KIA taking hybrid route with new Niro crossover in drive to reduce emissions
Silently the emissions’ noose tightens. New lower limits inexorably squeeze. And the lower they fall, the tougher it is to meet them.
KIA is a topical example of a company acutely aware and reacting to impending constriction. And I’ve just been driving their new hybrid crossover, the Niro — one of 12 ‘green’ models planned for the next five years.
They are banking on that improving fuel efficiency for the marque by 25pc. There will be hybrids, plug-ins, electric and hydrogen fuel cell — all aimed at slashing average emissions.
As well as that they will replace seven of their current 10 engines with new-gen diesels and petrols. They are going for a big increase in turbo-charging while multi-speed transmissions are also planned. Again, it’s all about cutting emissions.
As far as Ireland is concerned, the Niro, their first hybrid crossover, leads the way. It arrives in October and will cost from €28,995. That includes the current €1,500 Government grant (hopefully renewed in the Budget).
Built on its specially developed platform, the Niro is smaller than the Sportage but larger than the cee’d hatch/estate. Critically, emissions are from 88g/km (on 16ins wheels) with €180 road tax (3.8 litres/100km).
Standard spec to justify the higher-than-usual entry-level price will include sat nav, full-leather, heated seats, dual air con, Lane Assist, LED lights etc. There will be another model with Autonomous Emergency Braking and smart cruise control which qualifies for five stars in the new NCAP tests — but no price yet.
Expect a plug-in hybrid version next year but there’s no word on an electric model. As many as 200 people are expected to buy a Niro next year — with families the most likely purchasers, KIA believe. As it’s a first for the marque you’d never know who will take to it. I do think the fact it is a Crossover with what I call ‘hybrid respectability’ will give it credence. As a hybrid it’s a sort of rival for the Toyota Prius but as a Crossover it is also bound to be associated with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar or Volkswagen Tiguan.
It isn’t what you’d call an imposing motor — it’s lower and longer than many a ‘SUV’. I found it comfortable rather than dynamic to drive but quiet and easy to get around in.
The 1.6-litre (105bhp) and 32kW electric motor worked well; with a combined output of 141hp (265Nm) it was decent out of the blocks and overtaking.
The 6spd automatic 6DCT has a manual side to it in Sports mode and was quicker and less ‘boomy’ than a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
The 2.7m wheelbase afforded decent cabin room for front and rear-seat passengers. The 1.56kWh battery pack (33kg) and 45-litre petrol tank lie under the rear seats. They don’t visibly intrude on boot space. The latter is good (427litres without full-spare wheel; 1,425 litres with the rear seats folded). The independent multi-link rear suspension helped save room in the cabin/boot too and gave some agility to our drive.
I found the seats quite comfortable (new ones at the front are 1.3kg lighter). And the decent-sized touchscreen infotainment system seemed straightforward.
Why would you buy it? I’m not 100pc sure. It’s a hybrid, not a diesel; a Crossover, not a saloon — there are many reasons. Ultimately I think the fact it is a Crossover on hybrid power with low tax, is its core appeal.