2017 Kia Niro Touring
The only subcompact hybrid crossover is a truly good oneNo Comments
The Kia Niro drives better than we expected. It handles and steers well and offers a sport mode that genuinely changes the vehicle's characteristics. Our main complaint comes from how power is delivered. The transition from the electric motor to the gasoline engine isn't as smooth as we'd like. Otherwise there was little to complain about.
Ride Quality: Overall, the Niro offers a pleasant ride. It's not pillow-soft or too firm. Kia did a good job picking a balance between the two.
Acceleration: The 139 hp isn't much, but the Niro does pretty well at keeping up with traffic. Passing takes a little planning, but is easier with sport mode engaged. 0-60 comes in about nine seconds. The engine is a bit noisy when it's pushed, but we love the fact that it's paired with a good dual clutch automatic transmission instead of a painful CVT.
Braking: Kia got hybrid brakes right. Most regenerative brakes are mushy, but the Niro's brake pedal is strong and progressive without that harsh regenerative feel.
Steering: The steering is well-weighted and reasonably precise. It feels natural and doesn't get artificially heavy when you select sport mode.
Handling: The Niro handles better than we anticipated. Though there is some body roll, the vehicle grips the road well.
Our Touring trim level Niro came equipped with plenty of technology including Kia's easy to use UVO infotainment system. While the Touring trim offers the highest level of technology, even the base model Niro comes with advanced features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Infotainment System: Kia's UVO infotainment system offers sharp grapics and operates smoothly. It's one of the better systems out there, and the 8-inch touchscreen with navigation functioned flawlessly during our time in the vehicle.
Controls: Controls are well-placed and intuitive to use. There are physical buttons on the dash for all of the most commonly used infotainment screens and the rest of the system is handled through the touchscreen or the steering wheel controls.
Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone was quick and easy. We experienced no connectivity problems.
Voice Call Quality: Calls were clear with no transmission issues.
The Kia Niro is one of the most attractive designated hybrids out there. It's not polarizing and keeps with most of Kia's modern styling conventions. Peter Schreyer, former Audi designer, oversaw the styling and design of the Niro, and he did a good job crafting a crossover that has lines much like a wagon. From certain angles, it looks like a smaller, tamer Infiniti FX.
Front: The front of the vehicle features Kia's tiger nose grill and a pair of projector beam headlights with LED daytime running lights. It looks better resolved than the Kia Sportage thanks to the wider, thinner grille and less dramatic fog lights.
Rear: The back of the vehicle features a sloping roofline, a rear spoiler, and a pair of LED taillights.
Profile: From the side the vehicle looks more like a wagon than a crossover. Its chunky, black plastic wheel arches and body cladding are reminiscent of some of Subaru's models. We think Kia should have skipped this as it cheapens the overall look.
Cabin: The interior uses gray, black, and light blue color tones that work well together. It's not too busy or dark and everything is clear, easy to see, and well-placed.
The Niro is spacious and comfortable for an affordable subcompact crossover vehicle. It offers high quality interior materials for the price and plenty of features and amenities as well as comfy seats and decent amounts of space for passengers.
Front Seats: The leather front seats in our tester were well-padded and reasonably bolstered. They provided plenty of adjustment, too. The front driver's seat is 10-way power adjustable. Both the driver and passenger seats were heated and ventilated and offered good leg, hip, and head room.
Rear Seats: The leather rear seats offered similar levels of cushioning and bolstering as the front seats. The also offered a reasonable amount of room, though taller riders may find leg room tight. Two people would be comfortable in the rear seats, but three is probably too many.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Around town, the Niro is quiet. There were no errant noises and the vehicle felt solid and well-built. On the highway, there's a fair amount of tire noise, but it's not so bad as to ruin the driving experience. Also, if you get on the accelerator, the engine makes quite a lot of noise.
Visibility: Seeing out of the vehicle is easy all around. Pillars are on the thinner side and you sit high enough to easily survey the road.
Climate: The dual-zone automatic climate control worked fast and was easy to use. The heated and ventilated front seats also worked quickly.
The Niro has not been rated by the NHTSA or the IIHS. Because of this, we couldn't rate it high in this category. However, there is quite a lot of safety equipment standard and our Touring trim level tester came fully decked out with optional safety features like lane keep assist, forward collision control, and blind-spot monitoring.
IIHS Rating: Not rated
NHTSA Rating: Not rated
Standard Tech: The Niro comes standard with the following safety equipment: airbags all around, ABS, stability control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, hill start assist, tire-pressure monitoring system, and a backup camera.
Optional Tech: We weren't provided with a monroney for this vehicle. However, as far as we can tell the Niro came with the following equipment: parking assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and smart cruise control.
The Niro does a good job when it comes to practical storage space and a usable cargo area. The model is designed for families and offers all the space the average family would need. We found all the storage bins large enough, easy to use, and on par with other subcompact crossovers.
Storage Space: There's plenty of storage in the cabin, including a bin under the armrest, a couple of cup holders, and a space for your phone in front of the shifter. Door pockets are on the smaller side but do provide another usable cup holder.
Cargo Room: The Niro offers 22 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats up and 54.5 cubic feet with the seats folded. It's much larger than the Prius's 27.4 and smaller than the RAV4 Hybrid's 35.6 and 75.6. There's also a couple convenient, but small compartments under the cargo loading floor.
The base Niro is rated at 52 mpg city and 49 mpg highway. We drove the Touring trim level, which is rated at 46 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. As we understand it, this is due to the Touring model's added weight from additional equipment.
Observed: 42.3 mpg
Distance Driven: 268 miles
Driving Factors: We drove a mixture of highway and city driving with more highway miles being covered than city miles.
The Harman/Kardon premium surround sound with ClariFi comes with 8 speakers and an integrated subwoofer. The sound system offers rich, full-bodied sound to all areas of the cabin.
Final Thoughts The Niro is the only hybrid subcompact crossover at this point, so it's a pretty unique offering. Even if it wasn't the only one, though, it'd still be a heck of a vehicle. It offers practicality, high levels of comfort, an enjoyable drive, and, most importantly for a hybrid, high efficiency. Couple that with the fact that it really is quite attractive in a conservative way, and you have a superb first effort. It's not perfect, but Kia seems to have a real winner here. If you're looking for an excellent, efficient crossover for your family we'd suggest you place it near the top of your list of possibilities.