KIA Niro Hybrid 1.6 SX Review : The new black
Singapore - The second generation KIA Niro Hybrid is a massive improvement over the car it replaces. This has to do with everything about build quality, frills and also, everything-else in-between. It is a strong statement, but the Korean manufacturer has been on a roll, producing one ‘Tiger Nose’- grilled vehicle after another, and upping the game with each new offering.
The new Niro Hybrid might be a compact econobox, but it does come to you, stuffed with many of the good things, which could put a similar-sized premium compact to shame.
KIA’s ‘Tiger Nose’ grille for the Niro has been extensively streamlined - a loose interpretation if you may; and it plays well into the SUV’s clean styling. What is a daringly interesting touch, is the trick aero, built right into its C pillars.
There are two variants available, the “bare necessities” EX, and this, the range-topping SX. Externally, there is very little to tell both cars apart. But with Koreans doing what Koreans do best, the Niro SX gets massively stacked with equipment inside and out. Externally with the SX trim, you get LED DRLs, a sunroof and roof rails.
KIA Niro Hybrid 1.6 SX - inside
What truly struck me, was the vast improvement in material quality of the interior. I would even go as far as to say that the insides come quite close to a German sub-premium offering. Nothing creaks, there’s very little cheapness, and KIA have largely ditched that tendency to scatter a plethora of large buttons across the dash and centre console (you do not have to go too far back to see what I mean).
The singular display panel houses both the 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and the 10.25-inch full digital supervision cluster. The infotainment system is wirelessly-friendly to both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also a mobile charging tray to keep devices juiced. The on-screen graphics have improved vastly, but there is a gimmicky side to this too. KIA has included a selection of “sounds of nature”, just in-case you find that your customised Spotify playlist suddenly feels too mainstream.
I have to say that my absolute favourite feature is the dual-function central control strip. Over here, you can toggle between the air-conditioning controls, and those for the infotainment. The two adjuster knobs double as left and right thermostat controls, or volume and track seek. That is truly some clever thinking, and I feel is the right way to go, if you would like to reduce your button count.
Like the Sorento, the sides of the Niro’s front seats are equipped with USB ports, so that rear passengers have a place to charge their devices. I like that the tops of the front seats also double-up as coat hangers… I see it more as a place to hang that “emergency” cap - great for those bad hair days.
Those at the rear will appreciate that the seat backs are able to recline a notch, and even more so for the good legroom. The 451 litre double-floored boot offers decent cargo room, and the rear seatbacks fold near flat. Perhaps the only gripe I have, is that it has a flimsy foldable cargo cover, as opposed to a proper parcel tray.
KIA Niro Hybrid 1.6 SX - driven
The group’s new efficient Smartstream 1.6 litre engine gets a boost from a 32kW electric motor, the latter is juiced by a 1.32kWh lithium-ion battery. In all, the Niro Hybrid produces a Category A-friendly 128bhp and 265Nm. Both power units are mated to the brand’s lighter-in-weight second-generation 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. So yes… fuel efficient and a lighter in-weight transmission could mean better fuel numbers? Well actually, fuel efficiency seems to be the same between the new and old car, which is “officially” at 4.0l/100km.
My drive, which had considerably more start-stop action, got me something closer to 4.6l/100km (21.7km/l). Within the cabin, I appreciate how KIA had even gone as far as to double-pressed front windows and front windshield, as this significantly reduces the amount of noise coming into the cabin.
As we would expect, the Niro hybrid does not like quick corners, and hard-revving. However, reward which is plenty, is when you treat the C segment SUV as regular point A to point B transport. It delivers smoothly, and it is largely quiet on the inside. The other reward are the ventilated front seats, if you were to opt for the SX variant.
I should leave this note here while I carry on, with the enjoyment of driving this compact crossover. EVs will definitely take a while more to catch-on. And while it has recently been announced that we could have at least 12,000 public charging stations; which will be located in public housing car parks across the country, some of these might initially only have as many as three charging points. That could mean that early adopters might end up fighting for those precious few chargers, while you simply… drive by.
PHOTOS Clifford Chow
KIA Niro Hybrid 1.6 SX
Engine 1580, 4cyl
Electric Motor 43hp
Battery Lithium ion, 1.32kWh
System Power 130hp
System Torque 265Nm
Transmission 6-speed dual clutch
Top Speed 165km/h
Fuel Consumption 4L/100km (Combined)