ON THE ROAD – IAN LYNAS DRIVES THE NEW KIA NIRO
One of the most popular vehicles in the Kia range is the Niro and the good news is that this extremely popular compact crossover has been given the full treatment; redesigned from the ground up to meet the needs of today’s environmentally conscious car users. There are a number of state-of-the-art electrified powertrains, sustainable interior materials and exceptional safety performance features to ensure that the newcomer delivers in all key areas.
I, in company with many others, have not at all been surprised to learn that the market which the new Niro enters is one of the most competitive as drivers continue to switch from hatchbacks and saloons. The new Niro is a clear example of Kia’s fresh approach to the traditional crossover vehicle and provides important differentiators that make it stand out from its competitors. Production of the new Niro is in South Korea; a number of models, however, are in fact manufactured in Europe. While it is manufactured there, it has been fine tuned to suit our roads; in fact set up, so to speak, for the various markets. The Niro destined for the US will feel and handle very different to what we drive in Ireland. I can see families in particular choosing this member of the Kia line-up and it should appeal to those who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.
The new Niro is 4,420mm long, 1,825mm wide without door mirrors, and up to 1,570 high, the clean-sheet redesign is based upon the company’s third-generation ‘K’ platform and the 2,720mm wheelbase and enhanced design proportions inside the cabin reward occupants with outstanding space and storage capacity.
The cabin has a decided quality feel with minimal clutter and the smooth lines ensure a distraction-free yet intuitive user experience. In terms of interior finish and quality it follows on from the hugely popular new Sportage. I was impressed by the head-up display (HUD) system which enhances safety and convenience on the move, while a suite of new safety systems brings the latest advancements in protection.
The heart of the matter is the powertrains, the PHEV and HEV models benefit from the Smartstream 1.6 GDi petrol engine paired with Kia’s own second-generation six-speed dual-clutch transmission (6DCT). I must point out, in the ROI plug-in hybrid and full EV versions will be on sale; north of the border there will be further choice with an HEV (hybrid) This four-cylinder 104bhp engine produces a combined maximum power output of 139bhp when paired with the HEV’s 32kW (43bhp) permanent magnet synchronous electric motor. A 62kW (83bhp) e-motor in the PHEV version results in combined maximum power of 180bhp and provides an electric-only range of up to 64km (40 miles). I shared a PHEV with a Scottish colleague on the media launch and we did manage just shy of this figure. There may be a number of drivers who have concerns about range anxiety; the Niro PHEV could be the answer. The PHEV debuts Hyundai Group’s very first 5.5kWh high-volt Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heater for ‘3’ and ‘4’ grade plug-in hybrid models, (trims vary according to the market) enhancing electric-only performance in colder conditions and the self-regulated ceramic elements provide cabin heating to complement the vehicle’s heating core and ensure a continuous flow of warm air. An intelligent Green Zone Drive Mode on Niro HEV and PHEV automates the use of electric power by taking location guidance from the navigation system, learning driving patterns, or can be personalised with manual inputs from the driver; very clever indeed.
The new Niro EV(which I have yet to drive) combines its 460km (285-mile) (WLTP) range with energetic and lively performance, producing 150kW (201bhp) between 6,000 to 9,000rpm and instant torque rated at 255Nm (188lb ft). With a top speed of 166kph (103mph) and rest to 100kph (62mph) taking just 7.8 seconds, the Niro EV will no doubt attract a lot of new fans. Technology is high on the priority list with this new Kia; a 10-inch head-up display (HUD) system on ‘4’ grades provide key driving information including speed, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) data and navigation commands directly onto the front windscreen. At the centre an integrated curved twin-screen display with touchscreen, like that of the all-electric EV6 and the all-new Sportage, the display sweeps across the dashboard, giving the cockpit dramatic width and depth. On ‘2’ grade models, the infotainment display are 8-inches in size, while on ‘3’ and ‘4’ grades, the infotainment system is an expansive 10.25-inches; again depending on which market it is on sale. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models offer a 10.25-inch or a smaller 4.2-inch colour cluster display and the EV features the larger 10.25-inch instrument cluster as standard. Secure remote connectivity means you can interact with the vehicle via the Kia Connect smartphone app and this easy-to-use technology gives access to key onboard features, providing total peace of mind with a simple tap to check that the Niro is locked, and even identify where it is parked.
Summing up then, the new Niro is pleasant to drive with average performance, good build quality and a striking design. Yet another example of just how far this company has progressed in a relatively short time. When available, I aim to bring first impressions of the EV version.