By on February 3, 2017

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Hotel Emma, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle-style I4, GDI, DOHC (104 hp @ 5,700 rpm; 109 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm)

AC Synchronous Permanent Magnet Motor (43 hp; 125 lb-ft)

Hybrid system net output: 139 hp, 195 lb-ft

Six-speed dry dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive

46-52 city / 40-49 highway / 43-50 combined (EPA Rating, MPG, Trim Dependent)

44.5 mpg (Observed, Touring)

Price: $23,785–30,545

Prices include $895 destination charge.

Remember MTV? Back on September 18, 1983, the once-music-oriented television station — before its foray into an endless stream of mindless reality programming — broadcast a momentous event in rock history. The members of KISS, who’d never previously showed their bare faces in public, appeared in front of a camera without makeup for the very first time.

Instantly, the members of New York City rock band were normal — as far as rockers can be considered normal, I suppose.

In that same vein, Kia’s new Niro is the unmasking of the hybrid. Its crossover shape wouldn’t look out of place as a conventional, dino-juice powered vehicle on any dealer lot. The Niro sports no folded sheetmetal, no oddly proportioned kammback, and no spaghettified headlights.

It’s normal — as far as hybrids can be considered normal, I suppose. And that’s the point.

Disclosure: Kia flew me down to San Antonio, which seems to get prettier by the day, put me up in a hotel that used to be a brewery over the last 100 years, and fed me like a Texas king. Kia also gave everyone an Amazon EchoDot. I’m still trying to figure out how that works.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Side, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Before we get into how Kia’s new hybrid could be considered by some to be painfully conventional, let’s get something out of the way: Many will deride Kia’s decision not to offer all-wheel drive on its new Niro hybrid. Considering its undeniably crossover-esque silhouette, you can’t blame those who call the Niro nothing but a jacked-up hybrid hatchback. But, if you take a moment to think of its competitors — Toyota Prius V, Ford C-MAX — it’s not like those models have dealt with the same criticisms, nor have customers of those vehicles been crying out for rear-wheel motivation. If anything, Subaru’s culling of the Crosstrek Hybrid might prove the opposite — that compact hybrid owners simply have no appetite for all-wheel drive.

With that out of the way, the bigger story here is in the Kia’s sheetmetal. It doesn’t look like a hybrid — and that’s by design.

While many of us might lust for Prius-levels of fuel economy, Toyota’s determination to make its popular hybrid family look distractingly weird keeps a certain segment of the buying public at bay. Kia wants those buyers disenfranchised by Toyota, and it hopes to attract them using the same “Tiger Nose” grille used successfully across Kia’s entire lineup for the last 10 years. (It’s okay for Kia to use a little makeup, right?)

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Front, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Front and center sits Kia’s pièce de résistance, along with a lower grille for actual cooling. Fog lights flank the lower air inlet on EX and Touring models, while its main lighting looks dangerously close to being from the Sportage Junior collection. At the very bottom of the front end, Kia has taken inspiration from The Rolling Stones and painted the lower valance black, visually increasing its perceived ride height.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

In profile, Niro provides a veneer of cladding around the wheel wells and along the door sills. Another plastic strip runs horizontally midway up the doors to give the Niro some visual ruggedness.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Rear, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

The rear, as pleasing as it is for minimalists, is fairly derivative. To illustrate what I mean, do a Google Image search for the Jeep Cherokee’s backside, then flip its rear bumper in your mind. It’s not far off, right? Regardless, the faux skid plate and other touches do their best to communicate the go-anywhere, do-anything lifestyle for which this vehicle is not equipped. Oh well.

Still, the exterior design is tidy, and not just for a hybrid. Clean lines and a restrained beltline give the Niro a more traditional hatchback look and avoids all the design trappings associated with hosting an alternative powertrain under the hood, so good on Kia for that.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid San Antonio Raceway, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Don’t let that anti-hybrid styling fool you, though, as the Niro is just as slow as any other economically minded electromotor on the market. Kia’s engineers saw fit to marry a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter engine to a single-motor hybrid system, which combine to produce 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. That’s only 3 more ponies than the Prius V and nearly 50 less horsepower than the Ford C-MAX. It does make up for that lack of power with increased electricity capacity, as the Niro sports the greatest capacity battery of the bunch — 1.56 kWh. In comparison, the C-MAX makes do with a 1.4 kWh battery pack, the Prius V with 1.3 kWh.

