Entry Price: $22,890
Price as Tested: $32,445
This week, we’re driving the 2017 Kia Niro Touring Hybrid, an all-new crossover built to take sales away from all the other small hybrids that dot our nation’s highways. Conceived from the drawing board to be a hybrid crossover, Niro is listed as a small station wagon by the EPA and comes in an attractive five-door hatch design with room for five adults in a pinch. Niro is a little longer in wheelbase (1.2-inches) compared to compact Kia Sportage and just as good looking in its final pattern.
Similar to other hybrids, Niro utilizes an electric motor, Lithium Ion Polymer battery and an internal combustion engine for motivation. The combined net horsepower sits at 139 with an impressive 195 lb. ft. of torque. The fuel mileage is very impressive as our top line Touring model delivers 46 city and 40 highway MPG, while the mid-level and lighter EX model delivers 51 city and 46 highway. All Niros rely on internal combustion thanks to a 104-horse 1.6-liter Atkinson four cylinder engine that works in tandem with a 43-horsepower electric motor and the aforementioned battery that mounts under the rear seat.
Kia calls its hybrid combo a “Full Parallel Hybrid System” and the result is smooth, reliable performance that delivers outstanding hybrid efficiency. (Don’t add the horsepower of the engine and electric motor together as neither ever works in unison at 100-percent capacity. Thus the 139-horse total instead of 147 horses for my mathematic conscious readers.)
A fine shifting six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission delivers the power to 16-inch Michelin tires on alloy wheels on the entry and mid-level models. Upper class Niro Touring, which is our tester this week, comes with 18-inch Michelin tires and a host of other high end amenity features. The result is a Niro that is heavier and thus impacts the MPG numbers lower, with 46 city and 40 highway the EPA estimates versus the 52 city and 49 highway the lower priced models offer.
The front drive Niro handles well as all suspension components are made of strong yet lightweight components. Notable is that the current Niro is not available in an all-wheel-drive (AWD) format, which is puzzling since every other crossover on the market today offers both two-wheel and four-wheel drive models.
Our Niro Touring came with an entry of $29,650 which really ups the creature comfort quotient. The entry Niro FE starts at just $22,890, followed by the LX at $23,200 and EX at $25,700. Remember that regardless of choice, you receive the exact same drivetrain in every model.
Every Kia Niro comes with a UVO infotainment stereo system that offers eServices technology and numerous functions via your smart phone. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, as is SiriusXM radio. The FE, LX and EX touch-screens are of seven-inch design with six-speaker stereo, while the Touring versions receive eight-inch screens and enhanced Harmon Kardon stereos with navigation and eight-speakers.
Corporate Kia wants Niro to be accepted as a crossover, as they call it a “new crossover” vehicle. However, until they offer a 4x4 or AWD system, Niro to me is a very nice front drive hybrid wagon that I doubt will deliver the needed traction in a major snowstorm ala all front-drive only vehicles. Still, Kia Niro offers much for the money and could well be an excellent buy.
Our Touring had just one option, a recommended $1,900 advanced technology package that adds smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, wireless phone charger and a 115-volt inverter. I highly recommend this option as it is well worth the money from an enhanced safety aspect. Touring models come with countless amenities, from power sunroof to heated steering wheel and seats. Your Kia dealer will explain everything when you visit.
Another consumer wellbeing safety feature is a blind-spot detection system with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert that is standard on the EX and Touring models. All expected modern day safety items are included on every Niro built, from four-wheel ABS disc brakes to all the airbags.
I was impressed with the pep of the Niro under full throttle, especially from a dead start. The excellent torque available should erase any concerns of Niro being a “turtle” when it comes to acceleration or merging on higher speed freeways. And, unlike other hybrids that utilize continuous variable transmissions (CVT), Niro relies on an advanced dual clutch Sportmatic six-speed automatic that I prefer over the CVT. Additionally, Niro offers a driver switchable Economy and Sport mode, the latter offering a more aggressive (albeit less MPG) approach as the engine will rev higher before shifting.
A very composed highway cruiser in Eco mode, we gave Niro a pretty good country road run in Sport mode during the Thanksgiving holiday. The 18-inch Michelin tires grab well in tight turns and offer a secure, traction hungry feel. With a full fuel tank, Niro has a 511-mile cruising range.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, 3,274 lb. curb weight, 11.9 gal. fuel tank, 17.5 ft. turn circle, 6.3-inch ground clearance, and from 19.4 to 54.5 cu. ft. of cargo space.
Amongst the bevy of driver and passenger enhancements, Niro Touring’s exterior looks and inviting leather cabin are most noteworthy. With easy to drive fundamentals in the city to impressive handling on country roads, Kia’s new hybrid is an attractive choice. Your Kia dealer is waiting to explain Kia’s heralded 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain/battery warranty and any current year-end incentives.
Likes: Looks, safety, hybrid powertrain, six-speed automatic.
Dislikes: High tech safety unavailable on entry FE, no AWD model.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.