Kia NIro side

The second generation of compact crossovers gains style and attitude

This is the second generation Kia Niro. While it’s not as innovative as the Kia Ev6, but it’s arguably more important for the brand as its second-best-selling vehicle after the Sportage, it’s still a very popular car.

The first-generation Niro beat all its competitors to the segment of compact crossovers. Sport mode has a rev counter that pops up, and the paddles change gear. It’s cleverly done.

The Niro is available in three versions: a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and an electric vehicle. Although it can be difficult to accommodate both big battery packs and combustion engines on one platform, the original Niro was a compelling hybrid and a powerful EV.

However, Kia is facing more competition today. All three of the top hybrid crossover competitors are looking for a piece of the pie: Renault Arkana, Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V. While the electric Niro may be able to sleep a little better for now, there are many new competitors on the horizon.

What’s new?

The new Niro will build on the success of the existing one. It is based on the new platform, the second-generation K3 platform which can be found underneath the Hyundai i30. However, it follows the same formula as before.

The hybrids come with a slightly modified 1.6-litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine and six-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.

The regular hybrid uses a 1.32kWh battery with a 43bhp motor, while the plug-in hybrid uses a 11.1kWh battery with an 83bhp motor.

The fully electric Niro now uses a 64.8kWh lithium battery, the same as before, for a range of approximately 290 miles.

Future reviews will be able to address this issue as the electric version has accounted for half of all Niro sales. Today we are driving a prototype of the full-hybrid, which usually takes 40%. Only a few Niros are powered by plug-in hybrids in the UK.

The technical makeup of the Niro is the same. However, the major changes in design are made. While the old Niro was a more stylish crossover than an MPV, the new Niro has a more assertive SUV stance. It follows the Sportage and EV6 in adopting an aggressive, alien-like look. Although the Kia’s tiger-nose grille is still there, it has lost its original purpose of being an air intake and became more of a decorative monobrow.

What is the interior like of the new Kia Niro?

The car’s overall length has increased by 65mm and 20mm respectively. It’s not clear if this is a good thing for crowded roads, but it definitely benefits the car’s stance as well as its interior space.

Adults can now enjoy the back seat, which is a real possibility. And unlike the Honda HR-V’s, it doesn’t affect the boot space.

It weighs in at 451 litres and is a lot larger than the C-HR or HR-V, but it is slightly smaller than the Arkana. The hybrid battery takes up more space than pure-petrol competitors.

Despite its growth, Kia managed to keep the Niro light. The EV even lost 70 kg thanks to its flexible platform.

Interior ambience is the big improvement on the previous Niro. The interior ambience emphasizes the EV6 family connections with fused twin screen, wildly swooping line and a curious two-spoke steering column.

It’s amazing that the Niro actually has a better aesthetic. The Sportage and EV6 have a lot too much shiny black plastic, and scratchy surfaces. However, the Niro’s cheaper materials are more comfortable. The designers took advantage of this opportunity to add some creativity.

They have chosen to replace the elephant-skin texture with a stone-like plastic surface on the door and dash panels. There are also flashes of colour to keep the room light. Although the trim panels are made of plastic, they look almost like tarnished brass. Recycled materials are used for the seat and headlining.

Despite all the style, function is not forgotten. There are many buttons and switches that make it easy to use. Although the Kia dual-purpose touchbar that can be used for ventilation and infotainment shortcuts may seem a bit fiddly at first, we have seen worse.

The seats are comfortable and supportive. SUV buyers will appreciate the elevated driving position. However, taller drivers may wish for more reach adjustment in steering. The standard Kia infotainment system is available on the Niro. It requires a cable to mirror your smartphone, but it’s otherwise very easy to use.

How does the new Kia Niro drive?

The Niro is fine to drive. Although it isn’t great, it’s not too offensive. It was lackingluster at best. The commercial success of the old model suggests that the new one doesn’t need to do much more. We had hoped for more, however, considering the EV6’s dynamic sparkle.

It feels logically similar because the powertrain has been largely transferred over. Although its peak power of 139bhp sounds good, it is quite difficult to drive up hills or merge on the motorway. The four-pot must work hard and communicate as much.

You have two driving modes, Eco and Sport. However, the Eco mode’s old Niro had an overly slow throttle calibration. This has been corrected.

The dual-clutch transmission is very conventional, with the exception of the absence of a reverse gear (that’s taken care by the electric motor). This is fine in this instance. Six gears allow the engine to cycle through six different gears, which means that the drone isn’t as present as in the HRV or 1.8-litre CHR. Also, the powertrain is more alert than Renault’s E-Tech solution.

The engine is a very minor stumbling block that interrupts the flow of business.

The chassis is a similar story. It’s a promising combination of a wider track, a multilink rear axle, and Continental Premium Contact tires.

The Niro handles bad roads a little sloppy in practice. Even the worst potholes can send a shimmy through your car’s structure. Although it’s not great, it’s not really irritating.

It is competent and not inspiring in corners. The steering is responsive and it holds on, although the body roll and excessive tyre squeal quickly remind you how futile it is to push a small SUV up a mountain.

The Niro is not known for its ability to refine the sound. Although there is a little more road noise, suspension noise, and wind whistling in the cabin than other vehicles, it isn’t a problem you won’t soon get used to.

Do I need one?

The new Niro’s pricing and equipment are broadly comparable to its competitors. The hybrid has three trim levels: 2, 3, and 4. 2 is the starting price at PS27,745, while 3 and 4 are priced at PS30,495 respectively. 3 and 4 cost PS33,245 and PS33,245 respectively.

Although we cannot say much about the real world fuel economy because our test route was not representative of this area, we can imagine that it will be close to the 50mpg average when we road-tested Niro.

Although it’s disappointing that Kia hasn’t made further improvements to the Niro’s chassis and refinement it’s not a major priority for potential buyers. They are not far behind the pace, however.

Although it could use a little more power, it is still a far superior vehicle to the underpowered, sluggish alternatives like Renault, Toyota, and Honda. The Niro’s interior is a well-designed one that provides excellent space and stands out from the rest. It also has strong standard equipment and a seven-year warranty that is the best in the market.

Although the new Niro isn’t Kia’s landmark car like the first, it makes a significant improvement on the previous model and ensures Kia’s position in a market that will only get more important.