Tuesday 28 March 2017

Kia Niro: The new hybrid Niro makes a very interesting and economical addition to the Kia line-up

The new hybrid Niro makes a very interesting and economical addition to the Kia line-up, writes Geraldine Herbert

FRUGAL: Niro hybrid, left, is the first for Kia in the eco-friendly range
FRUGAL: Niro hybrid, left, is the first for Kia in the eco-friendly range
Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

As ever more stringent emission and fuel economy rules are imposed on car manufacturers, it is easy to understand the increasing popularity of hybrids. In fact, European hybrid sales have more than doubled in the past five years and are predicted to triple to more than 750,000 in the next three.

In addition, sales of crossovers and SUVs show no signs of abating. Kia's latest model, Niro, aims to stay ahead of the curve as the Korean Car maker's first hybrid and all-new compact crossover. Sharing the same platform as the new Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro sits between the Sportage and the Cee'd hatchback in the Kia line-up. While Hyundai will sell conventional hybrid and all-electric versions of the Ioniq, the Niro will only be available as a hybrid although a plug-in version is likely.

The Niro is also one of 11 alternative fuel models planned from the Korean car maker over the next five years.

Using a similar system to the Toyota Prius, the Niro combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 32kW electric motor. With CO2 emissions as low as 88g/km and fuel consumption of 3.8 litres/100km, it rivals many frugal diesels as a credible alternative.

Outside, the Niro has chunky styling and a high ride height that aids visibility while the body cladding gives it a tough crossover look. Despite the styling however, there's no four-wheel drive option so think of the Niro as more of a high-riding family hatchback than an SUV.

Inside the layout will be familiar to any Kia owner and it is well built with good quality materials used throughout. The dash is clean and all the controls are easy to access. There is a large 7" or 8" touchscreen infotainment system with optional navigation.

The Ford Edge
The Ford Edge

Both systems support Bluetooth smartphone, audio connectivity and DAB digital radio.

Aimed at family buyers, there is plenty of space both front and back and the location of the battery means the boot is a good size with over 427 litres of space. Fold the rear seats down and you get a very decent 1,425 litres.

On the road the Niro rides well and there is little body roll when you corner. Higher than a conventional car, but lower than many SUVs, it grips the road nicely. With a combined power output of 141hp and 264nm it moves briskly but it's the refinement that is particularly impressive, once on the road, the two power systems work quietly and seamlessly in the background.

One of the biggest issues with many hybrids is the continuously variable transmission (CVT) gearbox, Kia has opted instead for a six-speed dual-clutch gear box which feels much better and smoother.

Due here in October, prices for the Niro will start at €28,995 when the currently available €1,500 Government grant is deducted.

Our appetite for crossovers and hybrids makes the Niro a very appealing option. So if you are looking for a spacious, refined and easy-to-drive SUV that happens to be inexpensive to run, Kia's newest addition is worth checking out.

And certainly Kia's reputation for reliability and seven-year warranty will be reassuring to many.

Hot on the heels of the iconic Mustang, Ford has just launched its new flagship SUV, the Edge.

Both are US Fords which have never previously been available in Europe but as part of Ford's 'One World' strategy, the lines between the European car line-up and US Ford offerings are set to blur even more over the next few years.

Probably the biggest distinction between American and European cars is size, our narrower roads and more expensive fuel has always dictated a more restrained approach. The Edge in contrast to many rivals is a big wide car (nearly five metres long and nearly two wide) and on the road its sheer mass is very obvious. But American cars, however, promise a comfortable ride and the Ford Edge excels - plus the large dimensions make for excellent space with plenty of head and legroom in the front and back and the boot offers 602 litres of luggage capacity.

Ford is offering the Edge with a choice of two 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engines; a 180 PS or a 210 PS Bi-turbo version. Both versions deliver 5.8 l/100 km (48.7 mpg) and 149 g/km and the Ford Edge is permanent four-wheel drive.

Buyers also have the option of the Titanium or Sport trim but 19" alloys; front and rear parking sensors and Rear View Camera are all standard. Prices for the new Edge start at €55,700 for the Titanium rising to €62,100 for the top of the range Sport version.

The Ford Edge is a stylish, good to drive and very spacious SUV that will appeal to families but with five seats rather than seven it is at a distinct disadvantage to many rivals.

Then there is the question of the price, how expensive or how reasonable you consider it really depends on whether you judge the Edge to be a rival to the likes of the BMW X3 (€46,000), Land Rover Discovery Sport (€41,565), Audi Q5 (€42,730), the Volvo XC90 (€63,450) or BMW X5 (€66,510).

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