REVIEW: 2017 Kia Niro – Finally, a Green Vehicle In the Right Packaging

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The 2017 Kia Niro Touring is a green hybrid vehicle that is of a size and shape that makes it a viable family vehicle.

What is it? 

The 2017 Kia Niro is an all-new vehicle from Kia. It is a compact short wagon with a hint of crossover in its design. Able to carry five passengers and with ample cargo capacity, this is a truly green vehicle that small families might find usable in the real world.

Pricing and trims

The new 2017 Kia Niro line starts at around $24K. There are four main trim packages plus a Launch Edition. The top trim starts at about $31K before options.

Our 2017 Kia Niro Touring came with the Advanced Technology Package. We feel this package is very important to our overall opinion of this vehicle. The total price came to $32,445. That puts this Kia a few thousand higher in price than its non-hybrid competition, such as the Mazda CX-3 Touring 2WD. In the low $30Ks, there are just dozens of excellent family vehicles to choose from including the Prius Prime Plug-In Hybrid. This is tough company.

Safety

We were pleased to see that the Technology Package added Forward Collision Warning with Autonomous Emergency Braking. We are huge fans of this technology since it has saved our bacon, preventing real world crashes. It is now standard on every Toyota in the Niro’s price range, so we were happy it was part of our test vehicle. The package also adds Lane Departure Warning, Smart Cruise Control, and a wireless phone charger.

IIHS has not yet tested the Niro, but Kia has been topping the testing charts on its existing models as of late and we expect nothing less from this new model.

Performance

Kis 2017 Niro Touring Hybrid uses a 104 hp 1.6-liter gasoline engine and 43 hp electric motor in conjunction. In combination, Kia rates the output at 139 hp. This is about average for the green car segment and similar to the Corolla in power. However, we found the Niro Touring had more punch than the numbers would indicate. Our fuel mileage over about 200 miles of mixed driving including a solid hour of stop and go city driving was a fantastic 44 MPG.  The Niro is rated by the EPA at 43 Combined, 46 City, and 40 MPG Highway. That is about 40% better than a 2WD Mazda CX-3.

Our fuel mileage over about 200 miles of mixed driving including a solid hour of stop and go city driving was a fantastic 44 MPG.  The Niro is rated by the EPA at 43 Combined, 46 City, and 40 MPG Highway. That is about 40% better than a 2WD Mazda CX-3.

Like all hybrids, the Kia Niro Touring can recharge its drive battery when braking and then use that energy for acceleration. In our testing, we found the power delivery from the engine and motor worked seamlessly. Starting off at a leisurely pace, the Niro Touring makes good use of the”free” battery power to propel the car along with no assist from the gasoline engine. Press the power pedal sharply to the floor and both drive modes combine to propel the Niro Touring ahead strongly. The added torque from the electric drive makes the Niro Touring feel quick off the line.  Motor Trend tested the 0-60 MPH performance and came up with about 8.7 seconds. Not bad, but we suspect that in a 0-30 MPH test, the Niro Touring would do better than many of its peers. It feels quick, and really, isn’t that all that matters?

Rather than a constantly variable transmission (CVT), Kia opted for a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission (DCT). The DCT performed well in our testing and odd sensations when starting off were minimal. However, we’ve become fans of CVTs in daily drivers and prefer their smooth, shift-less feeling. One feels the shifts in the Kia Niro Touring. If you don’t want to give up that sensation, this is the hybrid for you. We can’t help but wonder if the Niro line may have squeezed out an added MPG or two if a CVT had been used.

Ride and handling

The handling of the Niro Touring is very interesting. Kia clearly tried hard to inject some fun into the car and it worked. The steering is super direct, meaning a small turn of the steering wheel translates to a large turn of the front wheels. The steering is also very light, meaning highly-power assisted. This makes the Niro Touring easy to toss around in traffic and it is almost darty. The suspension is also tight and feels like it is up on its paws. High-strung almost. It is an enjoyable combination. Braking is a bit different than one may be use to. The brake distances seem a bit longer than one would expect for a given push of the brake pedal, but it is easy to adapt to.

Ride comfort is good. The feeling is stiff but never jarring, and we took on some of New Englands worst roads after spring rains opened up monster potholes without any discomfort.

Seating

The leather front seats are perforated, ventilated, heated and power-operated. Perfect. There is even a memory setting. We found them very comfortable. The leather heated steering wheel was wonderful and we liked the easy to access heat controls you can see next to the cupholders. We do wish that the car would have remembered our settings and would leave them on all the time though.

The rear of the Niro Touring is quite large for a compact vehicle. Our six-foot test-teens could sit behind the front seats even when they were all the way back.  The Niro has two more inches of rear legroom than does the Mazda CX-3.

Cargo

The Niro Touring has a large, tall cargo area with 19.4 cu ft of space with the rear seats up and a whopping 54 cu ft with the rear seats folded down. By comparison, the Mazda CX-3 offers 12.4 and 44.5 cu feet respectively. Unfortunately, there is no spare tire under the floor of the Niro. Nor are the tires run-flat capable. Kia has opted to join the ranks of automakers that offer no practical solution for dealing with tire damage except towing.

 – Your Automaker Stole Your Spare – What’s the Plan When Things Go Wrong?

Infotainment and controls

We loved the simplicity of the Kia Niro Touring’s infotainment system. The eight-inch touchscreen is easy to tap and very well laid out. During one trip, we were north of Boston and wanted to get south of the city. The Niro’s navigation system made it difficult (impossible) to find a route that would take us around the city, rather than through it, as the system was offering. No problem. We grabbed our cord, plugged in our Droid phone to the perfectly located USB port and enabled Android Auto. Google maps came right up and it did have the sense to offer us a route around the city. For the heck of it, we also enabled Pandora and went totally off the reservation. Kudos to Kia for offering all of these options. We loved its flexibility.

Overall

The 2017 Kia Niro is an easy vehicle to fall in love with. It being only a 2WD vehicle will limit its appeal in snowy areas, but a good set of snow tires would make this a great winter car.

 – Snow Tires vs. AWD, Which Matters More?

The Niro Touring’s fuel economy is simply fabulous. We loved its package too. Part crossover, part hatchback, and part small wagon could be the new shape to come.

If we have any reservations about the Niro it is the price point. However, technology comes at a cost and this vehicle has one of the best drivetrains in the class. We would recommend the Kia Niro Touring with the Advanced Technology Package to anyone shopping for a compact vehicle who values fuel economy, safety, excellent infotainment, and a package that just makes sense.

Test 2017 Kia Niro Touring

Base price: $23,785

Price as tested, $ 32,445 including $895 destination charge:  

Options:

Advanced Technology Package: $1,900
Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking
Lane Departure Warning
Smart Cruise Control
Wireless Phone Charger

Likes:

  • Outstanding Fuel Economy
  • Great Package (Shape)
  • Fun to Drive

Dislikes:

  • No Spare Tire
  • Light-gray Dash Put Glare On Windshield
  • We Prefer a Smooth CVT to a DCT

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John Goreham

John Goreham