Motoring writer IAN LAMMING plugs-in to Kia’s latest hybrid
THERE’S something about Kias; I always seem to have one for the holidays and they seem to like the break from the daily grind.
This time it’s a staycation, a Niro and the destination is the Lake District. It has packed its bag too and in the boot is a little suitcase of wire and socket because this is the plug-in hybrid.
That means you get 1.6-litre, 104bhp internal combustion engine and a 43bhp electric motor, driving through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
New Kiro family also features a full electric version and a self-charging hybrid variant. Plug-in offers the chance to run 30 miles on full electric between two and a quarter hour-to-full recharges, which might be enough for a daily commute. But more importantly it also operates on a mix and match mode switching back and forth between EV and petrol, the engine also charging the batteries. Sounds complicated but I’m a simpleton and it isn’t – just drive it and Niro does the rest.
Kia PHEV loves the Lakeland roads, which are steep and narrow most of the time. Don’t be fooled by the claim of 201.4mpg. Normal driving in switcheroo mode gets you a still commendable 68mg.
In heavy tourist traffic it goes all silent on you, which is great for spooking walkers, as it switches to electric-only. Then when the asphalt steepens the petrol engine kicks in to provide the required oomph.
The handover is imperceptible with both motors offering sublime levels of refinement through an excellent automatic box. It feels really good. It is just so smooth and easy to drive that it allows driver to trundle along with so little to tax him that he can enjoy the scenery – which is lovely by the way.
Once you have turned off the lane keep assist, which is irritating on narrow roads, the Niro floats along soaking up the bumps and potholes and keeping the ride nice and flat around the plethora of bends. It’s a great way to travel.
Driver and passengers also get a light and airy cabin, which is well-equipped and well made. Ergonomics are spot on with a mix of touchscreen and tactile switches that are easy peasy to use. There’s no satnav, shock horror, so what you have to do is plumb your phone in and use Google maps, which is fine. The Bluetooth hi-fi is good too.
Niro fills the gap between Ceed and Sportage and looks like a smaller SUV rather than a large estate. The boot is spacious and devoid of intrusions so you can pack it with the paraphernalia that seems to follow us all on holiday. The seats drop down too if more space is needed and there aren’t rear passengers. There are roof rails if you need to send luggage upstairs. It’s a great carrier of people and luggage but overall its dimensions are manageable in the tight confines of Cumbrian car parks and narrow roads, which is just as well as most city dwelling tourists do seem to struggle with their spacial awareness.
Now, Niro, the look. Well, it’s not as pretty as Ceed, Xceed or Sportage, in fact it’s a bit of a funny looking fish. Things have improved slightly thanks to the LED signature day running lights, though it could be that the driving lights just dazzle or distract you.
That said, does it really matter when the Niro is so accomplished in every other area, probably not, and it really is a great car to take on your holidays.
Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV ‘2’ 6-speed DCT
Engine: 1.6 petrol with electric motor
Top speed: 107mph
Combined MPG: 201.8
Transmission: six-speed dual clutch automatic
CO2 g/km: 31