Kia Niro review

Kia Niro Hybrid (

We test drive the Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid and EV versions of the all-new second generation Kia Niro…

The Niro compact crossover is an important car for Kia. After the slightly larger Sportage, it’s the South Korean brand’s second most successful model.

A genuine game-changer when it was launched in 2016, it was available with self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or 100% electric powertrains and offered practicality, peace of mind and economy at an affordable price.

Fast forward six years and more than 70,000 have been sold, while 55% of all Niro sales are fully electric. In fact, the e-Niro was the UK’s second best-selling EV in 2021.

The success of the all-electric version especially was no surprise, given the value for money it offered, plus that 282-mile range.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Now it’s time for the second-generation Niro. Again, there are hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions, and this time round it’s slightly bigger (65mm longer, 20mm taller and 10mm wider) and the interior features a higher proportion of sustainable and recycled materials.

Pricing starts at £27,745 (Niro Hybrid), followed by the Niro Plug-in Hybrid (£32,775) and the popular Niro EV from £34,995. Note, it’s no longer badged ‘e-Niro’.

There are three trim levels (‘2’, ‘3’ or ‘4’) and a choice of eight colours, with top spec ‘4’ models offered with an eye-catching two-tone paint option which features the C-pillar in contrasting Steel Grey or Black Pearl, depending on the chosen body colour.

Naturally, there are differences in spec and equipment between the trim levels, but as standard you get goodies such as LED headlights, rear parking sensors and camera system, a touchscreen display with DAB radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus driver assistance technologies such as Forward Collision Avoidance with car, pedestrian and cyclist recognition and junction crossing – and Smart Cruise Control.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Top-of-the-range ‘4’ grade models get a head-up display, twin 10.25-inch touchscreen, an instrument cluster display, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats, a power operated tailgate, electric sunroof, an uprated Harman Kardon premium sound system, driver’s side memory seating, and front passenger lumbar support.

There’s also Remote Smart Parking Assist, Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist and PU vegan leather seat coverings, containing Tencel from eucalyptus trees.

The all-new Niro EV combines a 64.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and a 201bhp electric motor.

Torque is rated at 255 Nm, and it can accelerate from 0-to-62 mph in 7.8 seconds. More importantly, an electric driving range of 285 miles is claimed.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Recharging from 10-80% takes as little as 45 minutes – up to nine minutes quicker than the outgoing model.

In colder months, the system uses navigation-based conditioning to pre-heat the battery when a charge point is selected as a destination, which helps shorten charge times and optimise battery performance.

The Niro Hybrid has a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. There’s also a 43bhp electric motor and small 1.32kW battery, delivering a combined maximum power output of 139bhp.

It can accelerate from standstill to 60mph in 10.4 seconds, fuel economy is up to 64.2mpg, while CO2 emissions are 100g/km.

The Niro Hybrid (and Plug-in Hybrid) also feature a new ‘Green Zone’ drive mode, which automatically switches to electric power based on location guidance from the navigation system, driver patterns, or manual selection by the driver.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Expected to be popular with business users because of its low CO2 emissions and tax benefits, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid uses the same 1.6-litre engine as the Hybrid, a larger 11.1kw battery (it takes about 2.5 hours to charge it at home) and an 83bhp electric motor, producing a combined 180bhp and 265Nm of torque.

Crucially, it has an electric-only driving range of up to 40 miles – more than enough to complete the average daily commute in the UK.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid can cover the 0-60mph sprint in 9.4 seconds, CO2 emissions are just 18g/km, while fuel economy could be as high as 353mpg (in theory).

Whichever version you go for, the new Niro is a much bolder looking crossover than the outgoing car with angular design cues and a hint of the larger Sportage. And those sharper looks continue to the rear corners which feature high-set upright boomerang-shaped lights.

The smart interior is attractive, and well designed, with twin 10.25-inch displays giving the dashboard a wow factor. Featuring slick, sharp graphics, the infotainment system is intuitive to use – something of a Kia trademark. Broadly speaking, the quality of the cabin, in terms of materials used and build quality, is good, but it won’t worry premium rivals.

Kia Niro Hybrid

There’s a real feeling of space and plenty of leg and headroom for adults in the back, while luggage capacity varies depending on the model chosen. For the record, the Plug-in Hybrid has 346 litres, the Hybrid gets 451 litres, and the EV boasts 475 litres. Flip the rear seats and you get 1,342, 1,445 or 1,392 litres.

You sit quite high in the comfortable seats so there’s a commanding driving position. Visibility is generally good, but those chunky rear pillars leave a bit of a blind spot.

The three versions of the Niro each have their own character. Naturally, the Niro EV is the smoothest and most refined of the trio.

It’s swift without being gut-wrenchingly quick like some other electric cars. And for a crossover with no performance SUV pretensions, it handles well (with the accent on comfort). Sure, there’s some body roll if it’s pushed, but it’s well controlled and it generally feels planted.

