2017 Kia Niro Long-Term Arrival: Finding Niro


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Life after chaperoning our long-term Toyota Mirai has been easier but a little less interesting. Sure, I don’t miss the somewhat disappointing range or driving across city lines to fill the hydrogen tank, but I enjoyed the car’s instant response, its otherworldly styling, and the new discoveries that naturally come with testing technology not normally found in passenger cars. Now I find myself in one of the most pragmatic, down-to-earth vehicles on the market: the Kia Niro.

In past reviews, we’ve called Kia’s new hybrid wagon “vanilla,” “practical,” “nondescript,” and “utilitarian.” But we’ve also praised its excellent fuel economy, long driving range, surprisingly spacious interior, and value pricing. Over the next 12 months, we’ll get a chance to better explore these areas as well as one of the biggest concerns with any new car on the market: quality.

The Niro has few direct competitors. Perhaps its closest rival is the Ford C-Max, though it’s also bound to be cross-shopped against the Hyundai Ioniq and the Toyota Prius. The Niro is the first Kia to sit on a new green car platform shared with the Hyundai Ioniq.

You can buy a 2017 Kia Niro for $23,785 ($24,180 for the 2018 model). That price is on par with the starting price of the ubiquitous Prius. But we splurged for the top-level Niro: the Touring. Unlike lesser Niros, the Touring features leather-trimmed upholstery, ventilated seats, a power tilt and slide sunroof, a heated steering wheel, front and rear park assist, a 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, and an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. On top of these standard features, we also tacked on the Advanced Technology package for $1,900. It’s not a bad investment considering you get automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and a wireless phone charger. After adding on $130 carpeted floormats, our Touring model rang out to $32,575.

Kia sweetened the pot for the 2018 model year. The new Niro Touring no longer offers the Advanced Technology package, instead incorporating its features as standard equipment. These top models start at $32,840, a little bit more expensive than the top-trim Prius. At the time of this writing, both 2017 and 2018 model Niros are listed as available on Kia’s consumer site.

All Kia Niros come with a 1.6-liter inline-four engine, an electric motor, and a 1.56-kW-hr lithium-ion battery pack. This system produces 146 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, which, as we’ve noted in the past, isn’t quite enough juice to feel confident getting up to speed quickly on the highway. The question is: Will fuel economy and range make up for this shortcoming?

Counteracting some of its extra niceties, Touring models actually take a hit in fuel economy compared to other trim levels. Our Kia Niro delivers EPA-estimated 46/40/43 city/highway fuel economy, but base FE models, which are lighter and less contented, actually top out at 52/49/50 mpg. We’ll have to conduct our own Real MPG tests to determine how efficiently our top-trim Niro really performs on the road. In addition to fuel economy, we will learn much more about how much the Niro can carry and how that affects performance.

Our first impressions? Yes, the Niro takes a while to get up to highway speeds from a start, but Sport mode sharpens its reflexes. As you’d expect from a subcompact, ride quality suffers when encountering bumps in the road, and it’s noisier than expected on the highway. On the plus side, we’ve noticed the vehicle has an exceptionally high range readout after filling up. More on that in future updates.

2017 Kia Niro EcoHybrid Touring
BASE PRICE $30,545
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE 1.6L/104-hp/109-lb-ft plus 43-hp/125-lb-ft front electric motor; 139-hp/195-lb-ft combined
TRANSMISSION 6-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,237 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 171.5 x 71.1 x 60.8 in
0-60 MPH 9.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 17.2 sec @ 79.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 123 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.3 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 59.6/44.5/51.7 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 73/84 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.45 lb/mile

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