Kia Niro Hybrid Review
Car Tested: Kia Niro Hybrid; Road Test No. 1092; Test Location: Delhi, NCR
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 20,00,000/- (est.)
The Kia Niro offers a smart blend of practicality and fuel-efficiency from its spacious interiors and hybrid powertrain
Kia is making all the right noises ahead of its launch in India. They seem to be understanding the complexities and trends of our market and planning their launches accordingly. The Niro looks like one of the first few cars that will come to India. A mid-size crossover with a hybrid variant, Kia hopes to make its presence felt in the 20-lakh rupee price bracket. Can the Niro be a torch-bearer for the hybrid-crossover segment in India and can it lure the buyers away from the established rivals? We find out.
Motor Quest: Kia showcased the SP-Concept at the 2018 Delhi Auto Expo giving Indians a taste of what they should be expecting from this Korean brand. Kia has invested almost Rs. 7500-crores in their new plant in Andra Pradesh. The company has also announced that it will be launching a new car every six months in India. Owing to the ever-growing popularity of electrified cars, Kia is looking at the Niro Hybrid as one of their first cars for the Indian market.
Exteriors - Kia cars are known the world over for their simple designs and the signature 'Tiger Nose' which Kia says is inspired by our very own Royal Bengal Tiger. The 'Tiger Nose' grille was first showcased on Kia KEE sports coupe in 2007 and since then, it has been sported on every Kia, making Kias generally easy to recognise.
The simple yet smart design language makes the Niro look sophisticated
Despite wearing the family face, the Niro looks quite different from other Kia SUVs or sedans. Kia is one of the very few brands that have successfully managed to make their cars look different from one another while still boasting of many common elements. The Niro is one of the smaller SUVs in the Kia range and it is apparent when you look at it.
The car does not have the road presence of an SUV and ends up looking as a jacked-up hatchback. But it is a smart looking crossover that has all the Kia details to make it stand out from the crowd. The front, with its swept-back headlamps, 'Tiger Nose' grille, centrally-positioned fog-lamps and dominant creases on the bonnet, makes it look premium and modern. The side profile of the car is simple but those cool looking alloy wheels definitely stand out. The shade of blue and the large chrome door handles look similar to the that of the Maruti Baleno.
The Kia Niro looks subtle and premium at the same time; has an elegant stance
The rear profile is probably the best angle of the Niro, where it looks rather macho. We like the slightly stubby placement of the tail lights and the large black hatch spoiler. The well-executed bumper design and the subtle crease on the boot lid are also the highlights at the rear. Overall, we feel Kia has played it safe with the design. It is not a very striking car but has an understated design language which we think suits the car of this segment better.
Interiors - As mentioned before, the Niro is not a high-riding car so ingress and egress is an easy affair. The Niro's cabin looks plain and you instantly realise that it is more substance than style. It is a rather conventional layout with not much variation in colours and textures. There is no fancy 'floating' infotainment screen or nifty details like a clock. In fact, the infotainment touch screen comes across as being a touch too small and not very intuitive to operate.
The infotainment system isn't very intuitive and ends up feeling too small
Kia has ticked all the practicality boxes with the Niro's cabin. Storage spaces are ample and the dull but logical layout of the interior makes it very user-friendly. Quality, at large is commendable but not significantly special like that of a Hyundai. Plastics feel enduring, the buttons are nice to operate and everything feels well put together.
The instrument cluster on the hybrid Niro is very easy to read and informative giving you the usual details like the battery charge and distance to empty. the steering is chunky to hold and the buttons on the steering wheel, although too many, are convenient to operate. The equipment list is long too as you get dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and go, wireless phone charger, front and rear parking sensors and a premium JBL sound system among others.
Build quality is decent and the Niro is well-loaded and spacious on the inside
The front seats are supremely comfortable and offer stellar bolstering. There is ample space for the driver and passenger to stretch out. the rear seats are impressive too, with good headroom, legroom and shoulder room. However, the backseat may be best suited for two as the central console protrudes into the legroom of the middle passenger.
