CLEVER KOREA MOVE (some text hidden)
By Jonathan Crouch
The improved Kia Niro offers an appealing dose of hybrid technology to buyers in the small Crossover segment. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Reviewword count: 68
Kia reckons that this Niro model offers the best of both worlds, combining fashionable 'Crossover' looks with exemplary hybrid efficiency. It's not, perhaps, the kind of car you'd expect from this growing Korean brand but in its own way, it promises to be a very appealing one. There's a choice of hybrid, PHEV plug-in hybrid or full-electric e-Niro models. Here, our focus is on the upgraded hybrid variants.
Backgroundword count: 212
The Niro was Kia's first ever dedicated hybrid model and in recent years, the company has been no stranger to automotive electrification. Hybrid versions of the marque's larger Optima have been on sale in the USA since 2011 - and a Plug-in version of that car is available here. Plus Kia has been marketing a completely battery-powered version of its even smaller Soul Crossover model since 2014. The Niro though, saw the Korean maker's futuristic engineering showcased to a much wider audience when it was introduced in 2017, first in self-charging hybrid form, then as a plug-in PHEV and finally, in 2018, as the full-electric e-Niro BEV. Having established the Niro range, Kia has now moved to improve it, hence the upgraded range we're looking at here. The hybrid versions we're focusing on have certainly been cleverly developed. Instead the old-fashioned nickel metal hydride batteries and belt-driven CVT auto gearbox you get in, say, a more expensive Toyota Prius, here there's properly modern lithium-ion battery technology and a smoother, more sophisticated dual-clutch auto transmission to work with the hybrid system. Plus there's good looks, decent interior space and up-to-the-minute media connectivity in a car neatly positioned in size between Kia's two biggest sellers, the cee'd family hatch and the Sportage family Crossover.
Driving Experienceword count: 266
The hybrid Niro is available in either conventional Hybrid or Plug-in PHEV guises. Either way, the hybrid technology is mated to a 105PS 1.6-litre petrol powerplant. In the conventional self-charging hybrid variant, this is mated to a 32kW electric motor. In the PHEV model, it's mated to a more powerful 44.5kW motor. In both cases, the total system output - 141PS - is pretty much the same either way, the petrol engine and the electric motor combining effectively to provide 265Nm of torque, enough for sprightly acceleration away from standstill. As you'd expect from a hybrid, regenerative braking is used to send power back to the battery, but Kia says it's paid special attention to brake feel, reducing the grabby nature that you get from the brakes in other hybrids. The transmission is the latest version of Kia's 6DCT CVT auto 'box, re-engineered specifically for use with the Niro's advanced hybrid powertrain, delivering a more direct and immediate response - and a more entertaining drive - than a traditional continuously-variable transmission would. The Niro's 6DCT is able to shift gears automatically, while keener drivers can pull the gear lever towards them to put the car into Manual Sports mode and allow manual shifting. A series of measures have been adopted to ensure low levels of noise, vibration and harshness. These include specially-designed asymmetric engine mounts to manage powertrain movements at each point in the front subframe, high density under-bonnet insulation and a sound-deadening acoustic shield with a special support structure to improve the sound of the engine accelerating across the most used range of engine speeds.
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Category: Crossover or SUV 4x4s
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