That lack of output combined with extra battery capacity is what gives the Niro its competitor-besting fuel economy. In FE base model trim, the Niro is rated at 52/49/50 (city/highway/combined) miles per gallon. The Prius V lags behind the Niro by 9 or 10 mpg in all measures, and the C-MAX even more so. That said, a Prius Eco will get the better of the Kia with ratings 4 to 6 mpg higher, but penalties are paid when trying to load the Prius’ diminutive cargo hold. The Niro Touring I drove, rated at 40 mpg highway and 43 mpg combined, returned 45 mpg on mostly rural highways.

Getting the power to the ground in most hybrids has traditionally been the job of drone-inducing continuously variable transmissions — but not in the Niro. A six-speed dual-clutch automated manual does the heavy lifting with a velvety touch, but it wasn’t totally seamless; the Niro let loose one shivery hiccup at a stop when shifting down to 1st gear.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid San Antonio Raceway, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

The transmission exhibited one of the Niro’s admittedly very few faults. Acceleration is sluggish, but that’s to be expected in a 3,200-pound vehicle with only 139 hp pulling it around. Brake feel is excellent in comparison to other hybrids, but still isn’t as good as most traditional internal combustion vehicles. Its handling would make Humpty Dumpty consider something a little more planted and less roly poly — though, to be fair, the Prius is better in that department than it ought to be. The cargo area also exhibited some creaking and moaning over undulating pavement.

Yet, the positives far outweigh the negatives: the smooth ride makes you second guess the Niro’s Korean heritage, rated fuel economy is easy to achieve (not once did I try to achieve a particular number nor did I drive with a particularly light foot), steering is light for easy urban maneuverability, and the Niro comes with a traditional PRNDL shifter so you don’t accidentally kill yourself.

2017 Kia Niro Interior, Image: Kia

Inside, the Niro provides typical Kia fare — and that’s a good thing. Seriously. Sit in any modern Kia and you’ll be astounded that such a well-designed interior is produced by the same company that cobbled together the 1994 Kia Sephia.

With the sunroof open, the passenger space feels airy. The driver’s seat in the Touring model was perfectly comfortable. There’s plenty of storage for drinks and gadgets — and even a place to wirelessly charge your exploding Samsung Note 7. Kia’s UVO infotainment system is standard kit across the range, beginning with a 7-inch screen for FE, LX, and EX models, and growing to 8 inches for the Touring Launch and Touring models. (The latter system also comes with extra speakers and Harman Kardon’s Clari-Fi technology — whatever that is.) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is part of the package, too, as is UVO’s overall ease of use. Kia and Hyundai have some of the best infotainment systems in the business. No joke.

Toward the back, thanks to some clever packaging that places both the battery pack and fuel tank under the rear passenger seat, the Niro offers more cargo volume with the seats down at 54.5 cu. ft. than the C-MAX, but the Prius V is still your cargo-carrying champion at 67.3 cu. ft.

2017 Kia Niro Instrument Cluster, Image: Kia

Still, there are some criticisms — the passenger seat, even in top trim, doesn’t have adjustable lumbar support, it doesn’t feel as nice inside as some other Kia products, and the instrument cluster could use an extra bit of digital pizazz — but I’m really nitpicking at this point considering the Niro tops out just north of $30,000.

Taking a look at the other end of the price spectrum, the Niro FE starts at $23,785 after delivery, which undercuts the $24,995 C-MAX (before incentives) and the $27,600 Prius V.

Some might say now is the wrong time to launch a dedicated hybrid in America, what with Prius sales in the toilet, but I think it’s the perfect time to launch this kind of hybrid. After all, the members of KISS revealed their true faces after some serious pop and disco missteps threatened to force them into irrelevancy — and they’re still touring today.

Maybe this is just the kind of honesty hybrids need.

[Images: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars; Interiors, Kia]

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78 Comments on “2017 Kia Niro Hybrid First Drive Review – Hold the Trimmings...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    I really like the overall appearance of the Niro, though the size of the vehicle does nothing for what I need a vehicle to do for me these days. I think Kia will do well selling the little nippers.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      Yeah I was interested until I saw the tail. It reminds me of a manx cat. Why did they cut the tail and slope the rear window so heavily?

