New for 2017

The Niro is an all-new model.

A Hybrid Unlike Any Other

Kia hopes to nearly triple its green car lineup by 2020, and the 2017 Niro hybrid is leading the charge. The Niro is Kia’s first dedicated hybrid model, meaning it’s about to become the poster child for the Korean automaker’s green car push. It also promises to offer a combination of fuel efficiency, sporty driving dynamics, and utility not seen so far in the hybrid segment.

Performance

The Niro is Kia’s first dedicated hybrid model. In other words—like the Toyota Prius—it isn’t just a regular production model with a hybrid powertrain. That means Kia was able to engineer it from the ground up for fuel efficiency, without having to make any compromises due to working with an existing platform.

The Niro’s powertrain consists of a 1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine that features direct injection and exhaust gas recirculation for added efficiency. It drives the front wheels with the aid of an electric motor, which gets power from a 1.56-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The combination is good for a combined 146 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque with a combined EPA rating of up to 50 mpg (52 city/49 highway).*

But Kia wanted the Niro to be fun to drive as well as efficient. To that end, it equipped the Niro with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. By delivering actual shifts in a quick and precise manner, Kia says the dual-clutch gearbox will provide a more satisfying experience than the continuously-variable transmissions used in other hybrids. Engineers also designed the regenerative braking system to blend seamlessly with the conventional hydraulic brakes.

Like the best sports cars, Kia also emphasized lightness in order to improve the Niro’s driving experience. The chassis was designed specifically to accommodate the hybrid powertrain, and is made from 53 percent high strength steel. Weight was further shaved with aluminum components such as the hood, several suspension elements, and the brake calipers. Even the brake pedal is made from lightweight fiber-reinforced plastic, and Kia swapped the conventional lead-acid 12-volt battery for a lithium-ion one.

Features

The 2017 Kia Niro is a five-door, five-seat utility vehicle available in FE, LX, EX, Touring, and the limited-edition Touring Launch trims. Standard features on the base FE include dual-zone automatic climate control, selectable drive modes, a 7-inch UVO eServices touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ compatibility, Bluetooth®, and a four-speaker sound system. 

Upgrading to the LX adds features for additional versatility and convenience, including keyless ignition and entry, roof rails, rear LED taillights, and an underfloor storage tray. On the EX, you'll enjoy power-folding and heated side mirrors, premium cloth and leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear air conditioning vents, and a driver blind spot monitoring system for additional peace of mind. 

The top-of-the-line Touring model is a step up in luxury and style with 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, memory system for driver’s seat settings, an eight-speaker Harman/Kardon® audio system, and an upgraded UVO system with eight-inch touchscreen and navigation.

Kia is also offering a limited-edition Touring Launch model with equipment similar to that of the EX, but with unique paint colors and the Touring's wheels, power driver seat, and upgraded infotainment system. Standalone options are available depending on trim and include active driver safety systems like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control and (exclusively for Touring models) xenon headlights and wireless phone chargers.

Design

The design of the 2017 Kia Niro defies categorization. It combines a tall roof and other cues normally associated with SUVs with the low seating position and ride height of a car. Kia calls it an “un-hybrid” design.

Up front, the Niro sports the automaker's signature “tiger nose” grille and swept headlights. Low-and-wide proportions and short front and rear overhangs give the Niro a sportier appearance than most utility vehicles, and the sleek silhouette gives it a fairly low drag coefficient of 0.29. The Niro manages to be different by combining different styling elements unexpectedly, rather than just going for gimmicky features.

The interior shows the benefits of the body’s unusual styling. Despite the low ride height, the Niro provides a high seating position more like a traditional SUV, and an airier cabin courtesy of the tall roof. The Niro’s 106.3-inch wheelbase and wide stance also provide plenty of legroom and shoulder room in what is a fairly small footprint.

Like other recent Kia models, the Niro features a fairly clean dashboard design, with good integration of both analog controls and the central touchscreen display. In addition to infotainment features like Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, the Niro’s tech suite includes some hybrid-specific features. The Coasting Guide aims to maximize fuel economy by coaching the driver when to coast or brake, and Predictive Energy Control uses the navigation system to anticipate energy use based on terrain.

Safety

Standard safety equipment on the 2017 Kia Niro includes anti-lock brakes, stability and traction controls, and a full array of airbags. Other safety features will include a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, park assist, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, blind spot detection, and autonomous emergency braking.

Verdict

The 2017 Kia Niro offers something new for the hybrid segment.

For more information on the Kia Niro, including price and availability, be sure to contact us online or visit Kia of South Austin at 5306 IH 35 South, Austin, TX 78745.

*EPA fuel economy estimates. Actual mileage will vary with options, driving conditions, driving habits, and your vehicle’s condition.

Image: Kia