The all-new Kia Niro compact crossover hybrid vehicle enters a red-hot marketplace where CUV’s are all the rage. Even if it was a strictly gasoline powered vehicle, it’d still be fighting for market share. Smartly, Kia has crafted the Niro from the ground up and it quietly goes about its business without having outlandish design lines (looking your way, 2017 Prius) and it’s not ill proportioned (looking your way, previous generation Rondo) and while it may appear as plain-Jane-esque to some, its conservative exterior plays well to the market. Kia didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. Rather, they’ve taken the best parts of the competition and funneled it into their own offering that’ll give the compact crossover market another solid option.
Appearance wise, the signature tiger nose grill helps set it apart from the competition, 18” wheels on upper models frame the Niro nicely and the clean, simple design lines give it a clean look.
Available LED’s will give it a classy look and the front air vents are integrated nicely into the front end, giving increased fuel efficiency as well as a clean appearance.
Some may call it a wagon and others a compact crossover and some may go as far as calling it a hatchback. Regardless, the functionality of the fifth door is what’s keeping customers coming into dealerships, regardless of brand.
Propelling the Niro is a modest 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with a 1.56-kWH lithium-ion battery churning out a combined 139 horsepower and a whopping 195 lb-ft. of torque, all through an automatic six-speed automatic gearbox.
Most of my driving was done in urban conditions so I didn’t quite need the “get up and go” factor as much. City driving in the Niro is wonderful as it’s small enough to park nearly anywhere (underground, parallel, busier parking lots) but it’s got enough heft to it that it’s still fully functional for carrying people and things.
Getting up to highway speeds took a few extra seconds but don’t let that deter you from considering this hybrid vehicle. Once you’re at your desired and safe highway speed, you’ll cruise right along without worry.
The cabin is quiet and when you’re in hybrid mode and the engine shuts off, well, it can get a bit too quiet if you’re not used to hybrid vehicles. Hey, if it’s saving me money, it can be dead quiet for all I care.
Steering and handling are respectable; just don’t go whipping around any corners as it’s centre of gravity is still on par with an CUV/Crossover, where it’s higher than a traditional (and dying) sedan.
Fuel figures will make misers like myself happy. For my specific top-trip SX tester, they come in at 5.1 city 5.8 highway 5.4 combined for L/100 km. Keep in mind the battery kicks in at lower speeds, hence the lower city rate vs highway.
Inside is where the Niro shines, with its super simple and effective design cues. The dashboard is backlit and one of the better ones on the market today. Simple and easy to read information helps keep your eyes on the road and the 8” touchscreen infotainment system (7” on anything but the top trim) is, in Kia fashion, very easy to use. There’s just enough buttons for the HVAC and audio controls and the whole layout is user friendly to a tee.
On the SX and EX trim, you’ll get a wireless charging pad, Harman/Kardon® premium audio system comes with the SX (so do cooled front seats and heated rear seats) and all models get heated front seats and a heated leather steering wheel.
More standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, height adjustable front seats and a rear view camera.
Full marks to Kia for jamming so much standard fare in a base model for under $25K.
Safety-wise, you’ll have to jump to the top trim to get all the popular active safety features, including blind spot detection, front/rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alerts, lane departure and autonomous emergency braking. At $32,995, that’s still a steal for all the gear they’ve jammed in there. PLUS you’re saving on gas via the hybrid system. PLUS the car is conservatively attractive. PLUS it’s a hatch/wagon. Did I mention how comfortable the seats are? I think I did.
The Prius folks had better keep their eyes in the rearview mirror as the Niro’s base price is lower than theirs and to me, it looks much better than the far-too-futuristic Prius.
There’s even talks about a plug-in Niro coming later…and if that’s the case, then there’s even more reason to consider Kia’s newest offering.
Older brother Hyundai has the Ioniq triplets, which could cannibalize sales of the South Korean brand but I think there’s enough of a separation between the two that it shouldn’t be the case.
The future of driving has hybrid and electric written all over it and as the past 15 years have been spent working out the kinks, the Niro is a fine example of the right way to create a compact crossover that’s big enough for your daily needs while saving you money at the pump, all wrapped up in a pleasant exterior and stellar interior.
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