By on October 18, 2017

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2017 Kia Niro Touring

1.6-liter four-cylinder combined with electric motor (139 horsepower; 195 lb-ft)

Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

46 city / 40 highway / 43 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

5.1 city / 5.8 highway / 5.4 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $30,545 (U.S) / $34,735 (Canada)

As Tested: $32,575 (U.S.) / $34,735 (Canada)

Prices include $895 destination charge in the United States and $1,740 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Outside of perhaps its front styling – especially the slightly bug-eyed headlamps and the pinched grille – the Kia Niro doesn’t really stand out in a crowd.

It’s quiet, thanks to a hybrid powertrain. It’s compact in length and height. It has a driving experience that isn’t memorable in ways good or bad.

And none of that preceding paragraph is meant as an insult.

Sometimes calling a car “boring” is a bit like saying the wrong thing about a barfly’s mother – an invitation to trouble (metaphorical trouble, in this instance, but trouble nonetheless). Not in this case, though. As much as almost everyone who writes about cars wishes everything we drove was sporty and sleek-looking, that’s not what most buyers want or need. Why else has Toyota sold Camrys and Corollas by the literal boatload, regardless of any criticism from the automotive media?

Yeah, I know, this point has been made before – I’ve certainly written a variation of that previous paragraph multiple times. Self-plagiarism aside, it’s worth repeating because it’s an obvious premise that nevertheless often gets overlooked.

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Sometimes a car just works. It does lots of things well, and it doesn’t matter if it’s entertaining or fun or turns heads. That, in a nutshell, is the Niro.

All trim levels have the same powertrain: A 1.6-liter four-cylinder gas engine that mates to an electric motor for a total system horsepower of 139, with a combined torque figure of 195 lb-ft. That power gets to the wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Straightforward enough.

Even with almost 200 lb-ft of torque, the Niro feels a bit underpowered, and a 3,000-pound-ish curb weight (it varies by trim) doesn’t help. Plan your passing accordingly.

Kia has been accused in the past of offering poor steering feel, but the company has shown improvement, and that’s the case here. While there are crossovers out there with better, more dynamic steering, the Niro’s unit is at least engaging enough. There’s no numbness or excessive lightness.

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Ride is pleasant, and handling is just sporty enough (it’s not all boredom round these here parts). Again, a more engaging personality would be nice, but the Niro doesn’t seem to need it.

That’s in part because, personality aside, my test Niro came in Touring trim — the model’s top trim level. As such, it arrived with features like heated front seats, heated steering wheel, nav, Bluetooth, UVO infotainment, satellite radio, leather seats – the usual when one asks for “the works.” An option package added forward-collision warning, smart cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and lane-departure warning.

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The “it just works” theme carries over to the inside. The radio has volume and tuner knobs in just the right place, the climate controls are simple and straightforward (as well as easily reached), and the touchscreen is intuitive and switches menus quickly. Graphically, it’s easy to read.

The USB port is in a convenient place, just fore of a small storage area and the cupholders. Nothing is fancy here, but everything is in the place where you’d expect it to be.

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Rear-seat room is a tad tight, but legroom is class-competitive and headroom is only bested by the Ford C-Max. My tall frame was completely comfortable up front.

A nagging question bugged me during my entire time in the car – is the Niro a crossover or a wagon? The TTAC editorial staff was split. It doesn’t necessarily look like a wagon – the cargo area is too truncated. But in some ways, it feels like one. That’s also not an insult, by the way.

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Yeah, Kia will market it as a CUV, and as noted, the editorial braintrust is split on whether it’s a wagon or not. To me, it has the same qualities that make small wagons appealing to so many.

Whatever it is, it has a lot going for it. Aside from a lack of punch and so-so steering, it’s not disappointing to drive. It’s not a looker, per se, but it’s not ugly – and to be fair, my tester came painted in a slightly pedestrian shade of blue. I’ve seen Niros with the red paint job that have more flair (sorry, Mike Judge).

I know, I know, a well-packaged car isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But that’s the point. There’s a lot to like about the Niro, including fuel-economy ratings of 46 mpg city/40 mpg highway. It’s a package that just works.

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That said, the sticker price for the Touring trim I tested reached $32,575, and that takes some of the shine off.

If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, you can get a LX or EX trim for a bit less money. That would give you nice value for a fuel-efficient daily driver that does lots of things well.

Not sexy, sure. But it doesn’t matter – you’ll be spending your energy figuring out if you own a wagon or a crossover, and that’s a debate that’s sure to never bore you.

