In-depth reviews

Kia Niro review - Engines, performance and drive

The Niro is as simple to operate as any other automatic, just don't expect an engaging drive

Kia has tried to make the Niro as normal to drive as it is to look at, but as in all hybrid models, there’s eerie silence when you twist the key in the ignition. Slot the gear selector into Drive, squeeze the throttle and the car glides forward on electric power alone. Pick the plug-in version and you can continue for up to 30 miles without using the petrol engine at all.

However, stick with the standard Niro hybrid and you'll find it harder to stick in EV mode. You don't have to press the pedal particularly hard for the 104bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine to burst into life to assist the 43bhp electric motor. The internal combustion engine is more intrusive when compared to a Toyota Prius’s, particularly at high revs, when it takes on a coarse note and sends vibrations through the car.

That’s partly down to the car’s six-speed twin-clutch gearbox, which delivers slightly lazy and jerky upshifts. Even so, once up to speed, the Niro will cruise for short periods up to 70mph on battery power alone - the on-board displays can be set to show you how power is being managed between the battery, electric motor, engine and the road. 

You have to work the Niro’s power unit hard to maintain a decent pace, while the stiff suspension set-up results in the Kia following bumps at lower speeds and fidgeting on the motorway. The plug-in version is quicker on paper, though it feels pretty evenly matched with the standard hybrid model.

The Niro can’t match a Prius for driver involvement, which is something we never thought we'd say about a Prius, but the Kia's steering is direct and the handling is safe and predictable. Selecting Sport mode sharpens the throttle response, delivers a more aggressive shift strategy for the gearbox and adds weight to the steering, although it’s all rather at odds with the car’s otherwise sensible character.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

Moving through the Niro range from the self-charging hybrid model, through to the plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars sees incremental improvements in performance. The 139bhp hybrid manages 0-62mph in 11.1s, while the PHEV variant betters this time by 0.7s.

The e-Niro 39kWh version provides a decent turn of pace, with 0-62mph covered in 9.5s, although the more powerful 64kWh car is capable of covering the same benchmark in 7.5s.

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