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A spark of genius

THE LATEST: Kia's Niro is one the new newest SUVs on the market (photo credit: Car and Driver)

THERE’S A new sports utility vehicle (SUV) on the block.

Looking quite a bit like a shrunken SUV, the Niro still has plenty of interior space for occupants, without too much intrusion from the hybrid powertrain and battery pack. Rather than selling the Niro on the basis of it being a hybrid first and foremost, Kia would rather you think of it as a great family car that just happens to use hybrid technology to get great fuel economy, making it cheaper to run.

Its figures don’t quite match those of the popular Prius, but they’re still impressive given its crossover shape. Like the majority of hybrid models, the Niro has both a petrol engine and an electric motor under its bonnet, with the Kia producing a combined output of 138bhp.

Radar

There are some novel features on the all new Niro. They include the Adaptive Smart Cruise Control function (SCC). In simple terms a radar sensor behind the grille measures the distance to the vehicle ahead, and automatically maintains a safe distance by controlling speed, up to the speed set by the driver even if the driver does not accelerate or brake. The feature is available as a standard feature on the top of the range ‘First Edition’. The piercing bi-functional lamps gives a high-tech impression projecting high beam and low beam from a single light source. Trim levels are easy to understand, with 1, 2, 3 and First Edition versions, which all get essentials like Bluetooth, alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio and LED daytime running lights as standard. That’s impressive for an entry-level model, but the 2 does add desirable upgrades like a reversing camera, satellite navigation with traffic updates, tinted windows, half-leather upholstery and automatic lights and wipers.

The hybrid system has led to a few downsides, however, with stiffer suspension needed because of the extra weight of the battery pack and electric motor, giving the Niro a firmer ride, which is more noticeable when 18-inch wheels are fitted.

Excited

With light and rather numb steering, the Niro isn’t going to get you too excited when you get behind the wheel, despite its fi rm chassis and you can always feel its weight. For the statisticians, the Niro takes 11.1 seconds to get from 0-62mph and there’s little extra performance to be gained by driving it hard.

There’s plenty of adjustment for both the seat and steering wheel, meaning it’s easy to find a driving position that you’ll find comfortable. Thanks to the high roofline, head room shouldn’t be an issue even for the tallest of occupants.

Instead, it’s best to enjoy the Niro as a leisurely family runabout and drive steadily to get the best economy. The Kia Niro might not set fuel-economy records for a hybrid or be the most fun to drive, but it’s a desirable family car with an impressive amount of kit.

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