16th November 2020
It’s taken a while to get behind the wheel of a Kia Niro due to lockdown delays, but it’s a car I’ve been looking forward to. It may not be the most exciting machine to look at, but this is one of those cars that a lot of us business users will be seriously considering with family in mind and running costs. This one is the non-plug-in hybrid model, finished in standard 3 trim and costing £26,285 for tax purpose.
While the looks of the Niro may not be as forthright as some crossovers, I think there’s a lot to be said for its quiet approach. This morning I nipped into Perth city centre and the Kia seemed to be waved out of junctions more often than is usual during the busier morning period. It also slotted into a supermarket car park very easily this afternoon, which is an underrated consideration in my view.
A trip into Edinburgh this morning and a chance to explore the Niro’s performance and refinement. On the latter point, it scores very well as wind, road and engine noise are all successfully excluded from the cabin unless you have to work the engine hard. In that case, the 1.6-litre unit does become a bit rowdy and coarse, and you have to do this a bit more than expected as it’s not the most potent power plant.
Another morning of mixed driving for work and the smooth six-speed automatic gearbox in the Niro encourages a laid-back driving approach. This gets round the engine’s so-so performance and rewards with a more enjoyable journey. The suspension gets a little tangled over rougher surfaces and the brake pedal needs a longer push than in some rivals, such as the Ford Puma.
While out and about today, I spotted this behemoth of a Jaguar MkX, which was the XJ of its day in the 1960s. This one may be a little frayed round the edges, but it also packs an engine conversion to put a 5.3-litre V12 motor under the bonnet. I dread to think of the fuel economy versus the Niro’s official combined 54.3mpg, which is working out at a decent real-world 51.4mpg.
It’s the weekend and the usual taxi service comes into play taking the kids to various activities plus a socially-distanced birthday party. The Niro is in its element carrying the family thanks to loads of space in the front and rear cabins, plus a generous boot. In the back, the Kia doesn’t offer fold-up picnic trays or multi-tool armrest, but space and a decent view out are ideal for my kids.
If your kids like to play the radio while you go off to pay for fuel or are loading the boot, Kia has the technology to dodge a flat battery. The 12-volt battery reset button lets the petrol engine fire up and then recharge the battery sharpish. Very handy. Even so, I can’t help thinking the PHEV plug-in model or full e-Niro would be an even more sensible company car choice.