There’s good traction through the front wheels, while the all-round grip is impressive. There are various drive modes, and you can also adjust the level of brake energy recuperation using paddles behind the steering wheel. It’s worth playing around with them, but we found the normal/mid settings worked best for us.

Kia Niro Hybrid

The Plug-in Hybrid is refined too, unless you floor it and the petrol engine kicks in. Drive sensibly and the transition between electric and petrol, and vice versa, is much smoother.

There’s more than enough performance on tap for everyday driving and it works well with the six-speed automatic gearbox. Obviously, EV mode is a joy, if not as quick as it’s pure electric sibling.

With a firm suspension and sharp steering, it’s a lively performer and more agile than you might think, but as with the EV, it’s at its best cruising along.

The lethargic full Hybrid is the most disappointing version of the Niro. It’s not a bad car, but its shortcomings are apparent when it’s tested alongside the PHEV and EV models.

Not only is it down on power compared to its siblings, but the six-speed automatic gearbox can be tiresome. It’s fine at city speeds, but can become hesitant on faster roads, meaning the engine is more vocal, resulting is a far less relaxed driving experience.

Kia Niro Hybrid

On the plus side, it will slip into EV mode for short bursts in stop-start traffic or when manoeuvring, CO2 emissions are low, and the fuel economy is comparable.

The Hybrid has a slightly softer ride than the PHEV, and again is easy to drive. Just don’t push it.

The Niro hasn’t been tested for safety by Euro NCAP, but we’d expect it to get a maximum five stars (like the Sportage and EV6) because it’s packed with driver assistance and safety technology.

Finally, the Niro comes with a large dose of peace of mind because, as with all Kia cars, it comes with a generous seven-year warranty.

Verdict: The all-new Kia Niro family-sized crossover is a step-up from its predecessor, offering a winning blend of good looks, space, safety, practicality, generous equipment levels and comfort.

Kia UK

Nissan Juke Hybrid review

Nissan Juke Hybrid

We test drive the new hybrid version of the much-improved Nissan Juke – the compact crossover designed, developed and manufactured in the UK.

Cards on table time – I was never a fan of the original, pioneering Nissan Juke. Launched in 2010, its looks were at best challenging, and I didn’t like the way it handled.

All that changed in 2019 when the second-generation Juke was introduced. Not only did the design switch from weird to funky, but it drove much better, there was more interior space and quality was stepped up.

Fast forward three years and Nissan has launched a full hybrid (or self-charging) version of the Juke, which is claimed to deliver 25% more power and 20% less fuel consumption.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

Priced from £27,250 to £30,150, the newcomer uses much the same hybrid powertrain as the Renault Captur E-Tech hybrid, taking advantage of Nissan’s alliance with the French car maker.

The Japanese firm supplies the 1.6-litre engine (93bhp) and electric motor (48bhp), while Renault provides the gearbox, high-voltage 15kW starter-generator and 1.2kWh water-cooled battery.

The combined 141bhp of power is sent to the Juke’s front wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox and it can “sprint” from 0-62 mph in 10.1 seconds.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

More importantly, the car can return up to 56.5mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 114g/km.

Exterior changes include more aerodynamic bodywork to improve airflow and reduced drag, ‘Hybrid’ badges on the front doors and the tailgate, plus a black-gloss grille featuring the new Nissan logo, as seen on the larger Nissan Qashqai.

Other tweaks include keyless entry and two new colours (Ceramic Grey and stunning Magnetic Blue).

Nissan Juke Hybrid

The new Juke Hybrid also offers new two-tone 17-inch alloy wheels and a 19-inch design inspired by those fitted to the upcoming Nissan Ariya electric SUV.

Inside, it gains a new set of dials behind the steering wheel. A power gauge replaces the rev counter so you can monitor regenerative charge and battery charge level.

There are three selectable drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport), plus an EV button. The Juke Hybrid can be run on pure electric for a maximum of 1.8 miles at speeds of up to 35mph and Nissan reckons it will travel on battery power for up to 80% of the time around town.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

There’s also an ‘e-Pedal’ button which allows the movement of the car to be controlled using just the accelerator pedal. When the driver’s foot is lifted from the accelerator, moderate braking is applied, and the car will decelerate to a crawl of around 3mph. This regenerative braking also helps to recharge the battery.

Boot space is reduced by 68 litres compared to the regular 1.0-litre petrol turbo Juke, because of the larger battery pack. However, there’s still a decent 354 litres, or 1,237 litres when the rear seats are folded down.

The cabin is a pleasant surprise thanks to the overall uplift in build quality and materials. Yes, there are some hard plastics used down below, but up top it’s mostly soft-touch, attractively designed (in a busy, old school sort of way) and has a solid feel.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

Unlike most crossovers, I was able to achieve a decent driving position because it’s possible to lower the seat more than usual. What’s more, I could sit behind myself, if you get my drift. The only slight negative is that the Juke’s waistline rises at the back, so smaller rear-seat passengers will struggle to see out of the windows.

The ride is on the firm side, but it’s perfectly comfortable and cruises nicely, while body roll is kept in check.

