With the number of client enquiries about EV’s (Electric Vehicles) and PEV’s really starting to ramp up, I decided it was time to schedule a trip over my favourite test route – the Kaimais to Lake Karapiro and back in one of the newer Hybrids to hit the market.
I picked up the Niro HEV EX 1.6 FWD SUV demonstrator from Graeme at Tauranga Motor Co and he ran me through the differences to shall we say standard petrol vehicles. The first thing I noticed was the interesting dash instrumentation and that the battery charge needle was getting a bit low. Graeme said not to worry about it, that it would start up in petrol and start charging pretty quickly once I started applying the brakes. Shades of formula 1 came to mind. He told me that they had not needed to charge it in the 2,500 kms since new and with a top up of the petrol tank, the range to empty was showing at over 900kms.
Before I set forth, I had a walk around and a sit in the back and noted the crisp modern SUV styling and the family resemblance to the Sportage, a proven favourite and top sales performer in the medium SUV sector – not a bad thing. First impression positives were the generous boot size, all-round visibility and general head and shoulder room. You can always nit-pick, so I did and wondered about the marketing departments wisdom of leaving out a few basics on the EX model such as rear parcel shelf, push button start and more attractive upholstery. Yes, I know, that’s a bit subjective, but an hour or so into the journey, I found myself comparing the seat support and cabin ambiance a little unfavourably to the Vitara Turbo which had previously impressed me.
Pulling out on to Cameron road and accelerating into the traffic, my first impression was that progress was average rather than blistering, but I reminded myself of the target demographic and navigated onto the bypass and found no difficulty keeping with the traffic flow. I clicked in the adaptive (Smart) cruise control and let the clever electronics smooth away the need for human radar as I familiarised myself with the technology and safety features of which there were plenty. On an aside, I continue to be amazed by the value of adaptive cruise and lane keep assist and firmly believe there could be significant reductions in serious accidents if all manufacturers introduced these features across all models.
The Niro started to impress me more as the ease of using the Apple car play, hands-free integration, intuitive audio and cruise controls fell readily to hand. I was caught out a few times though by the Euro (left side) indicators but noticed the average fuel consumption was settling in around the 4L/100km mark and on steady cruise was starting to employ the now charged up battery power.
As I hit the bottom of the Kaimais and locked in the cruise control at 102kph I was able to slip easily past the truck and trailer units and progress automatically adjusted to any traffic in my lane traveling at a similar pace. I was starting to get the feel for the hybrid characteristics and the thought not for the last time crossed my mind that maybe I could live with one of these (a curious admission from a died in the wool long-time petrol-head).
The little Kia was giving me a feeling of quiet confidence in it, handling with a comfortably planted stance on the bends and a nicely compliant ride – quietish too except for a bit of tyre roar on the sections of harsh chip. Performance felt to be quite lively now with crisp changes up and down the 6-speed dual clutch auto, and the hybrid transitioning seamlessly between petrol and battery power. I didn’t feel the need to slip it in to sport mode as we were more than comfortably keeping pace with all other traffic in standard drive mode. Average fuel consumption was showing as 4.5l/100kms and would do so over the whole journey. No doubt this could well be improved upon in less testing terrain, and the claimed 3.8 seemed realistic enough to me.
In summary, I was pleasantly surprised by my first drive in the Niro. There were a lot of positives with only a hand full of minor niggles in a package built to a very competitive price. This has cemented in my mind that Hybrid with its self-charging, miserly running costs, and versatility has a very promising future. Would I own one? In truth, yes, I think I would. It ticks a lot of boxes with practicality and cost of ownership right near the top of the class. Factor in the list of standard equipment and the 1300 braked trailer rating, and it seems like a lot of bang for your buck.
How affordable is it? Kia’s introductory pricing looks sharp at $39,990 and a Driveline Smartlease comes in at $595 per month excluding GST. This includes Kia’s 5-year warranty and the feel-good bonus of contributing your bit to the environment.
If you’d like to find out more about the Kia Niro, give us a call on 0800 275374 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org