      Is it really a subcompact CUV? Ok you can get 4 people inside but you cant really carry much luggage.

      My expectation is TWO people can drive this thing to the airport and pick up TWO people and their TWO full size roller bags and cart it all home.

      Its just too compromised in size for me and I’m guessing even a couple with a a single child. A Nissan Rogue Sport/Qashqai whatever is killing me already and the full sized Rogue/Xtrail is just about right but even that is smaller than its predecessor.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Could’ve made the overall design a bit sharper, but still keeping the clean lines/uncluttered appearance (one of the things to work on for the MCE).

      Anyhow, even with the relatively staid sheetmetal, the Niro has been a success over in Europe (over 25k orders and counting); we’ll see if the Niro can garner a comparable level of success here in the States given the lower fuel prices.

    • 0 avatar
      larrystew

      Ok, being a 2013 Ford Focus owner, the elephant in the room for me is the dry dual-clutch transmission. How does it behave compared to Ford’s Powershift DCT?

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    If they could get this in a vehicle a little larger. I am glad that you were able to get good mileage out of without trying. This gives me hope that Hyn/Kia have expelled their ghost of fuel lying past.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I wonder if anyone will ever build a dedicated hybrid of a larger vehicle? Can you imagine if Toyota build an Avalon that was from the ground up a hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I think you’d see a crossover before a sedan. I could see Ford replacing the Flex with a hybrid only model. Not saying that is happening, but that is the way Ford is trending.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      How would a hybrid-only design differ from a shared design? Overlooking the Prius’ contrived styling, of course.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        A hybrid camry exists but I believe its a real weak sauce hybrid like the Malibu hybrid which is just an excuse to get some ‘green cred’ without actually doing any appreciable engineering work.

        I personally feel these things are like… “lowered expectations”.

        We can barely get 30 miles or whatever on many hybrids so here’s a few super poor sub 10 mile ones…

        Yeah this is where we’re at.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      Neither the Camry nor the Avalon hybrids are “weak sauce” hybrids. No they don’t go full crazy like the Prius, but they do use the full Toyota Hybrid Synergy drive system and are not mild hybrids like the old Malibu (the new Malibu hybrid is a full hybrid). For those asking about hybrid crossovers, Toyota also sells a Rav 4 hybrid. the only “compromised” hybrid at this point is the Highlander, which is offered in performance enhancing trim with the V-6 instead of the 4 cylinder to maximize economy.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    How is that not last decade’s Rio5 redux?

    I don’t believe anyone ever called the Rio5 a CUV.

    Just checked; it’s the same height as a Fit. Is the Fit a CUV?

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Maybe the definition has more to do with ground height. I sat in the Niro last month and beside it having 5 doors, nothing resembles or felt like a Rio5.

      Comparing this to a Fit is not so off. But the Fit gives you the sense of siting on the ground, you can practically feel the ground through the seats. Not a great driver for over a 25 mile distance. The Niro has the passengers sits up a bit off the ground. You don’t fall into the seats when entering.

      If anything the Niro has the feeling of a smaller KIA Rondo.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      It looks like this car’s about a foot longer than the Rio. Hard to compare the two.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Sat in one of these at a car show last month. Fantastic looking vehicle, even had a Krell audio system. Probably not going to be an option in the production version. If KIA can get an AWD system into this vehicle that does not add $3-4 k to the price it would sell like crazy.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I think this will be my next car. Besides the faux skid plate and the old Kia Rio headlights, the un- hybrid styling is decent. Doesn’t seem to really be much of a hybrid premium either. While I don’t think gas prices are going up anytime soon, governments seem likely to keep increasing taxes as they become more and more desperate for revenue. (We’re already seeing this in Canada with “carbon taxes”.)

    Do all models have the idiotic skid plates? Any word on Canadian pricing yet?

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    I for one am so glad to see TTAC referring to the Niro as having a “crossover shape” and being “crossover-esque”, rather than falsely calling it a crossover – which it is NOT.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, Mark, it’s sluggish, but how does it compare with something like a Prius?

    Otherwise, 44 mpg observed is outstanding.

    • 0 avatar

      It certainly feels a little slower than the newest Prius, IIRC. I haven’t driven the Prius V, though.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      I test drove a Prius V a while back. It felt slow…a lot slower (my perception) than the standard Prius. My initial reaction was that it felt roughly the same acceleration-wise as the Subaru Crosstrek I also took for a test drive.

