2. UNIQUE ANIMAL
Putting out a hybrid-only crossover is bold of Kia, as nobody else has done this.
It’s one of the few vehicles out there to try to carve out a new space in the industry.
Sizewise, you get a solid amount of cargo space and the Niro seats five comfortably.
Overall, Kia is going the opposite way of Toyota when it comes to green car looks.
Toyota makes their Prius lineup stand out in every way possible from regular models, to the point where many folks call them downright ugly. Kia is trying to set it up so you won’t even know the Niro is a hybrid from looking at it.
You get the familiar Kia grille up front, a typical crossover look, and inside materials that are comfy but not too fancy. The Niro is all about the efficiency, and a standard vehicle look, and doesn’t focus either on fancy design or on making it stand out in odd ways.
3. UNDER THE HOOD
The Kia Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine plus an electric motor. Also, a 1.56 kWh lithium ion battery is located under the rear seat.
This all adds up to a combined 139 horsepower.
The Niro features a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a manual mode is offered. Being a hybrid, the Niro offers a regenerative braking system to replenish the battery.
Acceleration and overall ride quality are not exactly thrilling, but I’ve seen worse in other hybrid vehicles. And folks shopping hybrids aren’t looking for a sports car -- they want efficiency. There is a sport mode if you want a more enjoyable ride, but it will impact your fuel economy.
One downside to the Niro is there is no AWD offered. Only FWD is available.
4. TECH AND SAFETY
All Niro models come with Kia’s UVO eServices infotainment system; which is well-designed and responds quickly and accurately to voice and touch commands. It’s also compatible with Android Auto and Apple Carplay. You get three free months of Sirius satellite radio, and the Niro offers USB connections and Bluetooth connectivity.
Optional safety features include: Autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert. Standard are a tire pressure monitor system, vehicle stability management, electronic stability control, hill-start assist control, anti-lock brakes, and a host of airbags.
5. PRICED TO SELL
My test Niro vehicle was a base trim model (FE) and priced at $23,785, making this one of the more affordable hybrids available, especially considering its size. Even the top trim level will only cost you about $30K, which isn’t bad.
What’s most interesting about the Niro is that it technically has no direct competition -- it’s carved out its own niche as a hybrid-only crossover. Most other alternatives in this segment are hybrid variations or regular crossovers (Toyota RAV4 hybrid, Nissan Rogue hybrid). The way the numbers stack up, the Niro is really going after Toyota Prius market share -- and I would argue the Niro is more visually pleasing and roomy than many Prius variants with similar or better driving experience.
The Niro is aggressively priced to take a piece of the growing hybrid market.
Will it work? Time will tell, but you have to give the Kia/Hyundai conglomerate credit for both the Niro and their Ioniq model on the Hyundai side. They’re not going to assume the other guys will win this all-important hybrid segment forever, and are willing to put up a fight.
Matt Myftiu can be foundon Twitter @MattMyftiu.