There’s plenty of poke from the electrically assisted engine and the switch from electric to petrol power, and vice versa, is seamless.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

The automatic gearbox works well enough, though the shifts are laboured when you put your foot down. It’s also worth noting that there are no paddles behind the steering wheel to hurry things along.

There’s plenty of grip up front, the steering is light and responsive, and it generally feels planted.

Our road test took in a mixture of city, motorway and country driving and we achieved around 45mpg, but I’m sure 50mpg is achievable on a longer, more relaxed run.

In other words, it’s not the most economical compact full hybrid out there, but every little helps.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

The Juke is already well equipped, so there’s full connectivity (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay) and the latest safety features including Traffic Sign Recognition, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and Hill Start Assist.

Our test car was also fitted with ProPilot – an advanced driving assistance technology that takes care of the steering, accelerating and braking on major roads.

Overall, the second-generation Juke is a huge improvement on the original, while the new full hybrid option is the icing on the cake.

Verdict: Thanks to the addition of hybrid technology, there’s never been a better time to switch to a Nissan Juke. Extra power and better economy complement the already practical, comfortable, well equipped and fun to drive compact crossover that it is. Well worth a test drive.

Nissan UK

Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid review

Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid review

The Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid is an intriguing car. Its sleek ‘coupe SUV’ styling gives it serious kerb appeal, there’s plenty of room for all the family and it’s a full hybrid, so there’s no need to plug it in.

Add Renault’s solid five-year warranty, plus all the latest safety kit it comes with, and this Nissan Qashqai-sized crossover ticks a lot of boxes on paper.

Slotting between the Captur and Kadjar in the Renault range, the Arkana is available with two engine options – both fitted with automatic gearboxes.

Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid review

The TCe 140 model consists of a 1.3-litre mild hybrid petrol engine, offering 138bhp and a combined fuel consumption figure of 48.7mpg. It’s the quickest of the two Arkanas, reaching 62mph from rest in less than 9.8 seconds.

The car we tested, the E-Tech Hybrid, combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with two electric motors, offering a total of 143bhp. Fitted with a small 1.2kWh battery, the system prioritises all-electric running unless full power is required and Renault claims it can return up to 58.9mpg with a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds, while CO2 emissions are a low 109g/km.

First impressions are good. The Arkana stands out from the crowd and looks particularly good in Zanzibar Blue. There’s a real feeling of space inside and the attractive dashboard layout is similar to the Captur, on which the Arkana is based.

Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid review

Soft-touch surfaces are welcome and overall build quality is impressive inside, while up front it’s more solid and functional than flash. There’s a digital instrument display behind the steering wheel and a portrait-shaped 9.3-inch infotainment touchscreen in the centre console (7.0-inch in the entry-level model).

The driving position is relatively high (the car itself is taller than you might think) and there’s ample leg and headroom for adults to travel comfortably in the rear. There’s a useful 480 litres to boot space (slightly down on the mild hybrid model which has no rear battery), expanding to 1,263 litres with the rear seats down.

Visibility is generally good. Our only gripe was that our test car was not fitted with a rear wiper, which is especially annoying on motorways in the wet.

Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid review

You’re likely to start off in EV mode and the petrol engine will only kick in if you boot it. Unfortunately, we soon discovered that the Arkana’s six-speed F1-derived clutchless auto transmission, which is supposed to be more efficient and smoother than a conventional automatic, is the car’s weak point.

The gearbox is sluggish and unpredictable at times, meaning that the engine’s revs rise alarmingly at the slightest encouragement. This often-noisy driving experience is a shame because the Arkana package as a whole has a lot right with it.

Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid review

There are three driving modes (Eco, Sport and MySense). The latter is effectively the ‘normal’ mode, and the setting you’re likely to leave the car in.

There’s also a button on the dashboard for manually switching to electric mode yourself, as well as a ‘B’ mode on the gear selector for extra regenerative braking (the system that adds charge to the battery by harvesting energy otherwise wasted during braking and coasting).

Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid review

The transition from electric power to engine propulsion, and vice versa, is reasonably smooth – and engine noise aside – it’s no slouch. Naturally it’s hushed in EV mode, but it’s also fairly refined on a motorway cruise.

The Arkana’s set-up is on the firm side, so it handles surprisingly well with controlled body lean, there’s decent grip and it generally feels composed.

We tested the mid-range S Edition, though more spirited drivers might want to consider the top-of-the-range RS Line model which features sporty design cues. That said, we doubt that it is any more dynamic on the road, even in Sport mode.

We couldn’t get close to Renault’s claimed economy figures, but depending on your route and driving style, anywhere between 40-50mpg is realistic.

Verdict: It would be easy to dismiss the new Renault Arkana as a case of style over substance. Yes, it’s an eye-catching coupe SUV and, yes, there are some issues with the gearbox, but overall, it’s a comfortable, practical, quality package backed up by a decent five-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Renault Arkana E-Tech Hybrid review

Renault UK