2018 KIA NIRO Review By Steve Purdy
The new 2018 Kia Niro has much to admire and should be on your shopping list.
2018 KIA NIRO
The Newest Little Hybrid
Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Looking for a really small, efficient crossover? Well, here’s a brand new one just out of the box – the 2017 Kia Niro, a hybrid subcompact, front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive not offered), 5-passenger crossover with four doors and a hatch. It is expected to be capable of just over 50 mpg in city driving for the special FE (for Fuel Efficient) model and 46 mpg for the top-of-the-line Touring. We averaged just under 40 mpg in our week of testing with the Touring model covering a variety of conditions.
Starting at just $23,785 for the base Niro and going up to about $30,000 for the top trim level they all come with the power stuff like seats, locks and mirrors that we’ve gotten used to in most of our cars. They also come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Optional are the nanny safety items like blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. As with just about all other vehicles from Kia, and sister brand Hyundai, Niro comes with a surprising level of content for the price.
Unlike Prius and some other small hybrids the Niro looks like a conventional, but stylish and up-to-date, little cute-ute. It is not particularly high off the ground nor does it sport a very tall seating position but with its two-box, five-door style, roof racks and overall ambiance looks the part of a citified SUV. Its shape and profile mirror many of the larger crossovers, particularly from Kia and Hyundai – not much drama but with enough sculpting and upscale details to attract some attention. The standard 16-inch alloy wheels barely fill the large wheel arches but the black cladding around the arches and along the rockers hint at more than a middling level of style.
Slipping into the modern cockpit we find a comfortable and convenient place to spend time. Materials, fit and finish all appear to be meticulously thought through and well executed without any idiosyncrasies to annoy us. While no one would mistake it for a luxury, or even near-luxury brand by modern standards, it is certainly upscale enough. Information systems and controls caused me no consternation, and that’s a bit unusual.
With a passenger volume of 100 cubic-feet and cargo area good for 19 cubic-feet this new Niro fits into a space in the market with some serious completion like hybrid versions of Toyota’s RAV4 and Nissan Rogue and, of course, the ever-popular Prius. The basic Niro price is below all of these but style and content is entirely competitive.
Powering the Niro is a 1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 assisted by a permanent-magnet type electric motor between engine and transmission that add up to a modest but adequate 139 horsepower and a strong 195 pound-feet of torque. A 1.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack stores electrons to be used as needed. A six-speed, dual-clutch automatic with manual mode passes that power along to the front wheels. That impressive level of torque mostly makes up for the less-than-impressive horsepower when you punch it for whatever purpose you like – getting on the freeway with a short merging lane, passing efficiently on a country two-lane or just for a little burst of adrenalin. But that thrust is usually short-lived before it runs out of breath. Our friends at CAR&DRIVER measured zero-to-60 times of 9.6 seconds for the heavier Touring edition and 8.9 seconds for the FE.
Ride and handling will not disappoint. While steering and suspension tuning are not sports car-like, they are responsive and agile enough to manage just about any driving conditions, including our often-rough urban roads in Michigan. Excellent lateral stability inspires confidence if you’re pushing hard on twisty roads, which few Niro owners are likely to do. Interior sound levels are better than expected and that contributes to a more luxurious feel as well.
Kia’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain, including all the electric propulsion parts, for 10 years or 100,000 miles. That’s about the best in the business.
Coming later this year we’ll see a plug-in hybrid version of the Niro. We’ve not seen the specs on this one yet but we expect crazy efficiency in this small, handy, stylish package. It will cost a bit more to get into it because of more intensive battery needs.
What a crowded field from which we must choose when shopping for compact crossovers. Think Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX3, Toyota C-HR, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, . . . and on and on. Just about every manufacturer has something in this category. And, they are all good. They’re not all the same, though, as we find a variety of personalities among them.
This new Niro has much to admire. This one should be on your shopping list.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved
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