[Images: © 2017 Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]

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28 Comments on “2017 Kia Niro Touring Review – Who Says Boring Is Bad?...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I think Kia could have done more with the instrument cluster. Why not replace everything with a single large color LCD, a la Volt / Bolt? A hybrid / EV is a chance for an automaker to show off its technological prowess—and that can be done intuitively—but Kia missed an opportunity here. Then again, the flip side is that Kia seems to be trying to make as normal of a vehicle here, without all of the dorky / controversial styling that competitors have. So the mostly-ordinary instrument cluster is in keeping with that; indeed that center color LCD is used in most of their other vehicles.

    As for the Niro’s bodystyle itself, I would place it in the same sort of not-quite-a-wagon category as some of yesterdecade’s vehicles, including the Matrix, Vibe and Caliber. Somewhere between a hatchback and a wagon. Just because of how ambiguous the crossover definition is, the fact that there’s even a debate about whether or not it’s a crossover…sort of makes it a crossover, also.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My local dealer has a Niro FE listed for $20200, and that’s before negotiating. You’d have to really want all those options to push the price up by 50%.

    At 6’6″, I found I could ‘sit behind myself’ in a Niro at last year’s auto show. It’s very roomy.

    This car is on my short list for a next purchase, but I have concerns about the electric-gas transition. It can be pretty rough in my 13 Optima Hybrid. How is this transition in the Niro, Tim?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The Niro is high on my list of vehicles when I make my next purchase (edit acquisition as if the vehicle I select is a hybrid it will most likely be a lease), which is scheduled, hopefully, for the spring/summer of 2018.

    However the MSRP is steeper than most of the others on the list. And the Government of Ontario does not, currently, have the Niro listed as one of the vehicles for which it provides a rebate/incentive. Although its ‘cousin’ the Ioniq is listed. As is the C-Max another vehicle that I am considering.

    Believe that the Niro should be considered for an Ace of Base column as the base model is not badly equipped.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      I took a quick glance at the Niro,just before purchasing a C-Max Energi. The Kia’s exterior styling does have more appeal, or fewer weird details, at least. But one minute inside the car was enough. Compared to the C-Max’s open & airy dome, the roof seemed lowered, like a “chopped” car. (I’ve never had a car with too much headroom. Now I do, and that’s ok.)

      Factor in that I wanted a plug-in hybrid, which offers me $9007 in combined tax credits. And I didn’t want a first-year vehicle. The C-Max had its teething pains with the 2013 models, but now that seems to be worked out. Modern Fords score better in the steering and handling department than Kias, too. Though the issues of tire grip and center of gravity are far different, the feel of everyday driving with the NRGTi (Energi, Titanium) doesn’t give up much from my previous car, a Mk. V GTI.

      Always happy to see another long roofed hybrid show up in the market, though!

    • 0 avatar
      Lynchenstein

      There’s a plug in hybrid version coming next year. Maybe Ontario has something for that?

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    In the top photo, that bump on the left of the hood is quite unfortunately surfaced. The crease doesn’t play well with the surface angle and results in a weird shape that’s caving in on the engine. Kia should have used straight creases on the hood instead of adding those pointless “hook” on the end.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Car prices these days are insane.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    No observed fuel economy? On a hybrid review where the value proposition is questioned?

    If insufficient miles were driven to calculate economy from fillup data perhaps it should be a Quick Take review?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I had no chance to fill it and measure. If I do have a chance to observe fuel economy, it will be in the Fast Facts box. I can tell you the computer was saying mid-40s, but I’m wary of trip-computer accuracy.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’m still leaning heavily toward a C-Max, but I probably will check out a Niro. I guess it all depends how well they depreciate since the C-Max depreciates heavily at a year old.

    I do love the abundance of headroom in the C-Max but the Niro has a lot more modern tech features and doesn’t look quite as weird. Not that there’s anything wrong with weird though. :)

  • avatar
    JMII

    I often get Kias or sister Hyundia’s as rentals because they typically come with XM activated at Hertz. Your remarks on the interiors are spot on. I find them very user friendly, buttons are where you expect them to be and do what you need, IE: like actual volume knobs and not some touchscreen slide control nonsense.

    They also normally have a drive mode button that goes between normal, eco and sport. I found putting them in sport mode really helps cure the numb steering and remaps the shift points to be more useful. My only complaint is the drive mode reverts to normal each time you shut the vehicle off thus I have to always put in back in sport which requires two clicks. If I owned one this would drive me crazy.

    The Niro seems to be “right sized”. It is clearly a wagon yet pulls of the CUV look just enough that I think it will be popular. Mileage is impressive but the price needs to come down about $3K. Maybe transaction prices are more inline with my expectations.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    $32K is about 50% more than I would have thought this car would be. I have a tendency to look outside a car’s class for comparisons and that comes in handy for a car like the Niro that doesn’t have an obvious class. The car that came to mind is the Lexus CT200h and what do you know? You can get a CT200h (while they’re still being sold) for $32K. The CT is aging and a bit smaller but still think I’d prefer it over the Niro.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    I bet if you came to the dealer at the end of the month you could have this for 25k, or in that ballpark.

