The Kia Niro won a spot on the sales list not long ago reserved for mid-range cars from Opel, Volkswagen, Renault and Peugeot. So the second generation has big shoes to fill. It will arrive this summer, but we can already drive it early. The combination, because the new one also comes with a choice of different types of power.
Before us stands the new Kia Niro and it is immediately clear that the designers show more courage and daring with this model than with its predecessor. The distinctive C-pillar is particularly eye-catching as a style element. Moreover, there is a view in that C-pillar when you look at the back of the car: very funny. The first generation of the Niro has played an important role for Kia and has given the crossover (it sits between a hatchback and an SUV) the top spot in the Dutch sales list. Compared to its successor, the old model seems more conservative. The design was less controversial with a shape that made you wonder if Dutch buyers, who love station wagons and SUVs, were waiting. Of course, mainly because of the full electric version that came later and gave thousands of business and personal drivers their first EV. Reasonable prices, rich equipment and a wide range made the e-Niro an irresistible offering.
Even before it’s at dealerships or lent to journalists for test drives, we’ve had a chance to drive the hybrid version in a closed location. The Niro that we’re getting is still one from pre-production, so it’s not yet fully dismantled and fully equipped, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun. To emphasize that it’s not quite ‘finished’ yet, Kia puts a few edges of camouflage foil over it, in the areas we already know they’ll be visible.
Hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all electric
The new Niro will soon be available with three powertrains, which are essentially the same as the previous model. The base is a hybrid variant with a 105 hp 1.6 GDI petrol engine, as well as a 44 hp electric motor. That is the style we are identified with today. In addition, there is again a plug-in hybrid that has the same gasoline engine, but now it is connected to an electric power source of 61 hp. Of course, it has a bigger battery (8.9 kWh) and can cover up to 65 km on full electricity according to the WLTP cycle. The Niro EV (as the e-Niro is now called) keeps the 204 hp electric motor that the previous one also had in top form, with a 64 kWh battery. The range of this model is 463 kilometers in the WLTP test.
Back to the hybrid we’re running today. The Niro HEV is the next car in which the traditional automatic transmission is gone. There is no more lever, but a rotary knob on the central console and that immediately gives a good feeling in the interior. Turn right with D, left with R and at the heart is a push button for P. The start button is also on this center console, along with other buttons you like to keep an eye on, such as the steering wheel and seat heating. . By the way, Kia has never participated in the trend of eliminating as many buttons as possible by adding unlimited functions and menus to the multimedia system. The Koreans have often taken credit for that and we’ll hold that to the Niro for a while.
Very idiosyncratic is the solution that Kia chooses for the climate control buttons against the main buttons of the multimedia system. These are the same touch buttons, which, according to the driver’s wishes, are used both for climate control or for multimedia. Our description is more complicated than the actual practice. We first saw it on the EV6, as did the dual-spoke steering wheel, by the way. You are looking at a show that can be arranged in completely different ways depending on the prevailing style. Kia has widened the Niro’s wheelbase by a few centimeters and made the front seats a little narrower, so that there is less room for the rear passengers. The luggage compartment is also more spacious than before, but still not too big.
Not particularly exciting
We do our tests in a place that cannot be compared to the roads where we normally make our kilometers. We drive on a test track, which means there is a bank track and a Mickey Mouse track. That’s a little different from the average commute. Immediately it seems that the new Niro has become silent. We can already appreciate the power train in the previous model. Thanks to the dual-clutch automatic transmission, it drives somewhat like a regular gasoline car. That gives a different experience than, for example, hybrids from Toyota, whose powertrain is designed very differently and which changes continuously. The Niro HEV is no longer a very exciting car to drive, but it feels tighter and more comfortable than its predecessor. Steering feel has been improved, as has damping. All in all, that leaves a positive impression. Kia updated what was most needed – both outside and inside – but left what was good almost untouched: the powertrain.
In the coming months we will drive more extensively with the new Niro, also with the plug-in hybrid and the fully electric Niro EV. Then we can go further into the driving characteristics of the second generation.