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

Volkswagen ID.4 review

Volkswagen ID.4 review

Is VW’s new electric car right for your family? We find out…

Futuristically designed inside and out, the ID.4 is Volkswagen’s first 100% electric SUV.

Winner of the prestigious World Car of the Year 2021 award, this distinctive family-sized EV features a small driver’s digital instrument cluster and a larger infotainment screen mounted on the centre console (just like its smaller sibling, the ID.3 hatchback).

Volkswagen ID.4 review

Priced from £34,995 and available with two sizes of battery (52kW and 77kW), it has a range of between 211-317 miles and achieved a maximum five-star Euro NCAP score, making it one of the safest new cars on the road. 

Fitted with Isofix points in the front passenger seat, as well as the rear, standard safety and driver assistance systems include AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking), lane assist, adaptive cruise control and driver fatigue detection.

Volkswagen ID.4 review

It also features a centre-mounted airbag which protects the driver and front passenger from hard mutual contact in the event of a side crash.

In terms of size, the ID.4 is about the same size as a Tiguan, but bigger inside, so it’s substantial with plenty of room for the family.

Volkswagen ID.4 review

There’s also lots of space for luggage – 543 litres with the rear seats in place, expanding to 1,575 litres with all the back seats flipped.

We tested the ID.4 with the biggest battery and the longest range (starting at around £46,000). It’s mid-range and is billed as the ‘Family’ version. There’s also the entry-level Life, followed by Style, (Family), Max, GTX and GTX Max.

Despite feeling big on the road and weighing more than two tonnes, it’s swift with a 0-62mph sprint time of 8.5 seconds. And, as ever with an electric vehicle (EV), there’s instant oomph and zero emissions.

Volkswagen ID.4 review

It’s also easy to drive with a commanding view of the road. The interior design is cool, comfortable, well put together and minimalist, though the infotainment screen won’t appeal to everyone because it’s all about tapping and swiping – and it’s not the most responsive system out there.

It would be an exaggeration to call this version of the ID.4 fun to drive, but all EVs have their moments (especially at traffic lights and overtaking) and it’s a joy to cruise along silently.

Volkswagen ID.4 review

Our test car was not all-wheel drive, but still seemed to have plenty of traction and grip. Composed, unless really pushed in more challenging corners, it’s more agile than you might think for a big car.

However, if you want all-wheel drive and more tuned driving dynamics, then you’ll have to opt for one of the more sporty range-stoppers.

Volkswagen ID.4

As far as practicality goes, if you have a home wallpod, it will fully charge overnight (11 hours). If you can find a 125kW rapid charger, it will take just 38 minutes to reach 80% full charge, while a real-world range of 250 miles is very realistic.

Of course, the ID.4 will also charge on the move via regenerative braking (which returns most of the energy from braking and coasting back into the battery while you’re driving).

Volkswagen ID.4 review

Electric SUV rivals include the Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia e-Niro, Audi Q4 e-tron, Volvo XC40 Recharge, Skoda Enyaq and Ford Mustang Mach-e.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a big SUV that’s kind to the planet, stands out from the crowd and boasts serious badge appeal, then the practical Volkswagen ID.4 could be right up your street. In short, it’s the kind of sensible car you buy with your head, not your heart. Price: from £34,995 – £56,380 (including the Government Plug-in Car Grant)

Kia EV6 review

Kia EV6 review

We test the all-new Kia EV6 – an electric car that’s more than just eye candy

Kia has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to electrification – from the EV version of the quirky Soul in 2015 to the game-changing e-Niro of 2018, plus hybrids along the way.

Now the South Korean car company is on the money again with its EV6 – Kia first’s electric-only vehicle with a 300-mile plus range.

At launch the futuristic fastback is available as either a 321bhp four-wheel-drive (dual motor) or a more affordable 226bhp rear-drive (single motor). The usable battery capacity is 77.4kWh, regardless of which configuration you choose.

Kia EV6 review

The single motor has the greatest range (328 miles compared to 314 miles). The top speeds for both are 114mph, while the 0–60mph time for the four-wheel-drive version is 2.1 seconds faster at 5.2 seconds.