      I looked up the 0-60 on both of these cars and what do you know…the same, at least in Car and Driver’s test of each. 10.3 sec.

      Now, I’ve owned a lot of slow cars. A couple of Vanagons. A Peugeot 504 diesel wagon. Early 80’s Audi 4000 with a 4-cylinder. I’m not, obviously, a sticker for having to have a quick car. But both the Prius V and the Crosstrek come across as being irritatingly sluggish. Maybe I just hold new cars to a higher standard than turds I owned years ago.

      C&D, just to keep things consistent, pegs the Niro at 10.5 sec 0-60. So a smidge slower than the Prius V or Crosstrek, both of which get a fair amount of criticism from various quarters for being under powered.

      I guess I’m jaded. 44 mpg isn’t that impressive to me in 2017. The Jetta 1.4T we used to own, and the Civic EX-T that my wife currently drives, are both cars that feel pretty quick to the butt dyno. Neither are fast, per se, but both cars give that sensation of having extra punch on tap any time you need it. They both also return(ed) close to 40 mpg regularly in our care. The other half is averaging just barely shy of 40 with the Honda even in winter, running seasonal blend fuel and in cold temps.

      So a Niro would gain me somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% in fuel economy. Eh, not sure that’s enough to get me to pull the trigger, and deal with a car that gets blown off the road by a base Jetta. I’m guessing that you’d have to hammer the Niro pretty hard to keep up with the pace of traffic around my area. I wonder if you could get mid forties MPG out of it with your foot in it all the time.

      I’m not opposed to hybrids at all. My sister has a current-gen Prius (yeah, we don’t place much weight on vehicle aesthetics) and that car is delivering high 50-‘s mpg on average, she reports. Supposedly, that car does the 0-60 run in the same time as the Niro. Having driven it, it quicker than the Prius V or the Crosstrek to me. I’ll accept “slow” when it nets me 58 mpg. 44? Not sure about that. 44 isn’t as impressive to me as it was 20 years ago. A lot of econo cars get pretty impressive MPG these days.

      By the way, the creaks and moans mentioned in the review don’t inspire confidence on my part, either. Could just be an early car, I guess. Also, it couldn’t be any creakier than our Jetta was, probably.

      TL:DR,

      The current Prius doesn’t feel too painfully slow to me, while the Prius V and Crosstrek do (borderline agonizing). If the Niro feels like either of the latter power-wise, pass. If I’m going to drive something that constantly reminds me that it’s gutless, I want 55 mpg as the payback.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        “My non-hybrid gets 40 mpg!” Sure…on the highway (downhill with a tailwind perhaps). But what does it get in the city? Not much more than half that. Whereas a hybrid is efficient on the highway..,and even more efficient in the city. If you honestly have a 100% highway use case, then don’t do a hybrid…but for everyone else, a hybrid will use less gas.

        A Dodge Challenger rocking nearly 300 hp worth of Pentastar V6 is rated at 30 MPG on the highway. I pulled 32 in one recently, despite some 85-mph stretches. (Go, 8-speed transmission!) But it’s rated at 19 in the city, and that’s optimistic…C&D’s combined observed MPG in theirs was 16 MPG. But if you drove 100% highway miles, you could honestly say its real-world highway MPG was as good as a pre-Skyactiv Mazda 3.

        It’s all about your use case.

  • avatar
    Landau Calrissian

    Granted, I only went to community college, but I don’t understand the business case for making this a stand-alone model with unique sheetmetal. Why not save a little money and put this powertrain into an existing model to create a Soul or Sportage Hybrid?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mark – good review.

    How is the rear seating, and shoulder room in the front and back? Does it feel cramped? For example, I find the Sportage pretty comfortable, but the Forte a bit close.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The fact that they had a drag-strip available for you guys is HILARIOUS.

    Did they let you auto journos duke it out on the strip?

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Anyone turned off by the freakish sheet metal and spaceship cockpit of the new Prius now have an alternative. I think it looks a bit dated and bland, and too reminiscent of a shrunken Veracruz, but the interior has that solid, serious look that I tend to associate with VW.

