2023 Kia Niro SX Touring - Review by Bruce Hotchkiss +VIDEO
A Frugal, Right-Size Ride
Special Correspondent, West Coast Bureau
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Sometimes the stars align. Like when I wanted to drive to Southern California for the Grand National Roadster Show. My '95 Lumina was an option but not a good one (would it make it, what more could go wrong with it, etc.). The Niro SX Touring arrived at my home the day before I was to leave. Thanks to the folks at Kia I was able to drive a new, comfortable, reliable, and frugal vehicle.
If you read my articles (and I hope you do) you know I like Kia. The Niro was one more Kia that gets a big thumbs up from me.
In total I put over 1,000 miles on the Niro. On the round trip to SoCal it got 41.1 mpg; on a shorter highway trip the fuel economy was 46.8 mpg. The EPA highway rating is 45 mpg. You can probably guess why the SoCal trip was less - extra-legal speeds. I didn't drive much around town but EPA says the Niro is capable of 53 mpg in town.
Oh, did I forget to mention that the Niro SX Touring is a hybrid? In fact there are three Niros - Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and EV. I like hybrids, they are kind of the best of both worlds. You get economy of operation without having to find a charging station or worrying about brownouts.
The Niro SX Touring has a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Combined horsepower is 139, and combined torque is 195 lb-ft. I know, it doesn't sound like much but I assure you it is just fine. Road tests show the Niro can reach 60 mph in 8.9 seconds.
The transmission is a 6-speed dual clutch automatic; drive is through the front wheels.
The Niro is, in Bruce-speak, a right-size vehicle. It is 174" long on a wheelbase of 107.1", 71.8" wide, and 60.8" tall. It's not so big that you'll need a bullhorn to talk to anyone in the rear seat, and it's not so small that you won't be able to haul what four people would need for a vacation. The plus, especially for us older folks, is that entrance and exit is easy.
It will seat five with plenty of luggage space - 22.8 cu. ft. behind the rear seat, and 63.7 cu. ft. with the rear seat folded flat. It will carry 220 lbs. on the roof with the appropriate roof racks but towing is not recommended.
The Niro is tech-laden, and this can be good or bad. I like most of the safety features but I have to consciously remind myself not to get complacent. I worry about those who think these driver aids mean they don't have to pay attention. These are some of the features that in my opinion don't intrude excessively: Auto emergency braking technology with pedestrian detection, Blind spot detection technology, Rear cross traffic warning and avoidance technology, Safe exit assist, Lane keeping and lane following assist, Driver attention warning (KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD!), and Leading vehicle departure alert. (One little note - Sometimes the alert tone is annoying or startling.)
The fact that I like Kia doesn't mean I can't find fault. Like so many current vehicles there's just too much going on and too many small controls. Maybe, just maybe, if our roads were glass smooth I could intuitively reach out and adjust something. But the roads are not that smooth and many of the controls are small and demand you take your eyes off the road to adjust. Yes there are switches on the steering wheel but more than once I changed the radio from SiriusXM to an AM station by accident while trying to change the volume. I like technology but there is something to be said for KEEP IT SIMPLE! (This isn't just a Kia thing, it's everywhere.)
On the plus side the NiRo has a real gear shift lever but there are a lot of buttons.
Style is subjective, and generally I like Kia's styling, but I would pass on the black C-pillar section, a $195 option.
Kia touts a "Transferable digital key (use phone to operate car or transfer key to another phone)". Although I don't mind push button, keyless starting I see it as an unnecessary gadget. There was absolutely nothing wrong with a key. You never needed to replace the battery and you can get a copy made inexpensively. Lose your electronic key fob and you're looking at big bucks.
My overall opinion of the Kia Niro SX Touring is that it is a very nice car. It is priced competitively. A base Niro LX starts at $26.590, the SX Touring is $34,890. I don't think you can go wrong with a Kia.