The 2017 Kia Niro offers the versatility of a crossover with the exceptional fuel economy of a hybrid. All-new this year, the Niro is the only dedicated subcompact hybrid crossover on the market, but there are competitors offering a hybrid trim of their gas models in this segment.
The Niro is cute without any of the weird hybrid styling automakers seem to think makes their cars more appealing. It’s an attractive vehicle that easily blends in with the rest of the crossover crowd. It’s not dull, but it isn’t likely to attract any special attention.
The interior is comfortable, but even in the top Touring trim doesn’t feel luxurious. This isn’t supposed to be a luxury car so it would be nuts to think it would look like one, but the interior doesn’t look like its price tag.
The Kia Niro Touring has a base price of $29,650. Ours also had the Advanced Technology Package, which added $1,900 to bring the total price up to $31,550. That’s not expensive, but it isn’t exactly a bargain. The features match up with the price, but the interior materials include lots of plastic trims that take it down a notch.
Despite all that plastic, the leather seats in the Niro looked and felt great and helped up the car’s appeal. They’re heated and ventilated up front and there’s automatic dual-zone climate control with rear vents. Power seats, a heated steering wheel, and a power sunroof help make up for the unappealing plastics.
If you’re buying a hybrid, then you’re concerned about fuel economy and on this front the Kia Niro does quite well. It achieves an EPA-estimated 46 mpg city/40 mpg highway/43 mpg combined. This beats the comparable Toyota RAV4 hybrid, which comes in at 34/30/32 and similar pricing.
It has a decent interior, lots of features, and great fuel economy, but how does it drive? Much like you wouldn’t expect this to look like a luxury car, don’t expect it to drive like a sports car. This is a crossover and it’s a hybrid and it generally feels like both.
Power comes from a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gas engine paired with a 43-horsepower electric motor. This gives the Niro a combined 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission rather the continuously variable transmission common to hybrid powertrains.
The drive is peppy and once the Niro gets up to speed it’s a fun car to drive. It handles well without feeling too stiff and boxy and is easy to maneuver along crowded highways. The ride is smooth and quiet with well-muted road and wind noise. A heavy foot on the gas gets a better response on the highway than it does from a dead stop. If you want to get away from that stop light in a hurry, then that’s about the only time the Niro disappoints with a slower than expected response.
Since this isn’t a single hybrid trim stuffed into a gas model’s range, there are plenty of trim levels available. It starts with the base FE at $22,890 with five total trim levels leading up to the Touring. Even on a tight budget, there’s a Niro that will work for you.
The 2017 Kia Niro brings a dedicated hybrid model to the compact crossover market. With attractive styling, great fuel economy, and a wide range of available trims, the Niro stands to be a serious player in this popular segment.