Kia’s smart new Niro is a family-friendly hybrid

Korean brand launches two new models on Irish market with prices starting at €30,595

Kia is doubling up on its efforts to lure Irish motorists. Monday saw the launch of two new models onto the Irish market: the handsome Optima estate and the all-new Niro hybrid. For all the good looks of the Optima, the Niro stole the show.

The new crossover produces just 88g/km of CO2 and is very frugal too, with an average fuel consumption figure of 3.8 litres per 100 kilometres. The five-seater gets its power from its 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 32kWh electric motor that delivers a healthy combined output of 141hp and 265Nm of torque.

The Niro is an easy car to drive thanks to its dual-clutch automatic gearbox. There is no manual gearbox option. Hybrid technology can turn some buyers off with the complexity of the system or the various options of Sport mode or Eco Drive, but Niro isn’t in the slightest bit intimidating. The driver has no input or control over how the hybrid system delivers its power to the front wheels bar the judicious use of their right foot.

Niro styling

The Niro styling is a blend of SUV crossover and estate car. On sale from October 24th, Niro comes packed with creature comforts and is aimed at the premium mid-size crossover buyer. Prices start at €30,595 for the EXL model. Black leather seating is standard, as is Sat Nav, heated steering wheel and front seats, rain-sensing wipers, dual air-con, LED front and rear lights, privacy glass and Lane Keep Assist. There is an optional ADAS safety pack available from February. This pack features a host of driving aids that brings the car up from a four- to a five-star Euro NCAP rating under the new, stricter system.


No plug-in for Ireland

The Niro was designed on a completely new platform and in some markets is available as a plug-in hybrid. The PHEV version won't be on sale here as Kia Ireland says it wants to expand its model range at a rate it can support, so one hybrid is enough for now.

James Brooks, managing director of Kia Motors Ireland, said Niro, with its hybrid powertrain, is the right car for the current market. The big challenge facing the industry now is the demand coming from Europe to reduce emissions.

In 2015 the motor industry’s average CO2 emissions target was 127g/km of CO2; by 2020 it is set at 95g/km and by 2025 it is lower still at 75g/km. Speaking on how those targets can be met, Brooks said: “Public opinion is not going to make it happen . . . it needs the government to get involved.”

He said it is a tough target to reach over three or four years given the Government is trying to survive the next three months.

Brooks said the Europe fuel trend for cars over the next few years will see diesel demand slip from 55 per cent to 41 per cent, while petrol demand will remain constant.

Optima’s arrival

Meanwhile, the second arrow in the Kia quiver sees the Optima SW’s introduction here. This estate features a relatively powerful 141hp diesel and is aimed directly to take sales away from Hyundai’s i40, as the SW is loaded with options that make it better value compared to the similar-priced i40 Executive model that features a lower-output 115hp engine.

When compared to the €32,495 i40 Executive Plus with SW's 141hp engine, Optima still represents great value. Estate sales are tiny on this island next to our European friends. In Ireland it is dominated by the Skoda Superb, Hyundai i40 and VW Passat. Optima SW prices start at €29,950 with 18-inch alloys, sat- nav, dual zone air-con, cornering lights, auto lights, privacy glass, rain sensors and more.

Recently Kia topped the well-respected US JD Power survey for customer satisfaction. In the 2016 rankings Kia registered the fewest problems per 100 vehicles, Porsche came second, followed by Kia's sister company Hyundai in third.

Kia's product offensive will continue in 2017 with its new Rio compact car in March, and a new Picanto city car will go on sale in May of next year. A new B segment crossover is on the way as is a new Peter Schreyer GT car that will debut next year too.