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2023 KIA Niro Hybrid Singapore Review - 1.6 SX

The KIA Niro Hybrid is KIA's latest small crossover SUV that runs a Smartstream 1.6 litre petrol engine together with an electric motor, producing a combined 129 bhp, ensuring that it sits within the CAT A COE bracket. In the SX variant of the car, it comes well equipped with functions such as lane keeping assist, ventilated front seats, wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, ambient lighting, and adaptive cruise control through its multi function steering wheel.

Modern & Youthful

For those who remember previous generations of the KIA Niro Hybrid, you might remember a slightly awkward, generic looking vehicle. However, KIA have been stepping up their designs for some time now, and the new Niro Hybrid is good testament that the KIA design teams are moving in the right direction. Whether you appreciate the car's rugged and modern looks is a subjective matter, but there is no doubt that the current crop of KIA vehicles looks more distinct in their styling language than ever - a good thing considering how consumers are getting more discerning.

On the outside, bold and distinct headlight designs and tastefully placed black cladding give the Niro Hybrid an adventurous and outgoing stance, masking the Niro Hybrid's true nature as a city dwelling vehicle. On the inside, a good level of technology and equipment coupled with a modern and futuristic cabin design help the Niro Hybrid punch above its weight, giving the car interior a more premium look than what is typically available in this class. The car even has ventilated seats in the SX variant we tested.

A Surprisingly Good Drive

While the punchy 1.6 litre Smartstream power unit provides a good starting point for the Niro Hybrid, the car's dual clutch transmission steals the show in my opinion. In a segment that is typically dominated by dull and emotionless CVTs, the Niro Hybrid's dual clutch provides a much more engaging drive than its key competitors in the segment.

Quick shifting in town, and settled on higher speeds and longer journeys, the Niro Hybrid possesses the drivability of a Volkswagen Golf, a car that is famously relevant to the driving conditions of our sunny island. Of course, the Niro Hybrid isn't quite as tidy in terms of handling, but if drivability is the priority, then the Niro Hybrid would be a standout option against its CVT endowed segment mates.

Real World Fuel Economy

While it is quite common to find very economical CVT hybrids in the market today, it is once again the dual clutch transmission on the Niro Hybrid that seems to differentiate it from its peers. You see, CVTs are generally quite economical around town due to the relatively slow speeds, but may not be so economical at higher speeds over long distances, due to the speed matching characteristics of a CVT.

On the flip side, a quick shifting dual clutch that is set up for economy is primed to shift as quickly as possible into the highest possible gear at the earliest opportunity - allowing for better cruising RPMs and arguably better economy over long distances and higher speeds.

In essence then, it does feel that the Niro Hybrid's setup makes it easier to achieve a good level of fuel economy over a wider range of driving situations, and will provide relevant fuel economy figures for drivers who enjoy a frequent trip up North.

Who will it Appeal to?

For those looking for an entry level compact SUV that is practical and economical, but want to retain some semblance of drivability, the Niro Hybrid is an outstanding option, and actually feels like a closer competitor to continental CAT A COE options from Volkswagen and Skoda as compared to other Japanese or Korean options.


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