Performance - The Kia Niro is powered by a hybrid engine, a.k.a. a petrol engine with electric motor assist. The gasoline unit produces 104 BHP of power and 147 Nm of torque while the added boost from the electric motor results in a total output of 140 BHP and 265 Nm, which is quite a lot. The powertrain is very refined and only gets vocal once you push it in the top-end, near its redline but there is no tachometer on offer here. The car runs on pure EV mode at lower speeds and you can't hear a thing, even when the petrol engine fires up to assist as the speed increases.
The Niro can run in absolute silence in pure EV mode at lower speeds
There is a good amount of punch in the mid-range and due to the hybrid system, fuel economy is a good 30% more than petrol-only vehicles of the same segment. At low speeds, it is solely the electric motor that powers the wheels and the petrol engine kicks in as speeds increase, thereby both electric and petrol motors power the wheels under heavy acceleration while the petrol engine also charges the battery when the juice from the battery depletes. The car also has regenerative braking which charges the battery under deceleration. The whole system works fluidly. The 6-speed gearbox is smooth with shifts, not the fastest but you can manually take control of the cogs using the Sports mode on the gear lever, the car doesn't get paddle shifters.
Driving Dynamics - The Kia Niro is a heavy car, owing to the battery pack for the hybrid system but it doesn't feel that way when you drive the vehicle. It feels nimble and agile but the steering offers good feel and feedback, which is surprising. There is body roll but it's quite well contained and although the Niro isn't really set up for cornering as the suspension is quite soft, it does offer surefooted handling and is easy to manoeuvre too. Ride quality is good, this Korean crossover doesn't get rattled by bad roads but up the speed and really bad patches can be felt inside with a thud. The brakes offer surefooted stopping power and the Niro remains stable at high speeds.
Safety - Kia cars have a great track record of safety and the Niro is no different. You get a host of active and passive safety equipment like tyre pressure monitoring system, hill hold assist, ESP, ABS and 7 airbags. The Niro has also scored an impressive 5-star rating (with safety pack) at Euro NCAP making it as safe as you'd expect a car from this segment to be.
Verdict - Kia may or may not launch the Niro in India but it gives enough insight into what we can expect in the premium and hybrid crossover segment from this Korean car brand. The Niro comes across as being a smart, comfortable, well-built, decent performing and dynamically competent SUV. There is nothing exciting about it but the Niro creates a positive first impression. Given our perennial love for SUVs and the steady inclination towards electrification, we think Kia is ready to conquer our market.
* Handsome and understated looks
* Spacious and feature-loaded interiors
* Efficient and punchy hybrid powertrain
* Comes with a 5-star safety rating
What's Not So Cool
* Design is not that intimidating
* Infotainment system feels dated
* Rear seats should offer more space
Kia Niro Specifications
* Engine: 1580cc, 4-Cyl, Petrol, 8.9 kWh Electric Motor
* Power: 104 HP @ 5700 RPM (Petrol Engine), 60 HP @ 4000 RPM (Electric Motor)
* Torque: 147 Nm @ 4000 RPM (Petrol Engine) | 264 Nm @ 1750 RPM (Combined)
* Transmission: 6-Speed DCT
* Fuel Consumption: 11-15 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Tyre Size: 205/60/16 (Front & Rear)
* Suspension: McPherson Strut (Front), Multi Link (Rear)
* Brakes: Disc (Front & Rear)
* Safety: 9 Airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP
Kia Niro Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 4355 mm X 1805 mm X 1535 mm
* Wheelbase: 2700 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 43-litres
* Kerb Weight: 1594 kgs
Kia Niro Hybrid
Kia Niro Hybrid Review
The Kia Niro is a very competent vehicle and it comes with a hybrid powertrain. It produces enough power and torque and offers decent performance while it also boasts of a comfortable ride and good handling dynamics. The ride at very high speeds isn’t that great though. The Niro offers good features and has impressive safety equipment too. Some of the downsides of the Kia Niro are its basic audio system and limited rear seat space. If this car gets launched in India, expect it to be priced in the whereabouts of Rs. 20 lakhs.