The Kia Niro is leading the way for hybrids in the Koreans’ line-up. And it has the best/worst name in the car world, depending on how much you like a certain actor.
I am sorry but this practical joke from the people at Kia cannot go unnoticed. I mean, Niro? Come on, guys, are we supposed to call this the Kia Niro and not the Kia De Niro?
Imagine this: There is a Kia Niro parked on the street and Robert De Niro is walking by. What kind of conversation would that generate?
Movie-loving citizen: Look,
it’s De Niro.
Car-loving citizen: Yes, I know,
I already drove the Niro.
MLC: What, you drove De Niro?
CLC: Yes, it is a really rather nice Kia.
MLC: A Kia? Are you drunk?
CLC: Drunk? No, it’s the Koreans’ first hybrid.
MLC: Hybrid? It’s Robert De Niro, the world’s greatest actor.
CLS: Ooohh, Bob. I thought you meant the car, the Niro.
Maybe it is just me. Maybe I have been watching too many Bob De Niro movies. Maybe, maybe. Or maybe calling a car Niro – when there are a gazillion different possibilities out there – really is a practical joke.
Anyway, this being Kia’s first hybrid, I bet Mr. De Niro would approve of it – Hollywood stars tend to support eco-conscious projects and green enterprises. It takes someone like a newly-rich rapper or Bieber-something to be seen driving around in a Ferrari or Lamborghini. The big-screen elite drives EVs and hybrids nowadays.
So the Niro has a funny name, but it also has a lot more than that. It is Kia’s first foray into the hybrid world and they got it right the first time around. A very clever decision was to begin with a crossover, the type of car everybody seems to want these days. Families are even beginning to forget estates and MPVs do still actually exist.
Unlike De Niro, the Niro is an all-new product, built on an all-new platform developed inside the Hyundai-Kia group to underpin hybrids and electric vehicles only. It’s not a plug-in, which means the electric motor is run in parallel with the petrol engine via a double-clutch, six-speed automatic gearbox.
It slots in the line-up between the Ceed and the Sportage with a familiar design language boasting typical Kia details, such as the tiger nose grill. The extra weight of the batteries is balanced by a clever use of high-strength steel for the chassis and aluminium for the front bumper, tailgate and bonnet.
The petrol engine is a 1.6 litre, 105 horse power unit, standing side by side with the electric motor, a 1.56kWh block capable of generating 44 horse power. Total output stands at 141 horse power and both units can be used separately or in tandem with one another.
The electric motor can propel the Niro – with Robert De Niro inside if that would ever be the case – for short distances, until the petrol engine kicks in and powers the car. It also recharges the battery when kinetic energy cannot be harnessed from braking or the natural inertia of the vehicle.
Kia says this car will only emit 88g/km of CO2 and average 4.4 litres of fuel per 100km. I could not get that number, but I still managed 5.6 litres, which is pretty amazing for such a big car.
I drove around town, through some back roads and did about 300km of motorway cruising, and the Niro – damn it Bob – never skipped a beat. It’s not the fastest crossover around, not even close, but bearing in mind the police is out to get your licence, that is not so important in an everyday runabout.
The Niro – no comments – is a comfortable, quiet, smooth cruiser, perfectly suited to the family service. In traffic, the transition between electric and thermal mode is seamless and those horrid rush-hour jams even seem less of a problem.
Kia’s level of fit and finish is surprising no one these days. It’s not a Rolls-Royce, but it sure keeps up with the European competitors and betters them in some elements. The infotainment system works well, there are some gadgets to play with and free speed camera locations, so you don’t get pinched by the cops, you know? (ooops, am I talking wise-guy now?)
In Portugal, Kia is selling the Niro – man, what am I going to do about this name? – only in its highest spec, meaning it comes with all the toys and good-looking 18-inch wheels. However, a very aggressive launch strategy takes €4,200 off the sticker price, meaning you can take one of these babies home for €28,100. Now, is that an offer you can’t refuse or what?
Just do me a favour: please nickname your car Bob. You know – Bob ‘The’ Niro.
By Guilherme Marques