Charging from 10-80% takes as little as 18 minutes via 350kW ultra rapid charger (it’s future-proofed with 800-volt charging infrastructure). A more common 50kW charger will take one hour 13 minutes, or if you can plug-in at home (7kW) it will take seven hours 20 minutes.

Priced from £40,840 to £51,840, its rivals include everything from the Ford Mustang Mach-E to the Jaguar I-Pace, Polestar 2, Tesla Model 3, Volkswagen ID.4 and its cousin, the Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Kia EV6 review

A smidgen smaller than an I-Pace, the boldly styled EV6 also shares the stubby nose, short overhangs, pop-out door handles and big wheels of the Jag.

Inside, it’s spacious and slick, with plenty of room for five adults. Our only gripes are that we’d like the driver’s seat to lower a little more and rear visibility could be better.

Elsewhere, there’s a generous 490 litres of space in the deep, but shallow boot, expanding to 1,300 litres with the rear seats folded.

Kia EV6 review

The EV6 also features extra storage at the front – a front boot, front trunk, or ‘frunk’ – providing an additional 52 litres of storage space for RWD models and 20 litres for AWDs – more than enough space for charging cables.

Inside the cabin it has a classy feel and it’s well put together, but there are more hard plastic surfaces than we would like.

On the plus side, it is trimmed in a range of sustainable materials, such as “vegan leather” seats, and sections of the dashboard and centre console are clad in recycled plastics, equivalent to 107 plastic 500ml water bottles per car.

Kia EV6 review

There’s a large, curved touchscreen on top of the dashboard, alongside a digital driver’s display. Both are 12.3-inches and feature Kia’s usual clear graphics. Generally, it looks state-of-the-art and delivers a good mix of dials, buttons and touchscreens.

Standard equipment with the entry-level EV6 includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, LED lights, heated front seats and steering wheel, sat-nav based smart cruise control and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Goodies further up the range includes wireless smartphone charging, privacy glass, blind-spot collision warning, a panoramic sunroof, remote smart park assist, a powered tailgate, a 14-speaker Meridian audio system and a head-up display.

Kia EV6 review

On the road the EV6 is comfortable, refined and turns heads for all the right reasons. There really is nothing like it on the market at present.

We tested both the single and dual motor versions and frankly there’s not much between them. If money is no object and the loss of 14 miles of range makes no difference, then go for the all-wheel drive version which is a tad faster and offers extra traction.

A button on the steering wheel allows you to choose between Sport, Eco and Normal drive modes. Normal is just fine and Sport is fun for overtaking, while Eco is strictly for Scrooges and motorway runs.

Kia EV6 review

The steering wheel paddles let you choose between six levels of regenerative braking, the last of which switches to “one-pedal” driving, which harvests maximum energy when you lift off the accelerator, bringing the car to a stop without touching the brakes.

The EV6 does a decent job of hiding its two-tonne weight, feeling agile and staying flat in faster corners. However, when really pushed the crossover origins it shares with the Hyundai Ioniq 5 are more obvious. No doubt the upcoming GT version will unleash the EV6’s full dynamic potential.

Kia EV6 review

That said, the steering is light enough in town, yet adds weight at speed, while the brakes are more progressive than many an EV.

No car is perfect and the EV6 is no exception, but it’s still an impressive all-round package with a range far exceeding many premium rivals.

Verdict: The all-new, all-electric EV6 is another great value game-changer from Kia – a winning blend of style, performance, practicality, technology and long-range capability.

Kia Motors UK

Volvo C40 Recharge review

Volvo C40 Recharge

Volvo is doing its bit to save the planet, and it has an ambitious plan for a zero emissions future.

By 2025, 50% of its global sales will consist of fully electric cars. By 2030, it aims to sell only EVs before turning “climate neutral” 10 years later.

The Swedish car maker’s latest model, the C40 Recharge, is a case in point. It’s electric-only (there will be no petrol or hybrid variants) and it’s manufactured using a variety of sustainable materials.

Volvo C40 Recharge

For instance, the carpets are made from 71 recycled plastic PET bottles, and thanks to renewable wool fibres, it’s the first Volvo to feature leather-free upholstery.

You could even say the car itself has something of a recycled feel to it because it shares its EV powertrain and much of its body with the XC40 – Volvo’s big-selling SUV.

