Is it a hatchback? A wagon? Or a small crossover? Whatever you want to call it, Kia hopes the all-new Niro Hybrid will be an option for buyers who would otherwise be shopping for a Prius.
Kia calls the Niro a new kind of crossover aimed at environmentally conscious buyers who want the practicality of a crossover. On the outside, it doesn’t tout its hybrid status, unlike the Prius which screams, “I AM A HYBRID.” The Niro is definitely not an SUV because it’s only available with front-wheel-drive and doesn’t have enough ground clearance for navigating much more than a gravel road.
The five-passenger Niro is available in five trims: FE, LX, EX, Touring Launch Edition and Touring. Starting prices range from $22,890 to $29,650.
The Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combined make 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, paired with a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission.
The Niro is enjoyable to drive. It’s easy to forget it’s a hybrid as the transition between electric and gas is barely noticeable and there’s very little grab from the regenerative brakes. It’s quick off the line and the automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The ride is comfortable with bumps and rough roads not very noticeable. You can choose from Eco and Sport settings. Visibility is good all the way around.
Fuel efficiency is not as good as the Prius (54 mpg city/50 mpg highway) but still excellent for the class. EPA ratings for my tester are 46 mpg city and 40 mpg highway with a combined rating of 43 mpg. I got 44 during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior sports a clean design and nice materials. Controls are logically laid out. Seats are comfortable and adult passengers in both rows will have plenty of leg- and headroom.
All Niro trims come with Kia’s UVO infotainment system with seven-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Higher trims get an eight-inch touchscreen. The UVO system is one of the best. It’s user-friendly and easy to figure out. Graphics look great and the screen quickly responds to your touch. There are also old-school knobs and buttons so you don’t have to navigate through menus on the touchscreen for simple things like changing the radio station.
The Niro has 19.4 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in place and 54.5 cubes with the rear seats folded. This is a bit less than other small crossovers. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats provide flexibility in hauling passengers and cargo.
The Niro has Kia’s excellent warranty: five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. The Niro also has a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty for some hybrid components.
Practical option for crossover shoppers who want a hybrid
Easy to forget you’re driving a hybrid
Kia’s user-friendly infotainment system is standard on all trims
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard on all trims
Comes with Kia’s excellent warranty
Starting price is higher than some non-hybrid rivals
Not as much cargo space as some rivals
My tester starts at $29,650. Snow White Pearl paint is $395. Advanced Technology Package is $1,900 and adds HID headlights, autonomous emergency braking, forwad collision warning system, lane departure warning system, smart cruise control, 115 volt inverter a nd wireless hone charger. Delivery fee is $895 bringing the grand total to $32,840.
Are you in the market for a hybrid, but really want the functionality of a crossover? The Niro may be the answer with its non-hybrid-like performance, appealing interior and excellent fuel efficiency.