acdc
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2017 Kia Niro Hybrid: Ideal for families or ride sharing

Wed Oct 11, 2017 5:10 pm

he Kia Niro could be a bellwether vehicle that signals a shift in what was the U.S. car culture. This compact-class car merges wagon and crossover intentions with a space-efficient layout that is ideal for young families — or it could be the next purpose-built vehicle for ride- or car-sharing services.

It is not particularly sexy, but the Niro has coolness as a wagon with some crossover cues, such as the vinyl fender surrounds and a raised stance. The styling has a can-do appearance with a compact but roomy interior, big back seat room and easy-access cargo-luggage space.

The front seats are full-bodied and supportive. The shifter console is efficient with a charging bin
The front seats are full-bodied and supportive. The shifter console is efficient with a charging bin that includes a wireless charging pad (optional), two 12-volt 180-watt plugs, a USB and an audio aux-in. And there’s another USB in the armrest console. (Kia)
Kia calls Niro an Urban Crossover Hybrid Vehicle, but it is a platform built for electrified vehicles. It is available now as a gasoline-electric hybrid and later this year a plug-in hybrid model will be added. And a pure electric model is possible. (Niro shares some cross-pollination with Hyundai’s new Ioniq five-door hatchback, which also is an electric platform for hybrid, plug-in and EV models.)

Kia created the EcoDynamics sub-brand to develop environmentally friendly vehicles. The lineup so far includes the Soul EV, 2017 Optima hybrid midsize sedan and a plug-in-hybrid version with a 27-mile EV range that will go on sale at the end of the year.

The raised bench has adult-class comfort in the seat bottom.
The raised bench has adult-class comfort in the seat bottom. (Kia)
Niro is sold in five front-wheel-drive trim levels with starting prices that range from $23,785 for the thrifty FE model to $30,545 for the Touring, including the $895 freight charge from Hwaseong, Korea. All models have battery and powertrain warranty coverage of 10 years/100,000 miles.

Standard safety features include seven air bags, hill-start assist, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and tones for front and rear parking assist.

Even the base model has good equipment, such as six-way manually adjustable front seats, power windows, keyless entry and push-button ignition, 7-inch touch-screen display with rearview camera and a six-speaker audio system with Kia’s UVO3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Fold the back seats and there is a flat load floor with about 5.5 feet of length.
Fold the back seats and there is a flat load floor with about 5.5 feet of length. (Kia)
There’s also a loaded Launch Edition, $28,895, that is sold in white pearl or black pearl paint with gray 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tires, a special metallic color grille, 10-way driver’s seat, 8-inch touch-screen navigation system and eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

The Touring, today’s tester, includes a power sunroof, front and rear park assist, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, 10-way power driver’s seat, perforated leather upholstery and the Harman Kardon audio upgrade. It cost $32,840 as tested, including $395 for Snow White pearl paint and the Advanced Technology package ($1,900), which added HID headlights, autonomous vehicle braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, smart cruise control and wireless phone charger.

The hybrid powertrain combines a 104 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a 43-hp, 240-volt electric motor and 42 kW lithium-ion battery. The transmission is a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual, which I find more responsive than the continuously variable (one-speed) transmissions that is typically applied to hybrids.

The lighter FE model (Fuel Economy) has mileage ratings of 51 mpg city, 46 highway and 49 mpg combined. The rest of the line is rated 46/40/43 mpg, using the recommended 87 octane. I was averaging 43.5 mpg over more than 250 miles of driving. The 11.9-gallon tank allows a potential cruising range of more than 500 miles.

The Niro's a space-efficient layout is ideal for young families or as a ride- or car-sharing servic
The Niro's a space-efficient layout is ideal for young families or as a ride- or car-sharing service. (Kia)
The basic Eco drive mode is reserved, but pull the shifter into Sport mode and it is quite brisk. The ride quality is firm but the suspension is compliant as it transitions speed bumps and lumpy intersections. Acceleration is direct but the regenerative braking system can be challenging to modulate (at first) when trying to creep up to the parking curb or the garage wall or the car across from you in the parking space. The brake seems to switch on or off, with not much feathering flexibility.

The cabin has a tall 40 inches of front headroom, generous shoulder room and long back seat legroom of 37.4 inches. The interior is smartly styled and intuitively arranged. The front seats are full-bodied and supportive. The shifter console is efficient with a charging bin that includes a wireless charging pad (optional), two 12-volt 180-watt plugs, a USB and an audio aux-in. And there’s another USB in the armrest console.

The hybrid powertrain combines a 104 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a 43-hp, 240-vo
The hybrid powertrain combines a 104 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a 43-hp, 240-volt electric motor and 42 kW lithium-ion battery. (Kia)
The back seat area has just a low exhaust-tunnel hump, which maximizes three-across seating. The raised bench has adult-class comfort in the seat bottom. There are no USBs, but the optional 115-volt inverter should be able to handle high-speed charging.
This would be a great ride sharing vehicle - has the perfect amount of everything needed

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