    Toyota should probably be a bit worried; they have the advantage of long-standing reputation here and the iconic nameplate, but there’s more competition now and the extreme styling makeover was a bit of a risk.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      If this Kia isn’t supply constrained, it should sell like crazy. Hopefully it can eat do much TMC lunch that they’ll lose the freakish metal and lights. I’ve intentionally dropped back in traffic to find somethong big enough to block my view of a Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      The Prius (non-V) gets a lot better MPG than this car seems to. I think the Ioniq is a closer competitor to the Prius than the Niro is.

      Toyota’s problem is that the new Prius was released when gas was dirt cheap. If unleaded was $4 a gallon in the USA, you’d see a ton of the new and weird Priuses on the road. Certainly, the odd styling doesn’t help the situation, but if I was concerned about getting mid 50’s MPG, it wouldn’t deter me one bit. But right now, relatively few people care about fuel economy. Well, let me restate that. They don’t care about 50 mpg when an econocar with a traditional power plant can deliver high 30’s-40.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    No comments about the flying buttresses around the console?

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Why is everyone copying Honda with those ridiculous-looking hubcaps? Has everyone gone blind? Did all the executives sit around a table and say this is the year of the ugly wheel?

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      The wheels don’t bother me but I can understand why some might not like them. Better than steelies with plastic covers. I’d like to check out a base Niro in person. Sure, it’s slow but that can be okay if the overall driving experience is good. I’ll bet this would make a nice commuter even without all the bells and whistles. No sunroof means lower weight, lower center of gravity, lower price and more headroom. And who needs leather? Roof rails? The ones on the Niro are commendably low profile. But I don’t want or need them. All they do is make snow removal all that more of a bother. I think, with the Niro, ace may be base.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Sad that they felt the need to throw 18″ rims on the touring spec, which drops economy quite a bit in the test cycle. The touring spec is intriguing to me but I don’t see the problem with 16″ or 17″ rims on it.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I like how the hood scoops recall those from the never-to-be-built Stinger GT4 concept. Because those remind me of a ’71 Plymouth.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    So if Kia is KISS, does that make Toyota the Buggles?

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    What hotel “that’s a former brewery” did you stay at in San Antonio?

    I’m asking because I’ve been doing deal work on a now-financed boutique hotel (at a time when many flagged chain hotels and independent or sub-flagged boutique hotels have already come online, some say to the point of saturation, over the last 7 years).

    Thanks.

    *I have absolutely no interest in th Niro, no matter how well your review was written, because I’m an anti-CUVite (just being honest).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Vegas is calling, Deadweight

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I’m headed to St. Thomas in 2 1/2 weeks.

        I won’t be heading back to Vegas until ICSC bullsh*t comes around.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          *shakes head*

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I need to escape the incredible gray, sunless skies of Michigan, dude.

            We’ve seen sun Wednesday, yesterday and today for the 1st time after something like 35 consecutive days of total gloom, darkness and melancholic daytime skies.

            I swear every January & February will be last year in Michigan, but then the pleasant spring/summer rolls around soon enough (well, last summer SUCKED, but it did everywhere; sweated my balls off).

    • 0 avatar

      Hotel Emma, which is the former Pearl brewery, IIRC.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Thanks, Mark!

        San Antonio is one of my favorite cities. It has a genuine authenticity to it, and fantastic history effectively captured in the architecture and streetscape.

        • 0 avatar

          If you email me, I can send you some shots of the inside. It’s un-freakin’-real. The rooms are borderline brutalist with their unpolished, raw concrete floors and walls. It’s probably one of the most unique hotels I’ve stayed in as of late.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            That’s the boutique hotel rage, now (concrete flooring, exposed ductwork/mechanicals, exposed concrete or brick interior walls, really industrial look to the faucets and fixtures – check out The Line hotel in LA partially owned/developed by chef Roy Choi (total industrial-hipster place, with terrarium and restaurant on roof).

            I am not a fan of chain, cookie-cutter hotels, so am enjoying this deal work I’m doing, which is for a group that has a great track record with boutique hotels.

            I stayed at the Iron Horse in Milwaukee (near Harley-Davidson HQ) and it was one of the better ones I’ve ever stayed in.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Really? Sounds like a $hithole I wouldn’t pay $10 to stay in.

