By Chris Dell
Many of us need a car that can cope with pretty much everything. A car that’s big enough to take the family on a long trip to the seaside, complete with buckets and spades, but at the same time it needs to be small enough to fit, without undue fuss, into a supermarket parking space. A car for all reasons, if you like.
The Niro is one of these cars. It’s a relatively new entry in Kia’s range, but already it’s winning friends and the ‘PHEV’ version will win it more. Plug-in hybrids are increasingly popular, partly because they appeal to motorists who want a more environmentally-friendly answer to their commuting needs, and partly because of their tax advantages.
Charge the Niro PHEV up overnight, even from an ordinary domestic outlet, and there’s enough range to cope with the average commuting journey. Depending on the route, on how you drive, and also on the temperature (range reduces at low temperatures) you can expect around 30 miles if you drive thoughtfully.
This means that a driver who travels ten miles to work, and ten miles back, could do all their commuting on electric power. The benefits are obvious: no tailpipe emissions, cleaner air on city streets, a quieter experience for the driver, and lower running costs.
Compared to a pure electric car, the benefit of the Niro PHEV is that it switches seamlessly to petrol power once the battery pack starts to run down.
The weight of the batteries, electric motor and the other associated gubbins naturally means the PHEV model is heavier than some cars of its size, but it copes impressively well. The suspension offers a good balance between control and compliance, so it copes with potholes, but it also doesn’t let the car roll excessively in corners.
Automatic transmission is standard, there’s no manual option, but automatic is undeniably convenient when you’re in heavy traffic or running round town. Other useful features include good headlights and light steering, which help make it an easy car to drive, even at night.
It’s not meant to be a sports car but the Niro PHEV actually feels pleasantly nippy, particularly away from the traffic lights. Combined with its easygoing nature, the result is a car that can keep up a respectable pace, without you feeling drained when you reach your destination at the end of a longer journey.
Throw in Kia’s reputation for reliability, backed up by their usual seven year warranty, and it’s easy to see why people would add the Niro PHEV to their short list. But if £30,845 is outside your budget, an alternative might be the Niro ‘self charging’ hybrid, which starts at £23,490.