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Kia Niro Hybrid 2022 review: A sensible car for these crazy times

By Kenny Yeo - 13 May 2023

Kia Niro Hybrid 2022 review: A sensible car for these crazy times

Note: This review was first published on 8 December 2022.

The Kia Niro Hybrid is one the more affordable hybrid compact SUVs you can buy right now.

The COE system is surely one of the most exasperating things about car ownership in our country. Never mind the fact that it’s valid for only 10 years, what’s more frustrating about it is that it can fluctuate wildly. As little a year ago, the price of a Cat A COE was hovering around the S$58,000 mark. Today, it’s comfortably over S$80,000. You have to be a) loaded or b) desperate to want to purchase a brand-new car now. But if you were desperate, Kia’s new Niro Hybrid might not be a bad choice after all.

The TL;DR version:

A sensible and practical choice for anyone who absolutely needs to get a car right now. 

Let’s begin with the obvious, with prices starting at S$161,999 (correct at the time of publishing), the Niro Hybrid is one of the more affordable cars you can buy right now – particularly if you are in the market for a compact hybrid SUV. Yes, S$160,000 is considered affordable, it feels strange typing that but that’s the world we live in right now.

The powertrain consists of a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated inline four and a 32kW electric motor.

And because it’s a hybrid, running costs should be fairly reasonable. Propelling the car is a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated in-line four that’s paired with a 32kW electric motor. Kia claims it’ll do 4L/100km and over 24 hours and over 200km of testing, I managed a rather impressive 4.6L/100km or 21.74km/l – which isn’t far off from Kia’s claims. This was over a mix of around 60% highway driving and 40% city driving, and with a fairly heavy right foot. 

The motor has a surprising amount of low-end grunt. Together, the internal combustion engine and electric motor put out 130hp and 144nm of torque. It may not sound like much but the Niro Hybrid is surprisingly brisk off the line to around 80km/h or so. It’s zippy around town and feels more powerful than the numbers on its spec sheet suggest. However, it runs out of puff when it goes over 100km/h so you’ll need to be more cautious with high-speed overtaking manoeuvres, especially on the NSHW.

As you can see, I got very close to Kia's claimed efficiency of 4L/100km.

It's remarkable how the hybrid powertrain switches between the internal combustion engine and electric motor. The engine shuts itself down and starts up smoothly and silently. The only time you are ever aware it's working is if you pin the throttle and ask for maximum performance. 

But you don’t buy the Niro Hybrid for performance, you buy it for its features and practicality, and it delivers these in spades. To be clear, the version I'm driving is the pricier SX version (S$176,999) and it justifies its higher asking price with additional features like a sunroof, larger digital displays, and additional safety features.

The cabin is spacious and airy. And as you can see, there's a lot of black plastic around the twin digital displays.

Like many cars these days, the Niro Hybrid eschews analogue gauges for completely digital ones. There are twin 10.25-inch displays – one for your infotainment and the other for the instrument cluster. They are sharp enough but the colours seem a bit washed out. 

Kia calls the twin displays a panoramic curved display but they are just two displays integrated into a large swathe of black plastic. One unfortunate consequence of this is that there are huge bezels around the displays which suggests to me that they could probably have outfitted the car with larger displays. 

I spent the first few hours trying to find the infotainment controls only to discover that the touch control strip under the aircon vents is changeable. Tap the mode button and you can switch between climate control and controls for the infotainment system. That’s neat, though I worry about what would happen should the strip somehow fail someday and you are stuck in a particular mode.

The interior is airy and spacious, and the more pricey SX version that I tested even comes with a sunroof – albeit a rather modestly sized one. Rear legroom is sufficient even for folks of above-average height and there are aircon vents in the rear as well as two USB-C charging points that are integrated into the back of the front passenger seats. Speaking of which, the front passengers are ventilated, which is great for warm days. Curiously, the seats and steering wheel both have heating functions.

Interestingly, the Niro Hybrid has heated and ventilated seats as well as a heated steering wheel. And yes, the centre console is supremely prone to smudges.

As for safety features, the SX variant that I’m testing not only has the usual lane-keeping assist and front and blind-side collision warning, but it also has adaptive cruise control which is something usually found on pricier cars. 

The ride is well-judged. Kia has struck a good middle ground between comfort and control. It doesn’t roll or pitch too badly (something SUVs tend to do) but neither is it too firm that it's uncomfortable. However, it can be upset by challenging roads. And as for styling, I suppose most people would consider the Niro Hybrid to be a handsome car. Certainly, it has sharp lines and a modern aesthetic. The headlights and rear tail lights are quirky.

This colour is Cityscape Green.

All things considered, it’s hard to fault the Niro Hybrid for what it offers. It sips fuel like a nun sips wine, has a ton of space, and features that are usually found on pricier cars. One could argue that it’s a lot of money for what is essentially a small SUV and that most of it goes towards a piece of paper that becomes worthless in 10 years. Those are irrefutable points, but if you must buy a car now, there aren't many options that are more sensible than the new Niro Hybrid.

The Good
  • Spacious, airy cabin
  • Efficient and refined hybrid powertrain
  • Large boot
  • Contemporary styling
  • Well-spec'd cabin
  • Many safety features including adaptive cruise control
  • One of the more affordable hybrid compact SUVs you can buy
The Bad
  • High COE prices mean you pay a lot for a compact SUV
  • SX variant commands a rather hefty premium
  • Lots of shiny, smudge-prone plastics in the cabin
  • Performance tapers off quickly at higher speeds


 

Pricing and availability

The Kia Niro Hybrid comes in two versions: the entry-level EX and the more premium SX. As I mentioned earlier, the SX model comes with additional features. The EX variant is priced at S$161,999 while the SX is S$176,999.

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