KIA NIRO HYBRID With a claimed 74.3mpg, the Niro stands out amongst its crossover rivals as an economical tool. Over my time with the car, to date, it has averaged mid-50’s with relative ease. This has, of course, had its ups and downs – one particular highlight when in Italy was it somehow managed to accrue that sought-after NEDC figure thanks to Tuscan hills.
However, having returned from an extended Euro trip with the indicator hovering closer to 50mpg, I was keen to establish just where the Niro shines brightest. Would it be on the motorway, B-roads or around town?
Most hybrids I’ve driven (not including plug-in hybrids) tend to offer better fuel consumption on longer journeys, contrary to what carmakers claim. Toyota’s finest, for example, run at their optimum and the occasional use of electric motor when slowing for junctions or bouts of traffic aids economy. The Niro works a little differently, thanks to its slightly coarse dual-dutch transmission (DCT) that made hard work of European motorways. Part of the reason for that was quite simply speed – travelling at a constant 130km/h (80mph) is not where the Niro is happiest and instead it’s far better to relax the right foot and cruise closer to 110km/h (70mph).
Back driving in Blighty, where speed limits are lower than the continent, plays in the Niro’s favour and the results speak for themselves. Fuel economy quickly returned to mid-50’s, though I’m saddened not to have seen higher.
Taking on a new job as Content Editor at Fleet World (don’t worry, it’s in addition to Autovolt) has necessitated a new commute for me too. Just over half a mile away: yes, that’s all it is from home to office. That said, I frequent the local train station for my other half too, and that’s a six-mile round trip.
Therefore, I was really interested to see how the Niro fared with these new much shorter trips and I’m pleased to say that at no point did it dip below 50mpg. Sadly, that’s not a fantastic 70+ figure one might have hoped for, but it’s not a terrible one either, though it does highlight the shortcomings of a more traditional hybrid drive despite Kia’s engineers updating it with lithium-ion and a DCT, compared to its rivals.
The latter caused a bit of an annoyance, however, thanks to its compulsion to hold second gear far longer than necessary. While I could override this in sport mode, this is slightly counterproductive in that when switching to sport mode the Niro doesn’t hold onto its electrons quite as readily as it does in regular hybrid mode. This, no doubt, had some impact on fuel economy and I can’t help but wonder whether it would have been better with a regular (and lighter but slightly less efficient) automatic instead of the DCT.
Interestingly, the car that replaces the Niro – a Toyota C-HR Hybrid – is arguably its closest competition aside from its close cousin, the Hyundai loniq Hybrid. This has allowed me to find out whether my suspicions about the Niro are true with regard to the gearbox, as the two cars are extremely similar in exterior size and both claim 74.3mpg.
The Niro itself, ignoring the powertrain, has been a delight to live with over the past few months. It has handled every journey with aplomb, even a six- hour dash to the Lake District and back the next day, and it’s never missed a beat. Kia’s stellar seven-year warranty is certainly something to take note of too and offers real peace of mind.
It is a shame that it isn’t more economical than experienced, but that could be in part thanks to my slightly irregular commuting habits.
Having driven the Niro a few times, I’ve always been impressed by its honesty. It’s not a flash car despite its almost-crossover styling (in my eyes it is still more of a rugged estate than a crossover) but it isn’t ugly either. If you’re looking for a hybrid and can’t stand Toyota’s eCVT then it’s definitely worth strong consideration.