The Kia Niro arrived for its test under a pretty severe handicap – the three test cars preceding it had price tags of $484,090, $165,086 and $114,595, respectively, as compared to the Niro’s $36,435.
But the Niro did everything asked of it, looked great doing it, and delivered something like 49 miles per highway/city gallon (combined mileage,) There was never any feeling of comedown. This is one of the most perfect Kias I’ve tested, with great get-up-and-go and plenty of interior room.
It’s the smallest vehicle Kia makes, and has been completely redesigned for 2023. Gone is Kia’s sometimes-nerdy flavor, replaced with stylish, sleek styling and more equipment than we’ve come to expect from the brand. It’s also got the best fuel economy of any SUV on the market.
You’ve still got the dinky-winky 139-horsepower, 1.6 litre hybrid power plant as the outgoing model, meaning you’re as intimidating as a Vespa driving it around town and on the highway. But its electric motor boosts your velocity, and you won’t wish for more oomph. Sometimes I experienced “surge ” at speeds upward of 60 MPH which, while not alarming, was at least a little disconcerting.
The good thing is you more or less don’t notice the electric aspect, meaning the engine and the motor are indistinguishable. Despite the vehicle’s small size, it’s got the bit of athleticism around corners. If you’d like better acceleration and even better mileage, check out the Niro plug-in, although you’ll pay $7000-ish more dollars at the dealer for it.
It’s got way more space than you might think in front and back. Hybrids sometimes have less space than their gas-powered brethren but the Niro’s 63.7 cubic feet of rear space bests Honda’s HR-V, for example. Stylistically, the cockpit is ever-so Kia Soul-ish, but it feels better-made, with its sunroof, dual-zoned climate control, power liftgate, heated and ventilated front seats and faux-leather upholstery.
Points for giving us a real gearshift, too, as opposed to the long-loathed “wheel.”
The climate system is rather feeble – it took a long time to cool the car and that was after driving for 10 miles in early evening with all four windows down. The sound system is rich and satisfying but clunky to operate, and you’ll have to figure out that the only volume control is on the steering wheel unless you want to share the one on the dashboard controls with the climate system. But one gets used to it. It just feels like cutting corners.
You’ve got a generous 10.25-inch screen and everything is laid out clearly. An above average-sounding Harman/Kardon audio rig comes with as does wireless phone charging. At times you’ll have to scroll-scroll to get to the screen you want, but you’ll adjust.
Smart cruise control’s on the menu with stop-and-go capability as well as lane-following assist, highway driving-assist, forward and rear facing parking distance warnings, blind spot warning and the latest in safety tech. I had driven the vehicle about a mile before I saw my first “Consider taking a break” with its coffee cup icon, but it kept me on my toes.
The Niro Hybrid does a whole lot for a whole lot less and is a top choice for a small SUV. Have a look at the different trims and prices here.