Kia’s latest entry into the crossover craze comes in the form of the Niro hybrid, a wagon shaped vehicle, that has a higher seating position than most cars, and offers the utility only a crossover can. It doesn’t offer AWD, but does offer incredible efficiency, and after having driven it in some wintry weather, we came away quite impressed.
The Niro is being offered in two forms, hybrid and plug-in hybrid. Our week with the former was a cold one, testing the capabilities of the eco tires, heating system, heated seats and heated steering wheel. And guess what, they are probably some of the best we’ve ever tested! It’s better than most luxury brands, heating the entire wheel, and to a really soothing warm temperature too. Ventilated seats are also offered for when the weather flips in the other direction.
The interior was incredibly well built, with premium materials on the dash and doors, details like contrasting blue stitching everywhere and elegant finishes, and clear, large controls that make it easy to own the Niro. The UVO infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto worked as expected with no lag or operation issues. There’s an endless amount of settings, apps, and features to entertain for days.
We really like the “driver only” climate control function which only blows air through vents on the driver’s side–makes sense for a single commuter not to waste the energy on an unused front passenger seat.
The instrument cluster with twin LCD displays look cool and relay relevant info without overcomplicating the hybrid technology. It truly drives like a regular non-hybrid car, with special drive modes or button to tinker with in order to get the highest efficiency.
Niro continued to surprise us throughout our time with it. From power folding mirrors, to illuminated door handles, and thoughtful features like informing the driver which mode the front and rear wipers are in, because none of us can seem to get the speed right the first time.
Acceleration and handling were impressive; this does not in any way drive or feel like an efficiency-focused vehicle. The 1.6L engine was peppy and the 6-speed automatic felt well-matched. Steering feedback was surprisingly good and handling at highway speeds felt especially secure. Niro Touring is rated 51 mpg city, 46 highway, and 49 combined.
The Niro hybrid wore eco-minded tires yet still performed incredibly impressive in the snow. We can only attribute this to excellent weight distribution with the battery pack and good calibration of the ABS/traction control system by the engineers at Kia.
In the end, we walked away impressed and excited to see Kia make leaps and bounds over the competition. More utility, more room and comfort all around, excellent ergonomics, and adorable looks make it the hybrid champion for now.
|Summary Scorecard (1-10)
|Ride and Handling
|Powertrain and Fuel Economy
|Interior Fit and Finish
|Gauges and Controls
Trim Level: Touring Hybrid
Engine: 1.6L 4-Cylinder
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Base Price: $29,650
As-Tested Price: $30,545