By Jeff Fortson of JeffCars.com
Highlights: Brian Peterson was responsible for the interior layout of the Niro. This Niro is Peterson’s first major vehicle assignment. He’s one of two Black car designers working for the Korean automaker.
Test Vehicle’s MSRP: $32,840 (Base Model: $23,785)
Seating Capacity: 5
Standard Safety Features: ABS; airbags; automatic headlights; a tire pressure monitoring system; a vehicle stability system; a stability control system; a hill start assist control system; a rearview camera; and a tire mobility kit
Standard Equipment (Base Model): 16-inch wheels; a 6-speed automatic transmission; a hybrid system; rear spoiler; privacy glass; manually adjustable front seats; 60/40 rear seats; a manually operated tilt/telescopic steering wheel; a dual zone automatic temperature control system; a UVO infotainment system with Android auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration; driver select modes; and an automatic stop-go ignition system
Standard Equipment (Touring): 18-inch wheels;rear a/c vents; USB charger in center console; a keyless ignition starter system; a keyless door opener (front doors only); an 8–speaker Harman Kardon sound system; an 8-inch infotainment system; heated front seats; leather wrapped steering wheel with shift knob; ventilated front seats; a power driver’s seat with lumbar support; a two-position memory seating system; a heated steering wheel; rear center armrest with cupholders; cargo cover; hidden storage tray in cargo area; deluxe scuff plates; roof rails; power folding heated mirrors with integrated turn lamps; front fog lights; power sunroof; glossy black grill trim; and a front and rear park assist system
Options: snow white pearl paint; high intensity discharge headlamp; a forward collision braking system; autonomous collision braking system; lane departure warning system; a radar activated cruise control system; and wireless phone charger
Standard Audio on Test Vehicle: a 4-speaker AM/FM with SiriusXM satellite
Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes
USB Connectivity: Yes
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty: 10 years or 100,000 miles
Standard Engine/Horsepower: 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder turbo/104-hp
Recommended Fuel: Regular
Standard Fuel Mileage: 46-city/40-hwy
What’s New: The Niro is Kia’s first all-dedicated hybrid. It was introduced during the 2017 model year. Kia’s design and engineering team has added a few high tech-features to the vehicle for the 2018 model year. Also a plug-in hybrid model joined the line up, too!
Why: The Niro is the perfect vehicle for those seeking fuel economy, space, comfort, value and the latest tech advances, without sacrificing style.
Kia’s compact, hybrid crossover is roomy enough to be considered a midsize vehicle. It’s easy to manage and great for road trips. The vehicle offers enough space to accommodate a family of five. The front wheel drive Niro is available in a variety of trims, with a starting price point just shy of $24,000.
Style and Space: The stylish station wagon-like exterior, which wears the brand’s signature tiger grille, demonstrates to the world that a hybrid does not need a quirky design to reflect that it’s a ‘green’ and great for the environment. In terms of space, the fun-to-drive vehicle rear seat can be folded flat to accommodate additional storage, too.
When the second row is folded flat, the storage rises from 19.4 cu. ft., when the seat is in use, to a whopping 54.5 cu. ft. Moreover, the higher end Touring trim is outfitted with a hidden storage department underneath the floor mat.
Fuel-Economy:In fact, a great design coupled with outstanding gas mileage is likely to win over a number of buyers yearning for just a little more out of their crossovers. According to fueleconmy.gov, the Niro produces 51 miles in the city and 46 miles on the highway. As you may know, hybrids are designed to achieve better gas mileage, when driving on city streets as opposed to the highway.
On a full tank of gasoline, the sporty compact has a driving range of 583 miles. The Niro, which is powered by a peppy, but extremely quiet 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine, also contains a stop-start feature that turns the engine off and on, when the vehicle is at a complete stop. This serves as another measure for the engineers to squeeze out an additional mile or two from the Niro.
Peterson’s Interior Touches:Beyond the fuel-efficient hybrid system, the real magic for the Niro occurs inside the vehicle. Immediately one will take note of a number of subtle changes throughout the vehicle reflecting the Niro’s hybrid system.
The vents are trimmed in blue. And depending on if one opts for the higher trim, there are a number of subtle indicators, highlighting the vehicle’s hybrid characteristics. From the perforated leather seats to the door panels to the shift lever, each component is outlined with blue stitching. Of course, the color blue indicates this is a hybrid.
Also, the gauges embedded in the instrument panel are thoughtfully laid out. The bright colors beaming from the pure white background are not only engaging, but filled with useful information related to the operation of the hybrid, as well as other features equipped in the vehicle.
Furthermore, depending upon the trim, those opting for the base Niro can expect a rearview camera, automatic headlights, a dual-zone automatic temperature control system and Apple CarPlay and Android.
For those opting for more premium features, the Touring trim will fit the bill. The higher end trim is available with such features as 18-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, a heating system that fully heats the entire steering system, a premium audio system, a rear seat center armrest, folding heated exterior mirrors and a two-position memory setting for the driver’s seat.
Lastly, the Niro is available with the latest high-tech safety driving aids, too. Those driving aids can consist of such features as the electronic blind spot system, a lane keep assist system and a radar-activated cruise control system.
But: With all of the high-tech features in this compact hybrid crossover, what happened to the automatic rearview mirror (on the Touring trim)? There is no reason why Kia should have cut costs to exclude this feature.
Verdict: Kia’s first all-dedicated crossover has hit a sweet spot in the market place. With its contemporary design, thoughtfully laid-out interior, fuel- efficient engine and advanced high-tech features, this well-built vehicle is a standout amongst buyers seeking a crossover or a hybrid.
Oh yes and we can’t forget, since the interior of the vehicle has the imprints of a young Black man, this adds to the unique of this vehicle.
And just in terms of fuel economy alone, the Niro beats both of its competitors. The soon to be discontinued Ford C-Max and the Toyota Prius V both fall short in this area, when comparing fuel economy and driving range.
The all-new Niro, which is available as a plug-in, shares a platform with the Ioniq, Hyundai’s hybrid hatchback.
Competition: Ford’s C-Max Hybrid and Toyota’s Prius V
About Jeff Fortson:
Jeff Fortson is the host of SiriusXM 141 “Auto Trends with JeffCars.com.” It’s a weekly multicultural auto show, which includes in-depth conversations with today’s influencers and pioneers. For air dates and time, cruise over to JeffCars.com. Follow him on twitter @JeffCars.