    That would be something to ponder depending on the space inside. For someone like my wife who is just looking for an appliance this could be a good pick.

    (Also my vote is wagon)

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    This car is a HATCHBACK!! I’ve seen it in the wild. If you are happy with boring why not buy a Prius or a used Lexus CT200..or a new Hybrid Camry. The quality on Hyundai Kia is not as good as Toyota. Their warranty has proven to be deceptive…especially when their motors blow.

  • avatar
    deanst

    How about a stinger hybrid wagon? Might as well dream big!

    It would be interesting to see if the vehicle actually got better mileage around town.

    (And it’s been a long time since Camrys and corollas sold by the literal boatload around here – most are made in North America.)

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I kind of tuned out on the review when I saw a base price over $30K for this thing. I can’t help but think of all the other better and more interesting cars that can be had at this price, even in Kia’s own showroom. People seem to like this car from a company they don’t respect, whereas I feel the exact opposite. You lose out on Kia style and value for the sake of mileage in the era of cheap gas.

    Even a Golf Sportwagen would be better – the 8 grand or so saved will buy a lot of gas, and you’ll have a car that can get out of its own way.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    If Kia could drop the price by a couple thousand, the Niro might be the Prius-killer hybrid that a lot of people have been waiting for, particularly considering how much Toyota has been hitting the Prius with an ugly stick lately.

  • avatar
    Use2play

    How spoiled car reviewers are today , where Monday it’s a hot corvette, the maybe a Shelby mustang on Wednesday it’s a So when it comes to the value in the hybrid group,they look down their nose at the entire group claiming that they are boring which is unfair to the cars and unprofessional of the writers. if you were to evaluate the hot car of the week for its ability to go to the grocery store or bringing the kids to school and stuff the6 would fail miserably same way as if you brought the Kia Nero to the racetrack … just don’t ask or expect things To be what they were not designed to be. organize a parking lot filled with hybrids and I think you’ll find that if you were to have a group of test drivers evaluate all the cars for what they were intended today this new Kia Nero the top the list in most categories

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      My contention of boredom is based mostly on the styling (and color, as I noted), and a little bit on the steering. I didn’t necessarily expect a lot of sportiness, but some would be nice — most people here are enthusiasts to some degree, so it’s always nice when a “mainstream” car is on the sporty side.

      There are some cars that work well AND aren’t boring. There are some cars that don’t work and are boring. This car, like many, works well but just didn’t turn heads, nor was it particularly engaging to drive.

      That said, I’d consider daily driving one.

  • avatar
    Prove Your Humanity 2+9=?

    What is a “niro”?
    We know who De Niro is.
    Maybe they meant Nero but just got the first vowel wrong.

    For 32K, this will be an also-ran. It’s not a bad concept, and the mileage will be an advantage if oil suddenly shoots up (not too likely, but not impossible).
    There are just too many other choices for CUV/wagons/hatchbacks in this price range. KIA is trying to better its image. They still have a long way to go, and just raising prices won’t make it a premium brand.

  • avatar
    hazmat

    Sweet spot for this guy is the entry trim. It’s a 2nd car/city car and it’ll smoke that job as well as any other competitor. Hybrid power train, so can travel if you want it to but that’s the versatility benefit, not the wheelhouse.

    Kia is going to drop 8% from MSRP to Invoice-holdback, then take of incentives. This is not a 32K car, it’s 28-29K transaction (maybe lower)and, really, it shouldn’t be bought in this trim anyhow.

  • avatar
    crossx5

    To me also, a wagon can be a crossover – 6″ and niro comes pretty close to that.

  • avatar

    I say ’tis neither CUV nor wagon, as it’s too short for the latter. Just a hatchback, like a Matrix.

  • avatar
    eyeofthetiger

    Nobody knows if this is a wagon, CUV, or hatchback, so nobody will buy it. If they are marketing it as a CUV, it should at least have an AWD option. Sheeple don’t buy ambiguous products. As good as their products are, Kia still cannot sell on their name, alone. The Niro marketing will have to create a strong identity that makes sheeple feel warm and fuzzy (no, not more hamsters), or it will end up just like the Mazda 5 and Ford C-Max. And then there is the price. Sure, it’s a hybrid and it probably drives better than any Prius, but it’s still $30K for a Kia.

  • avatar
    beachy

    FWIW, Motorweek has one of these as a long term tester. First update 11/03 17. I’m still waiting for the PHEV, can’t find much on it.

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