Only truly sharp-eyed car spotters will realise that the Kia Niro is something rather special.

At first glance it looks like just another entrant in the burgeoning crossover sector, with only an extra filler flap on the nearside front wing to give away its hybrid credentials.

And the five-seater Niro is only available as a hybrid, with no petrol or diesel options. You can choose either a conventional petrol-electric hybrid, or the new more costly plug-in version driven here, battling rivals such as the Hyundai Ioniq, Toyota Prius and
C-HR, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Mini Countryman PHEV for a slice of the hybrid pie.

The plug-in Niro offers the best of both worlds, giving a real-world range of about 30 miles on pure electric power, backed up by the same 1.6-litre petrol engine fitted in the Niro parallel hybrid that was launched two years ago.

Built on the same platform as the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro’s higher ride height gives excellent visibility and the instrumentation is clear thanks to neat dials and an easy-to-operate central touchscreen.

Like other hybrids, the focus is firmly on comfort and economy rather than performance and the Niro manages the combination of petrol and electric power impressively and quietly.

The combination of its all-electric range and petrol power produces an officially rated fuel consumption figure of 217.3mpg – a result of the way that the electric and petrol consumption tests are carried out individually, then combined to produce a final theoretical figure.

Run the Niro solely on petrol power and you can expect day-to-day consumption of up to 60mpg.

Sizewise, the Niro sits between the c’eed hatchback and the Sportage. Interior space is good with plenty of room in the rear for three, though the Niro PHEV gives up some boot space for its larger batteries and, like the Ioniq, its pair of charging cables live in two large bags in the boot.

As well as plenty of comfort features, the Niro sports some of the latest technology ranging from TomTom and wireless smartphone charging to autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control and a lane-keep assist system that gives assertive nudges on the steering wheel if it feels you are drifting across the lane.

It also offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay which can link smartphones to navigation, music, hands-free calls, texts and voice recognition services.

The benefits of the plug-in version, particularly for business car buyers, are compelling. With CO2 emissions of only 29g/km, vehicle excise duty is zero in the first year and £130 thereafter, while benefit-in-kind taxation for business users in 2017-18 is nine per cent. Businesses also enjoy a 100 per cent capital write-down allowance, and the car is exempt from the weekday London congestion charge.

Tempting too for company car drivers is the high level of standard equipment on the 3 specification car driven here, with heated leather front seats, DAB radio, a leather-covered heated steering wheel and eight-way power adjustment and lumbar adjustment on the driver's seat.

Add in dual automatic air conditioning, all-round electric windows and electrically-adjustable folding door mirrors, rain-sensing front wipers, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors and the package looks even more attractive.

And like every Kia, a major benefit is that the seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty is transferable to subsequent owners – at no charge.

Auto facts

Model: Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV 3

Price: £30,495 (including Govt grant)

Insurance group: 13 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 217.3mpg

Top speed: 107mph

Length: 435.5cm/171.5in

Width: 180.5cm/71in

Luggage capacity: 11.4 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.4 gallons/43 litres

CO2 emissions: 29g/km

Warranty: Seven years/ 100,000 miles