What Is It?
According to its manufacturer, the 2017 Kia Niro is a “hybrid utility vehicle” — essentially an SUV with a hybrid powerplant. We think it’s a little more hatchback than SUV, especially since the Niro won’t be offered with all-wheel drive, but the point remains that the Niro is a fuel-efficient and practical entry into an entirely new segment for Kia.
On the outside, the Niro’s look is certainly part hatchback and part SUV, with proportions rivaling both the Kia Soul and subcompact-SUV models such as the Mazda CX-3. It’s a little more rounded than most recent Kia models, though it boasts Kia’s signature grille and headlights. Inside, the Niro offers a pleasant cabin you might expect from an affordable Kia model.
Under the hood, the Niro offers only one powerplant: a 1.6-liter hybrid 4-cylinder that makes 146 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, mated to a smooth, quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and no regular gasoline powertrain will be offered, though Kia says a plug-in hybrid drivetrain is on the way.
Kia also says it’s targeting an impressive 50 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving — a figure that would place it into contention with today’s most efficient hybrids, including the Toyota Prius and Honda Accord Hybrid.
Kia has not yet announced pricing, but we expect the Niro to start somewhere in the mid-$20,000 range when it reaches dealers.
When Can You Get It?
Add It to Your Shopping List Because…
The 2017 Kia Niro seems to offer just about everything: affordable pricing, excellent fuel efficiency and near-crossover practicality. While we wish it also offered all-wheel drive, we suspect fuel economy-minded shoppers won’t mourn the loss, instead preferring the more efficient front-wheel drive. Sure, gas prices are low right now, but when they come back up, Niro owners will have one of the most practical fuel-efficient cars on the market.
Other Cars to Consider
2016 Mazda CX-3 — Mazda’s subcompact crossover won’t get anywhere near 50 mpg, but it tops out at a respectable 29 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. It also likely offers a more affordable starting price than the Niro.
2016 Toyota Prius v — Although the Prius v only returns around 42 mpg in combined driving, it touts impressive passenger and cargo room and a reasonable starting price of around $27,500 with shipping.
2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid — The RAV4 Hybrid is the only other hybrid compact SUV on the market. While it doesn’t have the Niro’s unique styling, it offers more interior room, more cargo space, available all-wheel drive and a still-respectable 33 mpg in combined driving.
Used Toyota Highlander Hybrid — There aren’t too many hybrid SUVs on the market, but the Highlander Hybrid distinguishes itself as one of the best, boasting 3-row seating and around 30 mpg in combined driving. Prices are high, though, so you may want to check out a used model.