Unlike its sibling, it’s sleeker with a lower roof line and steeply-raked rear window, while the front end introduces a new face for electric Volvos. Here, the signature Thor’s Hammer headlights are augmented with pixel technology designed to avoid dazzling other road users.

Volvo C40 Recharge

It’s also fitted with the latest version of Volvo’s infotainment system, jointly developed with Google and based on the Android operating system.

So now there’s access to Google Play apps and services like Google Assistant and Google Maps. It’s also capable of over-the-air updates, which means the car is constantly kept up to speed with the latest software.

The voice commands (prompted by “Hey Google”) usefully cut down on the swiping, pinching and scrolling otherwise needed to control the features within 9.0-inch central touchscreen.

Volvo C40 Recharge

C is for Crossover and Volvo claims the C40 Recharge provides buyers with the high seating position that its owners prefer. The reality is that there’s very little difference between the siblings apart from the design.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way because the pure electric XC40 Recharge is a fantastic package, offering the combination of style, practicality, performance and a decent range of up to 259 miles.

The C40’s lower roof line looks smarter and makes it more aerodynamic, resulting in a higher range of 273 miles.

It also differs from other models in the Volvo range because it can only be bought online and it’s also available with a ‘Care by Volvo’ package (monthly subscription from £729) which offers a warranty, servicing and roadside assistance, as well as insurance and home charging options where available.

Volvo C40 Recharge

At launch there’s just one version of the C40 Recharge available with an eye-watering ticket price of £57,400, though in time we can expect other more affordable specs.

Like the XC40 Recharge, the C40 has twin electric motors – one on the front and one on the rear axle – and is powered by a 78kWh battery that can be fast-charged from 10 to 80% in about 40 minutes (via a 150kW rapid charger).

Inside the factory

We were given a quick tour of Volvo’s impressive state-of-the-art plant at Ghent in Belgium, where the C40 is assembled on the same production line as the XC40 and V60 estate.

Volvo C40 Recharge production line in Ghent, Belgium

Volvo is increasing EV capacity at the facility to 135,000 cars per year, and already expects more than half of the plant’s production volume in 2022 to consist of fully electric cars.

On the road, the C40 offers the same combination of blistering performance and polished road manners as the XC40 Recharge.

Developing a combined 402hp, it can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds, which is almost supercar fast. Plant your right foot on an A road and before you know it, you’re travelling at the legal limit.

Volvo C40 Recharge

The ride is smooth and refined, the light steering is sharp and it handles well for a relatively heavy crossover.

There’s surprisingly good body control in faster, more challenging corners and plenty of traction thanks to all-wheel drive.

The brakes are progressive, which is relatively rare in EVs, and the regenerative braking system (which recovers kinetic energy otherwise lost during braking to recharge the battery) works well, especially in one-pedal mode where a simple lift off the accelerator is usually enough to slow the car down without using the brakes.

Volvo C40 Recharge

Ultimately, the C40 is a smoothie, at its best cruising. And as most EV drivers will tell you, the challenge of squeezing as much range as possible out of the battery is irresistible, so apart from the odd burst of instant-torque acceleration, it’s more about economical driving.

I have a few criticisms. I would have liked some drive modes (no Sport or Normal – just one-pedal or not). And even though the C40 Recharge ticks lots of eco-friendly boxes, the lack of leather and Scandi chic wood veneers made the interior less special to me.

The lower roofline also results in a slight headroom penalty for rear passengers six-foot or over, while the rear window itself is more post box than panoramic, so the view behind is on the challenging side.

Volvo C40 Recharge

The C40 has less boot space than the XC40 Recharge, but there’s still a useful 413 litres of luggage capacity (down from 452 litres), or a total of 1,205 litres if you flip the 60/40 split rear bench (1,328 litres). That said, rear passenger legroom is generous.

Up front there’s a 31-litre compartment under the bonnet – ideal for storing charging cables. There are also plenty of storage spaces scattered inside the cabin for phones, water bottles and other clutter.

Needless to say, like all Volvos, the C40 is packed with the latest safety and driver assistance tech as standard, including lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a 360-degree parking camera which makes it easier to get in and out of tight spaces.

However, at this price the C40 is up against tough EV competition – everything from the Hyundai Kona Electric, Skoda Enyaq and Kia e-Niro up to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Polestar 2, Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron and Mercedes EQA.

