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The all-new Kia Niro makes a very convincing argument against buying a Toyota Prius V ... ta-prius-v
Welcome to Dude Said, Punk Said – a special series devoted to skewering the automotive ramblings of young punk Nick Tragianis with the infinite wisdom of old dude Brian Harper. This week, the duo see how the all-new Kia Niro stacks up against the Toyota Prius V.

Nick Tragianis: In the realm of affordable hybrids, the Toyota Prius is pretty much the de-facto choice – and for a good reason. The quirks aren’t for everyone, but the Prius is exceptionally reliable and gifted at delivering stellar fuel economy. Plus, it’s available in a few different flavours – there’s the standard variant and a plug-in hybrid, plus the compact Prius C and the roomier Prius V.

Naturally, it’s hardly a surprise the Prius has seen its fair share of challengers – the most recent ones from two Korean upstarts: Hyundai and Kia. In our books, the Ioniq already proved itself a worthy alternative to the standard Prius, but those seeking more space aren’t left out. Enter the all-new Kia Niro. Like the Ioniq, it’s out for Prius blood. The question is, can it also out-normal the aging Prius V?

2Brian Harper: Absolutely. And it starts with the Niro taking on the persona of a crossover. Well, sort-of crossover. The Niro is front-wheel drive only; no all-wheel drivetrain offered. So it blends in with the crossover crowd without offering the same sort of versatility. On the other hand, the funkier Prius V – which has been on the market since 2012 – is sort of a mini-minivan; its shape, size and fuel economy making it an ideal taxicab, a function it performs in numerous Canadian and U.S. cities.

But looks are subjective. Things like price, power, fuel efficiency and user-friendliness are far less so, and it’s here the Niro is serving notice it’s not going to respect its elders.

NT: No doubt about that. The Niro starts out with a 1.6-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine. That’s paired to an electric motor and a 1.56 kWh lithium ion battery, good for a net system output of 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s sent to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Not only that, the Niro is also lighter than the Prius V and nets better fuel economy numbers. It’s officially rated at 5.1 L/100 kilometres in the city and 5.8 highway – and by the week, the trip computer settled at 5.6. So, there we have it. The Niro is more powerful and delivers better fuel economy. It’s the superior choice here, right? Do I win?

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BH: Not so fast, hotshot! I acknowledge the Niro’s superior power output; the Prius’ 1.8L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder, paired with an 80-horsepower electric motor and a sealed nickel-metal hydride battery pack, is a somewhat wimpier 136 net system horsepower. That power is routed through the front wheels by a continuously variable transmission.

And yes, its still-impressive fuel economy figures of 5.5 L/100 kilometres city and 6.0 on the highway (5.9 as-tested for the week) are not as good as the Niro’s. But, the Prius V felt more responsive — albeit far more raucous — when given the boot, especially when the Power button is pushed. The Niro needed its shift lever kicked over into Sport mode to get a suitable response, otherwise it was quite lackadaisical getting up to speed. Then there’s the fact that the V’s nickel-metal hydride batteries are considered to be both cheaper to produce and are more durable than lithium-ion. Do I hear a “yeah, but” coming?

NT: Yeah, but the Niro is lighter than the Prius V on account of the lithium-ion batteries. That said, you’re not wrong about responsiveness. Tip the throttle and the Niro takes a couple of seconds to realize you want to get going. It’s especially noticeable – and irritating – when you’re taking off from a full stop, or shifting between reverse and drive while parking or making a three-point turn.

Still, the Niro is an impressive package on the inside. The Niro’s layout is far more logical than the Prius V, with clear instrumentation in front of the driver rather than in the middle of the dashboard. Plus, for just under $33,000 as-tested, the Niro sports a larger in-dash touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, heated and cooled seats, and a heated steering wheel –features curiously missing from the Prius V’s list of goodies and creature comforts considering its $34,860 price tag.

The pricing disparity becomes even more pronounced when you’re cross-shopping base models; the Niro starts at $24,995, a cool $3,380 less than the base Prius V. But that said, as far as practicality and cargo space goes, the V doesn’t give up that easily.

BH: Oh, I’m in full agreement with you on the Niro’s cabin and various accoutrement. It’s as though The Prius V’s interior designers either ran out of inspiration or budget, maybe both. Other than the centre stack and its myriad controls and buttons, the dash is a sea of featureless grey. Talk about a yawner. Now, the V does start at $28,875, and comes with a few key features such as automatic climate control, power door locks and windows, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a 6.1-inch touchscreen and backup camera. Pretty standard fare.

Our Prius V tester was also kitted with the $5,985 Technology package, which adds a bunch of modern conveniences — sunroof, power driver’s seat, navigation, heated front seats, 17-inch wheels, smart key acces and such — but also some key safety items, including lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision system and automatic high beams. So, it’s not that the V is unsafe or uncomfortable; it’s just exceedingly dull when compared with the Niro’s cabin. There is beaucoup storage capacity, though — 34.3 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, a crossover-worthy 67.3 cu. ft. with the back row folded.

NT: Absolutely. By comparison, the Niro is slightly down on storage, offering about 22 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and just over 63 with the seats down. It’s plenty, but the Prius V earns brownie points for more cargo space.
Highlights of this comparison are Prius felt more responsive and had better fuel economy where as Niro has better power output and interior cabin was a better layout. It is also almost $4000.00 less than Prius

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