ON THE ROAD: KIA insist the Niro, despite its green credentials, is not a car purely for the 'hair-shirt' brigade.

Powered by a combination of a 1.6 litre engine and an electric motor it offers low emissions and great fuel economy.

But, crucially, Kia says, the Niro is also a car you will want to be in and be seen in.

Kia's first dedicated hybrid, it is built on a platform that will only ever be for its electric vehicles. The company aims to reduce average CO2 emissions across its range by 25 per cent by 2020 and the Niro is a step along the way.

Side on, people might mistake it for something more upmarket, sleek, fluid and with presence. And while it's a Kia and not some German marque, there is no reason to feel disappointed on seeing the badge.

Petrol and electric work well in unison in the Niro, which cannot be said of all cars of this ilk. It's quiet, too, the main noise coming from the tyres.

The steering is perhaps a little short of dynamic feedback and the Lane Keep Assist System - which applies a little bit of turn if it senses the car drifting - takes a little getting used to.

While it looks like an SUV, the Niro is somewhat smaller and so its handling credentials are probably better than you might at first expect.

ON THE INSIDE: THE interior of the Niro looks smart and while some of the materials might not match those used in higher-end rivals, they appear well constructed and durable.

It's the tried and tested combination of black plastic and silver inserts, but they work well and combine for a modern and appealing look.

The seats are comfortable and the driving position suited my style, but there are plenty of adjustments available should you beg to differ.

WHAT DO YOU GET: KIA are hard to beat when it comes to what you get and our '2' badged car - one up from the base model - didn't disappoint. Among the items you will find are16ins alloys, roof rails, solar glass, LED daytime running lights, rain sensing front wipers, black part cloth and leather upholstery, dual automatic air conditioning with ioniser, six-speaker system, 7ins touchscreen satellite navigation system and DAB radio with MP3 compatibility.

In addition, there's USB and AUX ports, Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom, hill start assist, rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, privacy glass, front fog lights, LED rear tail lights and electrically folding, adjustable and heated door mirrors. Our car was also fitted with a reversing camera system and rear parking sensors, among other items.

HOW PRACTICAL IS IT: KIA has positioned the Niro's battery under the seats, meaning you still get a 427-litre boot - 373 with the luggage undertray in place.

All but the tallest will find it comfortable inside, with both head and leg room plentiful. There's also plenty of places to stow items out of the way, should you need to.

RUNNING COSTS: KIA say you should be able to get 74.3mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions commendable at 88g/km. Owners also get a seven year/100,000 mile warranty.

VERDICT: AN SUV with an enticing twist.

ALTERNATIVES: NISSAN Qashqai, Toyota Prius