Ace of Base: 2019 Kia Niro FE

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
ace of base 2019 kia niro fe

The South Korean automaker has no qualms about upending the status quo – witness the Stinger GT. Kia’s Niro hybrid might not look radical, but it’s a fuel-efficient dart hurled directly at the almighty Toyota Prius. Not everyone wants to loudly advertise their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, after all.

Fe might stand for iron on the periodic table, but can this FE iron out some traditional hybrid wrinkles? Let’s find out.

For 2019, Kia sticks with the strategy of pricing its most efficient Niro as the entry level offering. This is unique, as historically some other automakers have charged a slight premium for trims with all the fuel economy tricks – the Elantra Eco immediately springs to mind.

The $23,490 Niro FE knocks out a 50 mpg rating from the EPA on a combined cycle, with drivers reporting real-world numbers near 60 mpg if they choose to employ hypermiling techniques in town. Most of those hypermiling habits will reliably enrage roadmates, by the way. Kia is not responsible for the resultant nasty glares and outstretched digits hurled in your general direction.

Sixteen-inch wheels and tires with an eye towards economy are the chief contributors to the FE’s miserly ways. It’s lighter than its stablemates, too, owing to the absence of weight-adding options like a sunroof that appears on more expensive Niro trims. Moving up the food chain to a Touring model kicks fuel economy down to the low 40s, a number which is still head-and-shoulders above most other crossover-esque machines (though I know few people in the Niro’s target market who’d willingly give up nearly 10 mpg for the sake of a set of rims and some options).

So, what does one give up in the FE? Beyond the aforementioned sunroof and 18-inch rims, not a lot. Rear USB ports vanish but there is still a single unit up front. You’ll have to twist a key to alight the 1.6L four-pot rather than just push a button. And rear seat riders go without an armrest.

Other than that, the Niro FE retains automatic dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescope wheel, and infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Color selection remains the same as on higher trims, save for a shade of blue, as do all measured dimensions and the powertrain. The red shown here is a $295 option, though – the only no charge hue is boring silver.

Speaking of which, Niro drivers will be in command of a breathtaking 139 horsepower (you’re sensing my sarcasm here) provided by the tag team of a 104 hp 1.6L mill and 43 hp electric motor. Its 1.56 kWh battery stands by to help keep fuel costs at bay. Our man Tim tested a Touring model, calling it a “bit underpowered,” but most folks in the market for a Niro aren’t likely to be racing Tran for slips any time soon. A six-speed dual clutch puts what power there is to the ground.

Does the Niro FE make the Ace of Base grade? I think so, given it outstrips its trim-level peers in fuel economy (the main mission of a car like this) yet bears the lowest sticker price – nearly ten grand less than Tim’s tester, in fact. That’s quite a wrinkle for the FE to iron out.

[Images: Kia Motors]

Join the conversation
3 of 19 comments
  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Nov 14, 2018

    It's a relatively good looking rig and I would not shun it from my driveway. I am curious how hybrids' power numbers are determined though. Above it says 104 hp from the engine with 43 hp from tje electric motor for a combined total of 139 hp. Why is it not additive, or does the motor represent a drag on the engine when in use? I confess to being ignorant of how that works.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Nov 14, 2018

      The total power is the sum of the power developed by the gas engine and the electric motor *at a particular RPM*. Peak power from a gas engine is usually close to redline, but at that speed the electric power is lower than peak, so they never add together cleanly on paper. Torque output is the opposite, however, with the electric motor winning at low rpms. This is what makes hybrids attractive, because you can launch a car off the line with little demand placed on the ICE, but the ICE provides the push (power) needed at higher speeds where electric motors tend to fall off. Getting the two methods of propulsion to blend nicely is a real trick. FWIW, the Niro does a very good job of this - much better than my 13 Optima Hybrid.

  • Shankar Subramanyan Shankar Subramanyan on Nov 14, 2018

    What I would like to know is the warranty on the battery. Some news articles mentioned that Hyundai offers unlimited battery warranty for original owners. Does anyone know if Kia does the same with Niro as well as their other PHEV or hybrid models? TIA.

  • SCE to AUX Beautiful find! I can't fit inside, but I'd admire it any time.$16500 seems decent for a semi-rare collectible in good condition, but others will know better.
  • Dukeisduke I would use the phrase "new clutch disk and pressure plate", or simply "new clutch". Hopefully it's got a new throwout bearing, too. It looks okay, but the stripes have to go.
  • Crtfour I love those old "Heartbeat" commercials, and brings back memories of growing up riding in Astro vans.
  • Tassos Murilee's piece of junk today was a Camaro from 1992. I told him to scrap it ASAP and put it out of its misery before Tim steals it and makes it his so-called 'used car of the day'. I did not count on Tim being much more ambitious than that. He was able to find one that is TWENTY Years older than that.It may make a collectible for a few (sure as hell not for me), but it SURE AS HELL IS NOT A "USED CAR OF THE DAY".
  • Jeff I like these 3rd generation Camaros much better than the 2nd generation. I might be in the minority but I always liked these Camaros. As for the S-10 pickups I had a second generation S-10 for almost 21 years very reliable so I might be in the minority here as well but when something gives me good service and costs not much to keep up then I like that vehicle.