NYIAS: 2023 Kia Niro Previewed for U.S. Market

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
nyias 2023 kia niro previewed for u s market

After its debut at the 2021 Seoul Mobility Show, Kia has prepped the second-generation Niro crossover for the New York International Auto Show and indicated that the model will retain its extra-bold styling for the U.S. market.

Directly inspired by the 2019 HabaNiro concept, Kia’s compact crossover features a fat C-pillar in a contrasting color. The low-hanging headlamps have also been pushed out to the side, giving off some faint Telluride vibes. Aspects of the Soul are also present, though that’s likely down to the model sharing some of its aesthetics with the HabaNiro. Kia seems the most pleased with its upgraded powertrain roster, however.

Scheduled to arrive on dealer lots this summer, every version of the 2023 Kia Niro comes with some form of electrification. Base models are equipped with a 1.6-liter Smartsream GDi engine mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic and 32kW permanent magnet synchronous electric motor. Kia says the package is good for 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque yielding 53 mpg (city/highway combined) and an estimated 588-mile range.

Above that is the plug-in hybrid, which adds a more-powerful 44-kW electric motor and an 11.1-kWh battery back. As with the base model, it’s front-wheel drive only. However, customers do get the option to run it on all-electric propulsion for 33 miles between charges. Since the pack is quite small, the manufacturer said it takes under three hours to recharge the unit using a Level 2 charger (the same one you use for your dryer).

Then there’s the 150-kW (201 horsepower) all-electric model. With a range of 253 miles, the model takes a competitive position for the segment. But it’s not a dazzling figure when compared to more expensive EVs that are already on the market. Kia believes it’s sufficient for most people, however, adding that the can go from 10 to 80 percent of its full charge in less than 45 minutes — provided it’s hooked up to a Level 3 fast charger. Home charging on a 240-volt outlet is decidedly longer, taking a smidgen under seven hours.

The wheelbase has been stretched a bit over the previous generation, now measuring measuring 107 inches with a total vehicle length of 174 inches. Kia said this has created more cargo room behind the rear seats (22.8 cubic feet total) while adding roughly eight cubic feet of space for passengers.

Speaking of the interior, it’s been completely modernized and gives off a minimalist impression that’s not unfamiliar to what we’ve seen from from other manufacturers. It doesn’t look bad, there’s just not as much to be done when you swap to a touchscreen-focused cabin. To offset this, the manufacturer makes mention of how it uses sustainable, animal-free materials — including recycled wallpaper, bio polyurethane, and pulp from eucalyptus leaves. Some of the paint was also said to be BTX-free. But this again can be a double-edged sword, as eco-friendly materials sometimes feel extremely cheap.

All of the above will need to be experienced in person before any valid assessments can be made. However, there is an aspect of the 2023 Kia Niro that pretty much ensures I’ll never recommended one — regardless of how well testing goes — and that’s the company’s decision to outfit the vehicle with a new “Green Zone” driving mode.

The system automatically switches the hybrids into all-electric propulsion whenever they’re in residential areas, near a hospital, rolling through a school zone, and any other geo-locked areas based on its GPS positioning and the car’s previously recorded driving history. While the feature currently has to be selected as an alternative to Eco or Sport modes, it’s something manufacturers have been toying with for years to prepare for governments that want to ban gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in certain areas. It’s another example of modern automobiles taking control away from the driver and frankly something I hope never catches on.

Everything else is pretty standard for a modern compact crossover, including driving aids like pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring (all with more warning alarms than before). There’s also more to be had for those interested in laying down a bigger portion of their paycheck. Unsatisfied shoppers can upgrade to dual 10.25-inch screens for the instrument cluster/infotainment system or scoop up the optional eight-speaker Harman/Kardon premium sound system. Kia is also selling heated/ventilated front seats with memory settings, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with some semi-autonomous driving features.

Pricing is TBD. But Kia likely won’t keep us waiting for long since deliveries are just a few months away.

[Images: Kia]

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4 of 32 comments
  • Syke Syke on Apr 14, 2022

    I take it this is going to be the less expensive EV in the Kia lineup? The first EV6 has already shown up at our monthly car club, and it's a knockout.

  • Astigmatism Astigmatism on Apr 14, 2022

    It's like what would happen if you took the most boring fake-car shape that animators could come up with for a straight-to-streaming movie, grafted a couple of extraordinarily ugly details on it to make it stand out, and then took literally the two worst things about the otherwise-excellent EV6 - that damn combo HVAC/media control strip and the knob shifter (which ALMOST got me to back into a concrete bollard last weekend) - while ignoring all of that car's fantastic design touches. What could go wrong?

    • See 1 previous
    • Astigmatism Astigmatism on Apr 14, 2022

      @haze3 The control strip is an abomination. Making it particularly bad is the fact that, because all of the buttons (including the one that switches between HVAC and media controls) are both small and virtual, you need a pretty steady finger to push them, and in a moving EV6, the obvious way to steady your hand would be to rest your palm on the front of the center console - but if you put a palm or a finger there, five times out of ten you'll inadvertently activate one of the touch-sensitive seat/steering wheel heat buttons at the end of the console. As for the Niro design, it's the classic "Some of it's new, some of it's good." It's really a very anonymous looking car generally (inoffensive, but anonymous), _except_ for the cobra-that-couldn't-quite-swallow-the-back-of-a-CRV accent swoosh and the overwrought headlights.

  • Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
  • Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)
  • AMcA Phoenix. Awful. The roads are huge and wide, with dedicated lanes for turning, always. Requires no attention to what you're doing. The roads are idiot proofed, so all the idiots drive - they have no choice, because everything is so spread out.
  • Leonard Ostrander Pet peeve: Drivers who swerve to the left to make a right turn and vice versa. They take up as much space as possible for as long as possible as though they're driving trailer trucks or school busses. It's a Kia people, not a Kenworth! Oh, and use your turn signals if you ever figure out where you're going.