Korean car manufacturers aren’t wasting time catching up to green products such as the Toyota Prius and the Tesla Model 3, and the 2020 Kia Niro compact crossover is a perfect example of their hard work paying off. Offered as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or a pure electric vehicle, the Niro wraps cutting-edge technology in a conservative shell, broadening its appeal to mainstream consumers turned off by overly futuristic designs. Like all Kia products, the Niro’s interior is handsomely styled and loaded with features, and its price falls squarely in line with non-hybrid compact SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and the Nissan Rogue.
The Niro is attractively priced and comes with Kia’s excellent 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Better yet, the Niro reaches 50 miles per gallon in combined driving in its entry-level LX trim, and the new EV version can travel a remarkable 239 miles on a single charge.
What’s New for 2020?
The Niro gets a slight face lift for 2020, with revised exterior and interior styling, new standard and available features and a renamed trim lineup. The most notable feature update is a standard 8-in infotainment system and a newly available 10.25-in unit. See the 2020 Kia Niro models for sale near you
What We Like
- Crossover styling
- Honest-to-goodness 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
- Wide array of driver-assistance technologies
- Terrific fuel economy
- Impressive electric range
What We Don’t
- Sluggish performance in Eco (normal) driving mode
- Limited ground clearance
- Modest cargo bay
- No all-wheel drive
The hybrid system, with a 1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor, produces a total of 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. The government rates the entry-level LX at 52 miles per gallon in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. Upgrading to the LXS slightly downgrades fuel economy to 51 mpg city/46 mpg hwy. The Touring and Touring Special Edition trims have the least impressive fuel economy of the model range at 46 mpg city/40 mpg hwy. The EX Premium is rated at 51 mpg city/46 mpg hwy.
The Niro PHEV plug-in hybrid attains EPA ratings of 48 mpg city/44 mpg hwy/46 mpg combined and an MPGe rating of 105. The Niro EV uses a 201-hp electric motor and has a range of 239 miles. It is rated by the EPA at 123 MPGe city/102 MPGe hwy/112 MPGe combined.
Standard Features & Options
The Niro offers five grades for the hybrid. No matter how you cut it, there’s a load of value in every grade.
Anchoring the Niro lineup, the base LX ($24,590) comes with 16-in tires with wheel covers, automatic headlights, power outboard mirrors, power door locks, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, seven airbags, 60/40 split folding back seats, an outside-temperature display, a trip computer, 6-way adjustable front bucket seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-in touchscreen UVO infotainment system with a rearview camera, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity and a 4-speaker audio system with a USB port. No factory options are available.
If you upgrade to the LXS ($25,990), you get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, push-button start and some nice safety tech, including forward-collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Touring ($28,290) used to be the top trim of the Niro, but it’s now a value-packed midrange trim. It comes with 18-in alloy wheels, a power sunroof, a 10-way power driver’s seat, extra entertainment features like SiriusXM and HD radio and more driver-assistance tech, including adaptive cruise control and lane-following assist.
The Touring Special Edition ($30,790) adds some extra kit on top of the Touring trim, including an exclusive orange paint option, LED headlights, leather seating, an upgraded 10.25-in infotainment system with navigation and a Harman Kardon 8-speaker premium audio system.
The EX Premium ($32,790) serves as the new top trim of the Niro hybrid. Its fuel economy is better than the Touring and the Touring Special Edition trims’, and it adds rear parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and wireless charging. This trim forgoes leather seating and instead uses artificial leather. This is the trim to get if you want a lot of features while getting 49 mpg in combined driving.
Pricing for the 2020 Kia Niro PHEV begins at $29,490 for the LXS, and goes up to $33,290 and $36,390, respectively, for the EX and EX Premium versions.
The 2020 Kia Niro EV is priced a bit higher: $39,090 for the EX and $44,590 for the EX Premium.
The 2020 Kia Niro comes standard with a driver’s-knee airbag in addition to the typical six airbags found in most cars. Every Niro also has hill-start assist and a rearview camera. The LXS trim introduces forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Upgrading to the Touring model or higher adds adaptive cruise control and lane-following assist.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Kia Niro top marks on all its crash tests and awarded the 2019 Niro a Top Safety Pick+ designation.
Behind the Wheel
In its quest to build an unhybrid hybrid, Kia attended not only to what we see, but to how the Niro feels to drivers and passengers. With the two driving modes, you can choose to optimize fuel economy, which causes the Niro to accelerate as one might expect a hybrid to accelerate — engaging the throttle leads to a short pause, a gradual takeoff and long, leisurely shifts. Opt for Sport mode, and you’ll discover that Kia pretty well hit its unhybrid mark. Upshifts are noticeably snappier, and downshifts are quicker. Goosing the accelerator is answered with the acceleration you would expect from a traditional 4-cylinder crossover.
In terms of ride and handling, the Niro has a relatively low center of gravity and feels well-planted in turns. Some of this is due to that the electric motor’s battery is stowed under the second-row seat. In any event, steering response is quick, and there’s very little sway when taking a turn.
Unlike some EVs, the Niro EV does not come with a frunk (front trunk). Instead, Kia uses the engine bay to house the car’s 150-kW electric motor, which makes 201 horsepower between 3,800 rpm and 8,000 rpm, and 291 lb.-ft. of torque between 0 rpm and 3,600 rpm.
The motor powers the Kia Niro EV’s front wheels, and a liquid-cooled 64 kWh Li-ion battery supplies the electricity. Located under the car’s cabin, the battery recharges in 59 hours using a Level 1 household outlet, or 9.5 hours when plugged into a Level 2 home or public charging station. Level 3 DC fast charging capability is standard, providing 100 miles of extra range in 30 minutes, or an 80% charge in 75 minutes.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid — Larger and more powerful than the Niro, the hybrid variant of the CR-V doesn’t approach the Kia’s fuel economy. But if interior space is a bigger concern than miles per gallon, it’s a solid choice.
2020 Toyota Prius — It’s tough to talk about hybrids without bringing a Prius into the discussion because it’s the car at which Kia was aiming. The 2020 Prius is hands down the best Prius yet, and it now offers the option of AWD. There’s also a PHEV version: the Prius Prime.
2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid — More SUV-like than the Niro, the RAV4 Hybrid offers more room, more ground clearance and better performance. It also comes with AWD, and every model comes standard with advanced driver-assist features.
Used Lexus UX 250h — The Lexus UX 250h just came out in 2019, but there are already used examples popping up at prices similar to a loaded Niro. This efficient hybrid luxury SUV is similar in size to the Niro, but it’s more luxurious and has Lexus’ strong reputation for reliability and quality. Also, Lexus has one of the best certified pre-owned programs in the business.
Each version of the Niro offers better-than-average value. The LXS model is arguably the best value, with its modern safety tech, great fuel economy and attractive price. If your budget goes higher than that, you might want to consider a hybrid variant of a bigger SUV, like the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V or the Ford Escape. Find a Kia Niro for sale