving the dashboard a wow factor. Featuring slick, sharp graphics, the infotainment system is also intuitive to use – a Kia trademark these days.
Broadly speaking, the quality of the cabin, in terms of materials used and finish, is good, but it won’t worry premium rivals.
There’s a real feeling of space, plus plenty of leg and headroom for adults in the back, while luggage capacity is a healthy 475 litres, expanding to 1,392 litres if you fold the rear seats.
You sit high up in the comfortable seats and visibility is generally good, except for those chunky rear pillars which create a bit of a blind spot.
The three versions of the Niro each have their own character, and naturally, the Niro EV is the smoothest and most refined of the trio.
It’s swift without being blisteringly fast like some other electric cars. And for a crossover with no performance SUV pretensions, it handles well. In other words, the Niro’s focus is more on comfort.
If pushed, there’s some body roll, but it’s well controlled and the Niro generally feels planted. There’s also good traction through the front wheels, while the all-round grip is impressive.
There are three drive modes (plus Snow mode), chosen via a button on the steering wheel. Eco is fine for motorway runs, Sport spices things up at the expense of battery range, so it’s best left in Normal which provides the best balance.
You can also adjust the level of brake energy recuperation using paddles behind the steering wheel. It’s worth playing around with them, but we found the normal/mid settings worked best for us.
If you prefer one-pedal driving, hold down on the left paddle to engage ‘i-Pedal’, which brings you to a halt in much of your everyday driving, limiting the need to use the brake pedal.
Finally, the Niro comes with a large dose of peace of mind because, as with all Kia models, it comes with a generous seven-year warranty, while the cars themselves have built up a reputation for reliability.