The Kia Niro
The hybrid electric route is certainly the direction the motor industry is driving hardest these times.
The bid to bring that vital CO2 figure down and down is dominating the agenda.
Earlier this year we drove the well established Toyota Prius hybrid.
From a position some years back when there was absolute indifference to the car, we had to admit it has advanced hugely.
We were very enthusiastic about the car and drive this time, and even more so with the promise of seriously reduced ownership costs.
The latest such experience was in the Kia Niro, a new low-emissions hybrid crossover that was designed on a unique platform with the car taking its place in the family in between the hugely popular Sportage and the handsome cee'd.
Niro represents the vanguard from Kia, if you like, with more hybrids, plug in hybrids and EVs on the way.
The Niro’s hybrid gets its power from a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 32kWh electric motor that delivers a healthy combined output of 141hp and 265Nm of torque.
The combination is a gasoline direct injection engine, lithium-ion polymer battery pack, 32 kW electric motor and 6-speed double-clutch transmission that produces just 88g/km of CO2 (16" wheels).
It is frugal, of course, with a promised average fuel consumption figure of 3.8 litres per 100 kilometres (74mpg) for what is a genuine, space giving five-seat hatchback.
Niro offers a pleasant if flat drive in eco mode, as you would expect, with a bit of tyre noise audible in the cabin on most surfaces it must be said too.
However, if you want to jazz things up and take control, all the driver has to do is pull the gearshift towards him/her to slip into an energetic Sports mode with manual shift.
Boy, do you get performance then.
On top of that, Niro gets a blast on take off with a maximum 265Nm of torque available in first gear to make sure you are never left behind, if such things bother you.
Fear of compromises
We make the points not to divert from the raison d'etre for such vehicles, but rather to remind that the compromises are not as great as some appear to fear.
With Niro you can move to CUV without conceding space or losing the one thing most people would find hard to give up.....an elevated driving position.
Visually, Niro won't stand out from the crowd, but my test car had nice chrome touches on the door handles and around the front and back number plates which set off the look of the car nicely.
The cabin is warm and welcoming, with high quality soft touch materials used throughout.
The aids for the driver - one really liked the Sav Nav, especially for the simplicity of use - and comfort features for passengers are not skimped upon.
The boot offers a decent 427 litres of space, extending to 1,423 litres at maximum.
Currently, my own drive is diesel. Would I take the plunge with a hybrid?
Absolutely! If one were thinking of changing in the morning it would be to a hybrid like Niro, with economy and servicing costs very much in mind.
The technology has come a long, long way! Niro is to be applauded.
Kia Niro 1.6-litre, 105ps GDI at 5,700rpm, €30,595 (€29,095 inc VRT reduction ) for EXL, front wheel drive, DOHC, four cylinder in-line, 16 valves, max torque 147 Nm (108 lb ft) @ 4,000 rpm; battery and electric motor, Lithium-ion polymer, 240 V, 1.56 kWh, max power (motor) 44 ps @ 1,798-2,500 rpm, max torque 170 Nm @ 0-1,798 rpm; combined hybrid system total power 141ps @ 5,700 rpm, total torque 265 Nm @ 1,000-2,400 rpm, 6-speed double-clutch transmission (DCT), top speed 162kph, 0 to 100 kph 11.5 seconds, 3.8litre/100km, CO2 emissions are from 88g/km (16" wheels) with €180 road tax.
Standard equipment on the Irish EXL model includes Sat Nav with android auto, full leather heated with heated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual Air Con with rain sensor, lane keep assist, LED front and rear lights, privacy glass.
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