Verdict: The stylish new Volvo C40 Recharge is a class act, blending performance, practicality and refinement with a good EV range and extensive safety features. At launch, the sole top-of-the-range model is on the expensive side, but in time the C40 will become more attainable as other variants are offered.

Volvo Cars UK

Lexus UX 300e review

Lexus UX 300e review

Lexus was a part-electrification pioneer when it launched the RX400h self-charging hybrid SUV way back in 2004.

However, it’s taken until now for the premium car maker to bring its first all-electric vehicle – the UX 300e – to market.

Consequently, it’s a little late to the party, joining the likes of the similarly sized Kia e-Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric and Peugeot e-2008, to name but a few.

Lexus UX 300e review

Starting at £41,745, the Lexus has an official range just shy of 200 miles (190-196 miles, depending on the wheel size) and looks much the same as its hybrid sibling (priced from £29,955).

“Compact, classy, comfortable and economical, it’s engaging to drive, distinctive and oozes badge appeal,” was our conclusion when we reviewed the regular UX (Urban Crossover) in 2019.

In fact, our only gripes were the CVT gearbox (short doses of uncomfortably high revs on hard acceleration) and the infotainment screen which is accessed via a fiddly touchpad down beside the gear selector.

Lexus UX 300e review

The infotainment system is much the same in the UX 300e, but going all electric means there’s no need for a CVT because it’s a one-speed like all EVs, so the new model is a smoother operator.

For now there’s just one power option and three trims levels. A 201bhp e-motor and 54.3kW battery pack combine to power the front wheels and it’s good for a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.5 seconds.

The UX 300e can be fully charged at home in just over eight hours or via a 50KW public charger (up to 80%) in as little as 50 minutes.

Lexus UX 300e review

Naturally, it’s also (modestly) charged on the move via regenerative braking (the levels are controlled via steering wheel paddle shifters) which converts much of the energy lost while decelerating back into stored energy in the car’s battery.

Talking of charge, we found the UX’s real world range to be closer to 170 miles, though this figure will always depend on driving style, terrain, whether you use items such as the heater and the outside temperature.

To look at, the sleek electric UX is definitely one of the most stylish compact SUVs available.

Lexus UX 300e review

In fact, it looks like no other car in its class with bold, sculpted lines, a full-width rear lightbar, roof spoiler and that unmistakable Lexus mesh front grille.

Slightly lower than most competitors and sporting a coupe-like profile, it’s full of innovative features including wheel arch mouldings which not only protect the bodywork, but also have a secondary aerodynamic function, just like the rear lights and the special alloy wheels.

Inside, it oozes class. There’s plenty of room up front, though it’s not as spacious in the rear as some rivals, no is there much space to stick your feet under the front seats, thanks to the batteries below.

Lexus UX 300e review

Luggage capacity is a useful 367 litres (more than the hybrid UX) expanding to 1,278 litres with the rear seats folded.

The cabin itself is stylish, beautifully finished and very Lexus with superb attention to detail. Up front it’s very driver-centric with the instrument panel, switchgear and infotainment screen subtly angled away from the passenger.

Despite its batteries, the UX 300e feels light on the road and even swifter than the official acceleration figures suggest. In fact, in the wet, the traction control system struggles to stop the front wheels spinning if you really go for it.

Lexus UX 300e review

There is a Sport mode, but the difference isn’t that dramatic, and while body control in faster corners is fairly good, the overwhelming sensation is one of comfort and refinement, which again, is very Lexus.

Like many electric cars, the brakes aren’t massively responsive, though the steering is light, making it easy to drive around town.

The 300e is packed with safety and driver assistance systems, and when the hybrid UX was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019 it achieved a maximum score of five stars.

Lexus UX 300e review

And for extra peace of mind, it comes with the standard Lexus three-year/60,000 mile manufacturer warranty for the car, plus an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.

Perhaps the 300e’s biggest challenge is its price point and range. For instance, it costs significantly more than the e-Niro and Kona Electric (which both have a range closer to 300 miles) and is even nudging the bigger Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model 3.

Verdict: Refined, comfortable and offering a premium experience, the all-electric Lexus UX 300e is a class act. With a range best suited to urban ownership, it’s easy to drive and stands out from the crowd, but it’s also up against some serious competition.