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2017 Car Review-2017 Kia Niro The Un-hybrid Hybrid Review By Larry Nutson

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2017 Kia Niro
The Un-hybrid Hybrid

- 4 Star Rating by The Auto Channel

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The all-new Kia Niro caught my eye when it made its global debut at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show. I thought it to be a pretty good looking compact SUV.

Actually, the Niro is a bit more like a hatchback with increased ride height. Add to this that the Niro is a hybrid. That is, its looks are traditional but under the skin is a fuel saving drivetrain.

All this is wrapped up with pricing that starts in the low twenty thousand dollar range (see Kia Buyers Guide Link Below For Specs, Prices and Comparisons) .

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The Niro is offered in FE, LX, EX and Touring trims. And, a limited production Launch Edition is also on the market. Prices start at $22,890 and run up to $29,650.

All Niro trims are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder hybrid-electric powertrain with a total of 139 system horsepower. The gasoline engine is rated at 104 HP and the electric motor has an output of 43 HP. Drive is through the front wheels using a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.

All-wheel drive is not available and I don’t see this as a big drawback. For urban-dwellers in snowy-winter cities, snow gets removed from city streets quickly. I recommend that a good practice to follow is mounting four winter tires during snow season.

With a hybrid the story is low fuel consumption. The Niro FE, with a starting MSRP of $22,890, is EPA test-cycle rated at 52 city mpg, 49 highway mpg and 50 mpg combined. The LX and EX are rated 51/46/49 and Touring and Launch Edition are rated 46/40/43 (city/highway/combined).

Kia’s specs list a max driving range of 595 miles with the FE. That’s based on the 50mpg EPA combined rating and Niro’s 11.9 gallon fuel tank.

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For my drive evaluation I drove a top-of-the-line Touring trim. A road trip was on my calendar during this period that would take me from Chicago to Southeast Michigan. What made me very happy was the long driving range of the Niro. There would be no fuel stops along the interstate highway. I managed 45 mpg heading east and 37 mpg on my return, basically averaging the two to 41 mpg and a bit above the EPA highway rating. I’ve made this trip many times in many different vehicles and always have a better fuel economy heading east due to prevailing tail wind and the usually lower average speed driving conditions.

The Niro has decent acceleration and performs well on the open highway. I’m not a fan of CVTs and was really pleased with the Niro’s six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Shifts were smooth and quick and my overall drive experience was quite good and without complaint.

My wife and I both thought the ride was a bit firm. That said, I did drive the Niro on some twisty two-lane roads and it does handle well, in part due to its low center of gravity.

Beyond low fuel consumption the Niro is also practical with seating for five, easy entry and exit, a 60/40 split fold rear sear and cargo space that grows from 19.4 cuft to 54.5 cuft. when the seat is folded.

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The Touring trim has lots of upscale features that you might not expect for the price such as leather seats, ventilated front seats, power fold feature on the outside mirrors, heated steering wheel, power tilt and slide sunroof and an 8-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

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There’s also a full line up of driver-assistance safety features available including Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist; Smart Cruise Control; Lane Departure Warning; and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

Hybrids payoff the most if you do a lot of lower speed city-type driving. But as you can see from my road trip, they pay off on the highway too.

A testament to this is the 2017 Kia Niro officially received a Guinness World Record title for the lowest fuel consumption driving across the USA from coast to coast (hybrid car).  The new record-setting mark is an incredible 76.6 mpg.

The Niro EX was driven by Wayne Gerdes of Carlsbad, California, and co-driver Robert Winger of Williamsburg, Virginia, 3,715.4 miles from Los Angeles City Hall to New York City Hall using only 48.5 gallons or 4.1 tanks of gas. The vehicle was not altered in any way for the attempt.

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Today, now in mid- 2017, Kia has sold seven million vehicles in the U.S. since 1994. Kia Motors America continues to top quality surveys and is recognized as one of the 100 Best Global Brands and 50 Best Global Green Brands by Interbrand. Continuing a multi-year string of quality and reliability awards and accolades, J.D. Power’s 2017 Initial Quality Study (IQS) recognized Kia Motors as the highest-ranking nameplate in the United States for the second year in a row.

More information and detailed specifications on the 2017 Kia Niro can be found at You can crossshop hybrids as well as other compact SUVs right here at The Auto Channel.

The 2017 Kia Niro is an award candidate for the 2018 North American Utility of the Year as well as the Midwest Automotive Media Association Family Vehicle of the Year.

Overall I like the Kia Niro for its urban-living premise. It’s compact on the outside for easy maneuvering, roomy on the inside to transport you and your family, as well as delivering really low fuel consumption with its hybrid powertrain.

© 2017 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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