Come the end of the year more people will be driving hybrid or electric cars than ever before.
That is what the number crunchers at the car companies predict and there is no reason to doubt them. Hybrid and electric sales have more than doubled over the last five years but the trickle of new models will become a flood in 2020 driven by the need for all manufacturers to lower average CO2 emissions to 95g/km or less by next year.
Kia got in relatively early with Niro, launching its first hybrid in 2017, and it hit the bullseye because the crossover/SUV styling was the car nearly everyone was starting to buy and so it continues with SUV sales like a runaway train.
So is Niro the must ‘go to’ model for punters switching to hybrid power? Must is stretching it; rather give it serious consideration because Niro has a lot going for it.
Kia has opted for a relatively small 1.6 litre direct injection petrol engine paired with a 32kW electric motor which together muster 139bhp. It’s no flyer, a sprint to sixty takes just over 11 seconds, but with the help of the electric motor it is quick off the line and with 265Nm of torque overtakes can be made without breaking into a sweat.
Rather than a continually variable transmission often used in hybrid cars, Kia has opted for a conventional automatic six speed box and on balance this would be my preference.
The Niro’s hybrid system is self charging, extending electric only mode by using the electric motor to harvest wasted energy when braking and decelerating. Drivers can do their bit by using the steering wheel paddles for braking. This not only replenishes the battery but makes passengers think you are a really smooth driver.
What we really crave is good clean economy and Niro was definitely on the money spending most of its time in the high fifties and even topping 60mpg. But drivers must play to the hybrid strengths which is gentle driving. Hard acceleration and long stretches at high speed will ruin economy to a far greater degree than hammering a similar diesel.
Kia built its reputation on value for money and once it won over customers it set about raising the quality and refinement bar. Sales heading towards the 100,000 a year show they have got it right. There aren’t many companies that can match them for giving us all we desire in creature comforts.
Most sales are in the middle of the range but stretch one level more and the list is mouthwatering. Setting aside a full suite of safety features how do you fancy heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outer seats, auto dipping LED headlights, and that is a just a snapshot.
An upgrade in the middle of last year brought Niro into line with the most up to date technology Kia can offer and that included an electric parking brake instead of the antiquated foot pedal. Thank heavens for that.
More importantly the cabin has been give a decent makeover, with an upgrade in trim quality along with the signature SUV dashboard with an impressive 10.25in touchscreen display for all the major functions, but you can still use switches for heating selections. Thank heavens for that as well.
This is a roomy family car with plenty of space for leggy children in the back. The batteries are positioned under the rear seat rather than the boot floor but even though it has a wide opening and a flat loading floor it still loses out a bit on overall space compared to a non hybrid crossover.
The choice of hybrid motoring is growing by the month and it is always best to cast the net as wide as possible before making the final choice. What Niro tells me is that we have nothing to fear from going hybrid and Niro is a good starting point. My guess is a lot of people will come back to that starting point for the final sale.
Niro HEV ‘4’
£29,270 (starts £24,855)
1.6 GDI; 139bhp
0-60mph 11.1secs; 101mph
99g/km. 1st year tax £120
Insurance group 29
Boot: 373 lires