            It also reminds me of the laundromat when I was a kid- it was a converted dairy plant, where the “conversion” consisted of wheeling out the milk equipment and wheeling in some washers and dryers and stringing up some chicken wire so kids wouldn’t mangle themselves in the dryer belts.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            It’s a hipster thing.

            To be honest, The Line in L.A. was horrible.

            Loud noise all night, crappy service, overrated food for a hotel allegedly partially owned by some hipster acclaimed chef.

            Iron Horse was fantastic, but it wasn’t post-industrial, either (modern but not industrial), and the staff was well-trained.

            The best boutique hotels CRUSH any flagged/branded chain hotel.

            I won’t stay at a chain, cookie-cutter hotel if I can avoid it, but in many parts of the country, it’s still unavoidable, unfortunately.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            mark, because I had to take calls from Hong Kong tonight for work, I was not able to close my files until late, and I checked out Hotel Emma.

            That’s a completely beautiful place in terms of exterior architecture (it’s a 10; I am going to research what the historic brewery looked like before renovation & repurposing, because I’m completely intrigued by how much they spent to restore the exterior).

            Much of the interior is very nice, too, but..and this is somewhat common in really old structures repurposed for hotels…there are some big spaces that are almost too retro, as in, it’s as if there are guest hazards in some of those spaces (like where some of the stills are located).

            The dining, lobby and guest rooms are all top-notch, and one the best things about hotels like that is that no Treo rooms are physically, exactly the same (they may have similar furnishings, fixtures, etc., but the layout of the but,ding means the rooms had to be designed around the existing structure, so there is little to no duplicationS.

            I’m shocked Kia spent that kind of coin, because room rates start at $345/night, and I doubt they received that big a discount unless they booked more than 30-40 rooms.

          • 0 avatar

            @DeadWeight I still have a bump on my head from hitting it against one of the large tank structures in a conference room.

            The big hotel spend doesn’t surprise me.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    My wife currently drives a C-Max. I’m worried about reliability issues cropping up as Maxy approaches 100,000 miles. We have no use for a full size CUV/Suv so this looks like a prime candidate for her. Before the C-Max she drove a Pontiac Vibe, which was also big enough to be our “family/trip” vehicle. I drive a Fiesta ST so you can see we are a bit un-American as far as vehicle size. I refuse to buy a vehicle with 18″ tires.
    Suburbanite in Indiana

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      So why not buy a newer used C-Max? They’re available at very nice prices. Shopping Denver and Seattle, I found 2015 Hybrids around 30k miles listed for $16,000 or so.

  • avatar
    MauiHawk

    Thanks for the review. As a 2006 Prius owner that might have been a 2017 Prius owner if not for styling, I will say the comparison to Prius V is not appropriate, though. Your reference to the standard Prius’s cargo area as diminutive is misleading because, at least on paper, it is bigger than the Niro’s (haven’t seen the Niro in person, but pictures seem to back up the numbers here)

    Cargo area is my biggest concern with the Niro. My family has done okay with our 2006 Prius cargo area, but it’s not exactly ample for 2 kids + dog. A larger cargo hold (aka Niro V) might have sealed the deal.

    • 0 avatar
      The Walking Eye

      I have a 2013 Prius and looking at upgrading and looked at the Niro. The Niro is shorter than the base Prius. IIRC, the cargo room is slightly less than what I have now.

      I want to go plugin with my next car, and right now am planning on the Prime. But I may wait to see the plugin version of the Niro before buying.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      Cargo space and how it’s packaged are two different things. My sister ended up buying a Honda Fit over larger vehicles because she found it easier to load fit large/tall objects like sewing machines, dresses, and her Great Dane in the relatively tall with a low load floor Honda. One of the things I like about my Fiat’s (seats folded) cargo area is that it is tall and shallow, which makes it very easy to load and unload everything quickly (it’s all stacked and close at hand) as opposed to trying reach far into the cargo area) the Niro’s cargo area looks a little short and boxy than the lower sloped Prius, which may help with either taller objects or if you are regularly loading and unloading things from the far front of the cargo area.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Interesting how many people equate Prius with Hybrid. There are quite a few hybrids in production, most of which look just like their non-hybrid counterparts.

    A hybrid Camry or Fusion is just as “normal” as is a conventionally powered version of the same car.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    ” Its crossover shape wouldn’t look out of place as a conventional, dino-juice powered vehicle on any dealer lot.”

