First ride: new Kia Niro Hybrid HEV

The gestation of the new Korean crossover is in its final phase. The copy entrusted to us is certainly equipped with a camouflage-style rear bumper, but thethe style of the car has of course stopped† So close to marketing and ramping up production, no manufacturer can afford major aesthetic changes.

Inside, the “prototype” sticker nevertheless reminds us that things can still change, such as the plastic door trim or headliner used on this pre-production unit. But what can evolve the most is what can’t be seen: the power management software, the power steering calibration, or even the GPS that positioned us in the sea on our test sample. This is precisely the reason for these cars nearing production, the use of which makes it possible to identify the final improvements to be made before entering the deep end of marketing.

Electrification or nothing

The second generation of Kia Niro continues to cultivate the particularity of the model. Just like in 2016, when the Niro I was launched, the Korean manufacturer did not bother with a diesel or even a mild hybrid device. The 2022 Niro, now available with a contrasting body insert, houses three electrified technologies under its hood: the “standard” hybrid of our test, a plug-in hybrid version that can travel for 65 km without emissions, and a final 100% electric homologated with 460 km of autonomy in the combined cycle (and over 600 km in the city bike). All three are already available to order, starting at €31,790 for the hybrid and €36,590 for our high-end Premium version.

The model doesn’t really change proportion, but it grows a bit: 6 cm longer (4.42 m), 2 cm wider (1.83 m) for a height (1.55 m) equivalent to the current model. Its wheelbase only gains two centimeters, so it’s to the interior design that we owe Kia’s claimed increase in habitability. We were able to verify this improved convenience not only at the front, but also at the rear, where access to the bench seat is easier. As always, we’d better sit in the side seatswhile the central seat is harder, less wide and “decorated” with a medium height service tunnel.

This HEV version offers: a boot of 451 liters (compared to 436 liters on board the previous generation), but also a two-position floor that ensures a level space when the rear seat backs are folded down. In this case, we are approaching 1,450 liters of cargo volume, which is within the segment average.

More technology

Inside, the dashboard follows the principle of the 10.25-inch dual screen that appeared on the EV6 and was installed on board the new Sportage at the beginning of this year. But the trim here has a rounded shape at the top edge, meaning the central screen is slightly lower than the instrument panel. If the Sportage has a more muscular hybrid version (180 hp), the Niro has taken over the towbar of the previous generation. The car is displayed: equal power (141 hp) using a 105 hp 1.6 naturally aspirated engine and a 43 hp electrical unit. Technical improvements have been made, but the performance or consumption level remains the same.

Among the developments, it should be noted that the reverse gear is now provided by the electric motor. This choice made it possible to forego a gearbox pinion (-2.3 kg), and thus invariably go back to zero emissions. The battery of the hybrid system has a slightly lower capacity (1.32 kWh compared to 1.56 kWh), but the efficiency of the model remains the same. This means that the energy management software, and certainly the regeneration laws, make it possible to do just as well, if not better in terms of consumption, with fewer cells.

A more pleasant ride

The handling of the new Niro is very natural. Pressing the Start button does nothing and that is normal. Starting is always electric. The button that operates the gearbox is intriguing, but quickly demonstrates its practicality. The first meters are only sweetness and serenity, until the 1.6 engine shows up. Fortunately, the Niro has made strides in soundproofing. The thermal block penetrates less and vibrates less.

In traffic, the electric part takes control as often as possible and the regeneration paddles, located on either side of the steering wheel, invite you to drive differently. Allows you to adjust the engine brake in four levels, or even to activate maximum regeneration by pulling the blade towards you for a long time. It works until stopped and then returns to the selected mode when the paddle is released. In most cases this avoids using the brakes. Thanks to a strong regeneration, the battery of the hybrid system can be recharged, but also to save discs and brake pads, while limiting particulate emissions associated with braking. Not bad.

The new Niro also shows progress in handling. The current generation was already striving for dynamism, but the new platform adds a sweetness that could be missing at times. The 18-inch rims are not the best ally of the chassis, but at low speeds the climbs in the cabin are less dry.

Winding courses are approached with more precision and comfort, but the Niro hybrid is still not a follower of steep climbs. The naturally aspirated engine sometimes lacks punch, and the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, staying in the engaged gear for too long, especially if the hybrid system battery is depleted. We will then appreciate the Niro more in urban areas than in the mountains. On the road or on the highway, it is also gaining approval with a plethora of driving aids.

Our verdict

Kia significantly improves the main qualities of its Niro, which makes progress in all areas of the game. By focusing on modernity, with a new design and a 100% digital interior, it hopes to be as successful as the current generation, selling the brand third worldwide, and for the first time in France in 2021.

We love :

Progress made along the way

His digital interior

The 7-year or 150,000 km . warranty

We like less:

The calm nature of its mechanics

Optional two-tone body

The inevitable price hike

Datasheet: Kia Niro HEV

Engine: front, 4-cylinder in-line, petrol, 16 valves, variable valve timing, 1,580 cc, 105 hp/147 Nm + electric motor (32 kW/170 Nm) Transmission: front-wheel drive, 6-speed automatic transmission (dual clutch)

Cumulative Power (HP): 141

Operating weight (kg): 1,565

Length.xwidth.xheight. (m): 4.42×1.83×1.55

Wheelbase (m): 2.72

Turning circle (m): 10.40

Tank (l): 40

Maximum speed (km/h): 165

0 to 100 km/h (s): 10.6

Standard tires: 205x60R16 (on Motion and Active) 225x45R18 on Premium

Tires tested: Continental Premium Contact 225x45R18

Cons mixed WLTP (l/100 km): 4.4 to 4.6

disadvantages during the test (l/100 km): 5.5 1

CO2 (g/km): 100 to 105

Penalty: 0 €

5/2 chest (l): 451/1.445

Country of origin: South Korea

Warranty: 7 years/150,000 km

Price of the tested version: € 36,590

PROPOSED RANGE (Kia Niro)

Petrol hybrid, 141 hp, from €31,790 to €36,590

RECOMMENDED OPTIONS

Metallic or pearlescent paint: €650 and €750. Contrasting rear upright: €400; Harman Kardon Stereo: €500; comfort package (only on Active): €1,000 (including electrically adjustable driver’s seat, inductive smartphone charger and electric tailgate); Drive Wise Park Package (Premium only): €1,000 (Includes remote parking assist, vehicle exit safety alert, collision avoidance system with blind spot detection and rear traffic warning with braking function.)

MAIN COMPETITORS

Toyota C-HR, hybrid 122 hp, from €30,840

Nissan Qashqai, mild hybrid 140 hp, from €30,190

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