THE best ever record UK sales of Korean car maker Kia are set to get even better with the company taking on the likes of Toyota's Prius with their first hybrid rival named Niro that has just gone on sale in this country writes Bryan Longworth.
It is the latest phase in the Kia success story which has seen the company develop in the UK after coming to these shores some 25 years ago from a range of bargain priced cars into a manufacturer of stylish models such as the new Sportage that are taking on mainsteam manufacturers and being extremely successful.
Prius has been the market leader in the UK for hybrid models but now Kia is poised to take on Toyota with their attractive new compact SUV that starts at £21,295 which is around £2000 less than the Japanese rival.
Niro made its European debut at the Geneva Motor Show where it was the centre of attention on the Kia stand and it was clear that its attractive modern design will help the car stand out among conservatively styled hybrid rivals such as the Prius.
The all new platform has been engineered in isolation from existing Kia models and its powertrain comprises a 1.6-litre petrol engine, lithium ion polymer battery pack, 32 KW electric motor and six speed double cluch transmission with CO2 emissions of 88g/km and fuel economy of up to 74.3mpg.
Michael Cole the boss of Kia in the UK said Niro filled a gap in the market for a crossover with typically low hybrid emissions and it would appeal to a broad range of European buyers.
He said hybrid sales had more than doubled in Europe over the last five years and were forecast to account for around 700,000 sales by 2020 and Niro would allow Kia to meet this growing demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles and help Kia meet their 2020 global target to improve average fleet fuel efficiency by 25 per cent over 2014 levels.
It was styled by the Kia design centres in California and Korea and is instantly recognisable as a Kia especially as it bears the latest evolution of Kia's distinctive "tiger-nose" grille. Niro will be the latest model from the company to adopt Kia's connectivity package which offers drivers a wide range of up to date information including live traffic updates, speed camera locations and alerts, weather forecasts and local points of interest.
The new model will be front wheel drive only and will have a slightly raised seating position and higher ground clearance than its hybrid and hatchback rivals making entering and leaving the car much easier which will have big appeal especially to older owners.
And of course Niro which is being built in Korea will have the added attraction over Prius and other rivals with that seven year warranty which is much longer than all the others and is a big sales incentive for Niro.
Initial reaction to Niro has been very favourable and it seems highly likely that it will be another success for Kia in the hybrid sector in much the same way as the Sportage has become their star car.
Model: Kia Niro hybrid.
Engine: 1-6 litre petrol and 32 KW electric motor.
Transmission: Six speed automatic.
Fuel consumption: Up to 74.3mpg.
CO2 emissions: 88g/km.
Price: From £21,295.