13 April 2018

Kia Niro 2018 Car Review

Given the severity of the storm that recently hit Auckland, it’s lucky we had an SUV for the weekend. Kia’s Niro drives only its front wheels and resembles a chunky hatchback more than it does a traditional off-roader, but it does deliver 160mm ground clearance, 20mm more than its Cerato hatch stablemate. And that made for greater assurance when driving a test route littered with debris.

Kia Niro jm 18 5
Kia Niro
Kia Niro jm 18 3
Kia Niro
Kia Niro jm 18 4
Kia Niro
kia niro jm 18 11
Kia Niro
Kia Niro jm 18 7
Kia Niro

Better yet this was the hybrid variant, for everyday range anxiety pales into insignificance if you run an electric car and rely on your home powerpoint for fuel, then have no electricity to the house for a week or so.

In the event Niro became a crossover in more than just style, for as well as providing transport it charged appliances, bumped over tree detritus to deliver petrol for generators, and the boot carried a variety of useful guff around from slabs of water bottles to stacks of high-vis vests.

Niro also brought contact with the outside world in a peculiarly appropriate way. With cell towers down, you has to drive to get assistance. And given the chance that storms like this are in part whipped up by the inexorable advance of global warming, it’s comforting to know those drives were made while burning as little fossil fuel as possible.

Kia shares much of its technology with Hyundai, and so the petrol-electric hybrid set-up is the same. It puts 1580cc of petrol engine in tandem with an electric system that recharges the battery whenever you lift off the throttle or brake. Given a hilly country drive with plenty of road cones and diversions, there was plenty of that, and not much actual open highway — where hybrids, unlike conventional powerplants, use most fuel.

So though we returned an average thirst above the 3.8l/100km claim, we were pleased with the achieved 4.6, obtained in part via this car’s impressively good drag coefficient. That’s a very reasonable fuel figure for a useful vehicle of this size, especially given the greater-than-usual draw on the Niro’s systems during our test.

It could have been worse – the base-spec EX doesn’t have the heated seats of the LTD. But it does deliver rear park sensors and a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, lane keep assist, two ISOFIX child-seat fittings, handsome 16-inch alloy wheels, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, smart cloth for the seats, climate control air con, auto defog, Bluetooth with voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto among its features list, plus a few other nice little touches, like a sunglasses holder in the roof and an illuminated vanity mirror.

As for the drive, once you’re underway you’re reminded that this is a hybrid hatch rather than an SUV. Suspension compliance is a tad soft, a little more designed for comfort than expected, with a smidge more roll – the fairly subtle pay-off to get that extra gap from terra firma.

Otherwise the Niro handles competently for the class, which includes Mitsubishi’s ASX, Nissan’s Qashqai and Suzuki’s Vitara.

There’s another advantage to the slightly increased height, one which will be most appreciated by older buyers, as a seat squab slightly elevated when compared to conventional hatches is easer to get into, and out from. There’s a good range of height adjustment too, and generous head room — as pointed out by a neighbour with an arthritic husband and rangy teens to fit aboard.

However there is a downside of sorts to the hybrid advantage of regenerative braking until you get used to it, for stopping performance from the 15-inch vented front and solid rear disc brakes is feels a little savage until you adjust your brake modulation to suit this fuel-frugal format.

Kia has started the year with an introductory offer on Niro, which competes in the compact SUV segment as a hybrid, as well as against hybrid cars such as Toyota’s Prius or Corolla. Pitched against those conventional hatches it plays its trump card – the ability to tow a 1300kg braked trailer, a talent we weren’t able to put into play this time around.

If you want genuine off-road ability or the related go-anywhere gung ho looks, you won’t pick a Niro. But if you want a useful hybrid hatch, especially if you value a slightly higher ride and seat height, go shopping before the $34,990 introductory offer ends, and the price settles at five grand higher.

At a glance


1.6L EX Hybrid  


1580cc petrol plus hybrid electric motor



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

104kW at 5700rpm, 147Nm at 4000rpm (combined petrol and electric, electric motor max torque 170Nm, at lower rpm, combined best torque 265Nm)


Six-speed double-clutch auto

Fuel economy

Combined: 3.8l/100km (

Towing capacity braked/unbraked



2WD drives front wheels

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

373 litres back seats up, 1371 litres back seats down  

Safety systems

Seven Airbags


Emergency braking

Lane Keep Assist

Tyre pressure monitoring

Reversing Camera with dynamic guidelines

Smart cruise control with speed limiter

Auto light control

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