KIA’S first dedicated hybrid has just got better.

It has upgraded the Niro, which comes as both a hybrid and plug-in hybrid, and it shows.

Delivered in a compact crossover style, it’s based on a new platform that Kia will only ever use for electric vehicles and the powertrain – a 1.6-litre, 104bhp petrol combined with a 32kW (43bhp) electric motor, delivered through a six-speed automatic gearbox.

And it appears to work rather well indeed.

In my experience hybrids seem to have taken a real leap this year.

While previously they were more of a selling point for those who wanted to look like they were doing their bit to be green, in reality they would rarely get past 20mph before the engine kicked in, making for efficiency figures that were not a lot better than the average petrol and usually worse than a diesel.

No longer is that the case, though.

My love-hate relationship with hybrids has now grown into one of thumbs-up.

The hybrid setup o the Niro is very good, with EV power playing a big part and more often than not taking up past 40mph before the engine kicks in.

The result is MPG near 60 around town – which is where you really benefit as much time is spent on electric power.

On a cruise it’s still in the high 40s.

All compare favourably with the on-paper figures of 55 to 59 mpg.

CO2 is a low 86 to 99g/km.

To be honest it’s not a particularly perky drive, however, and the auto box is a bit rev happy.

Indeed, 60mph takes a leisurely 11.1 seconds and top speed is a mere 101mph.

But it’s a tidy drive otherwise and certainly a comfortable ride.

Design updates on this latest model include a new grille, bumpers and redesigned headlights.

Inside it’s a nice cabin, with quality finish all around – another improvement on this latest model.

Grade ‘2’ spec gets an 8in touch screen, while ‘3’ and ‘4’ get a new 10.25in screen with sat nav, a wireless phone charger and premium sound system.

Grade ‘2’ models get 16in alloys, automatic lights, digital radio, smartphone integration, safety tech including forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist and hill-start.

Grade ‘3’ gets 18in alloys, leather, heated front seats, power driver’s seat and a heated steering wheel, while grade ‘4’ gets a sunroof, ventilated front seats, blind spot detection and more.

There’s also a fully electric Niro on top of the standard hybrid and plug-in hybrids.

Prices run from just under £25,000 for the hybrid to north of £37,000 for the fully electric model.