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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2017 1:09 am

The Kia Niro is a fun and zippy hybrid for under $30,000

Kia took its very first shot at a hybrid hatchback-crossover this year — the Niro — and the results are commendable.

The hybrid hatch market is pretty well defined. Toyota's Prius has consistently reigned supreme in sales, and competitors like the Ford C-Max and Kia's corporate stablemate, the Hyundai Ioniq, have been slow to catch up.

Kia may not be a household name, but the Niro is already the second best-selling hybrid for 2017 and has received fairly consistent praise across the board.

At a time where the crossover segment is hot, the Niro boasts solid mileage without skimping on space — all with a price tag that's difficult to overlook.

We took the 2017 Niro hybrid out for a spin to see if it really lives up to the hype. Here's the verdict:
I tested the Kia Niro over the course of a sunny weekend in New Jersey. Here it is at Palisades Interstate Park after making a few trips around Fort Lee.As you can see, the Kia Niro is a very no frills car. It has a clean design, unobtrusive grille, and sleek headlights. The Niro isn't a luxurious vehicle, nor does it try to be.I drove the Niro EX in a very practical gunmetal gray. At 171.5 inches long, this is a true compact SUV. It offers just the right amount of space, especially under the hatch, but is the perfect size for quick handling on a highway or difficult parallel parking jobs.The biggest allure of the Kia Niro hybrid is certainly its price. The EX starts at an appealing $25,700. But the model pictured here is priced at $28,895 because it comes with a sunroof and the advanced technology package. For less than $30,000, I highly recommend spending a little extra for those features, but I'll get to that in a bit.The Niro hybrid comes with a 6-speed dual clutch transmission, a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine, and an electric motor capable of producing 43 hp. Combined, it makes 139 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. That's a bit more power than the Ford C-Max (141 hp and 129 lb.-ft. of torque), the next-best competitor among hybrid crossovers.The Niro comes equipped with a parallel hybrid system, meaning the gas powered engine and electric motor run at the same time.

Many hybrids, such as the Prius, use a continuous variable transmission (CVT) that serve up good fuel economy but can result in an buzzy disconnect when accelerating; they effectively have one gear, or an infinite number of gears, depending on how you look at it. The transmission seeks to match itself perfectly to how hard the motor is working.

The Niro bucks this trend by using a dual-clutch transmission that shifts smoothly under the conditions I threw at it (heavy acceleration, climbing up a particularly steep hill). The SUV always caught up to the situation at hand, and I never felt like the transition was wonky or ill-suited to handle my driving needs.

For situations where you want a sure bout of power, you can switch to Sport mode. That will cut into the Niro's fuel efficiency, but I didn't find it necessary for basic driving.The SUV gets a combined 49 MPG. That edges out the C-Max (40 MPG) and even stays competitive with the Prius (52 MPG).
Business Insider/Danielle Muoio
That mileage only applies to the EX and LX. The base Kia Niro FE gets a combined 50 MPG, while the high-end Touring drops to 43 MPG because it's slightly bigger.

The Niro comes with regenerative braking, which came in handy during stop-and-go traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel. When I received the Niro, the battery was at a 50% charge and had a full tank of gas.

Throughout my weekend, I would see the battery drop by 25% during heavy highway driving, only to see it get back to 50% after grappling with traffic or driving on the suburban roads of Fort Lee, NJ. That was when I kept it in Eco mode, which works just fine for poking along in slow traffic.

A plug-in Niro is promised for the US in the 2018 model year. According to the advance info from Kia, it should deliver about 30 miles of all-electric range on a single charge.Kia doesn't provide the acceleration time for the Niro, but Motor Trend put it at 8.7 seconds — a little slower than the C-Max at 8.3 seconds. From personal experience, the car's compact size made it easy to change lanes. It's definitely zippier with Sports Mode, but you can get the job done if you'd rather kick back in Eco.

If you're someone who likes to take the occasional road trip, the Niro isn't a bad choice by any means. It's not necessarily a fun car to take on a highway, but how many compact SUVs that's aren't luxury models dreamed up in Germany are, really? I wasn't blown away by the Niro's highway performance, especially when I was in Eco mode, but I never felt like it was trudging along. I was capable of changing lanes quickly or making a rapid exit without pushing the car to the edge.I can't take a definitive stance on the safety features because I engaged in limited highway driving in this car. From my general experience, smart cruise control worked fine and is a nice perk at a this price-point.

I didn't love the lane departure warning feature on this car, only because the sound was very jarring, and it had a tendency to be a little too sensitive. Still, it consistently detected vehicles in my blind spot before I did, so I consider it a worthwhile investment.

Not to toot my own horn, but I never got in a situation where automatic emergency braking was activated, so I can't speak to its accuracy. But generally speaking, I think $2,300 is a nice price for a safety package that includes smart cruise control.

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Posts: 47
Joined: Tue Jul 18, 2017 6:35 pm

Re: The Kia Niro is a fun and zippy hybrid for under $30,000

Zippy is such a good description word for the Niro. The extra cabin space compared to a compact is fantastic but it is still so light on its feet parking and the get up and go at lights makes the extra weight and size forgotten. Not a lot of crossovers yet to choose from this year so hopefully we can get some competition going in the near near future but so far the Niro is kicking it out of the ball park

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