    In fact, this is a conventional dino-juice powered vehicle that happen to have additional source of power for lowering consumption of that dino-juice.

  • avatar
    yticolev

    Errata: There is a mention of a Prius after the Humpty Dumpty comment. In context, it appears you meant the Niro.

    I have a question: when did you go down to San Antonio? I ask because there was a flurry of Niro US “first drive” articles and videos over a month ago for a sponsored journalist trip to San Antonio by Kia. This week we have more reports including yours and I’m just wondering if Kia did a second trip close to the release date, or these reports were delayed until now (sort of like review blackouts tech journalists have to abide by to get gear early so they can have a full report ready when the blackout is over).

    My current car is a PT Cruiser I bought new in 2001 so I’m due! My biggest disappointment on my manual is the mileage – lifetime average is not bad at 28 mpg, but the lowest mileage of any car I have owned. So I’m looking forward to owning a Niro, or stablemate Hyundai Ioniq if the size suits.

    However,depending on how it will be packaged, I’d prefer the plugin version which might be another year wait. The added cost of the plugin will likely be completely covered by the tax credit and the proposed 30 mile electric only range will reduce local trip gas costs by quite a bit. The plugin will have a slightly larger electric motor (60 versus 43 HP) which likely just compensates for the extra battery weight.

    • 0 avatar

      No, I meant Prius in that context. The new Prius (non C or V) is a much better handler than you think it’ll be.

      Kia did long- and short-lead events. We were on the short-lead event this week. There was no embargo.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “The added cost of the plugin will likely be completely covered by the tax credit…”

      I wouldn’t count on the current administration defending EV tax credits once Congress starts slashing the budget.

  • avatar
    yticolev

    Ah, thanks. I have read the latest Prius does handle better, but have also read reviews saying the Niro is all around more fun to drive with decent handling. No doubt the Hyundai Ioniq is a better match for the Prius all round, even beats the Prius Eco EPA mpg on paper (conflicting reports though from Europe but it does depend on the trim level). Both the Niro and Ioniq win any beauty contest with the Prius, interior or exterior.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I’m curious how the transmission, hybrid, and braking system all work together. One of the complaints I’ve heard from some people who have test driven a Prius (like my parents) is that they drive “weird”. Does the DSG gearbox help in that regard? Would an uninformed person realize that it’s a hybrid? is there any sort of manual control over that gearbox? that would seem to give the Niro a leg up in the fun to drive department, especially since I’m assuming it’s chassis dynamics don’t match the (surprisingly capable) C-max.

    • 0 avatar

      “One of the complaints I’ve heard from some people who have test driven a Prius (like my parents) is that they drive “weird”. Does the DSG gearbox help in that regard?”

      The Niro’s brake pedal feel is pretty normal, and acceleration is fairly linear even with the DSG.

      “Would an uninformed person realize that it’s a hybrid?”

      For the most part, it drives like any non-hybrid, but the engine doesn’t immediately turn over when you start it.

      “Is there any sort of manual control over that gearbox?”

      Yes, you can put it in Sport mode by moving the automatic gear shift toward the driver, then shift using the same stick. There are no paddle shifters, even in Touring spec.

      “I’m assuming it’s chassis dynamics don’t match the (surprisingly capable) C-max.”

      I think the C-MAX and Niro are fairly comparable in the driving dynamics department. The Niro drives lighter.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        Awesome! Thanks for all the good info. Too bad about the lack of paddle shifters. Those would’ve been a nice addition. I’ll probably start directing people in the market to check this out. If, in a few years time, I’m still driving 24k miles a year, this might even be worth me looking in to. I liked the ride and handling of the C-max but hated the styling, wasn’t crazy about the CVT, and was disappointed in the mileage. this would seem to correct all of those things.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Look at that glorious, authentic dead pedal with proper hard surface that won’t turn into a worn stained piece of carpet in 75K miles. Be still my heart.

    …The Niro Touring I drove, rated at 40 mpg highway and 43 mpg combined, returned 45 mpg on mostly rural highways…

    Given that highway driving is where hybrid fuel economy typically stumbles, this is feckin’ impressive.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Been seeing tv commercials for the Niro. They don’t mention that it’s a hybrid. Maybe some clever person figured out that’s the way to get people to buy hybrids. Superior mileage. End of story.


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