Friday, 19 August 2022

Kia Niro: A hybrid SUV with sharp look, strong tech features Featured

Posted On Sunday, 11 July 2021 04:07 Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)
The Kia Niro fills a unique niche in the world of hybrid vehicles, and looks good doing it. The Kia Niro fills a unique niche in the world of hybrid vehicles, and looks good doing it. Photo courtesy of Kia

 

Even as all the buzz in the auto industry continues to focus on EVs and going all-electric, hybrids remain a key part of the eco-friendly solutions being offered to car buyers.

Take, for example, the Kia Niro, a compact SUV that’s been around a few years and fits a niche in the hybrid world where there are few competitors.

This tech-savvy model is larger than popular hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq, but also smaller and more affordable than hybrid SUVs like the Toyota Venza and Ford Escape. For 2021, the Niro lineup boosts the quality and quantity of its tech and safety offerings, including inclusion of wireless connectivity for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

I recently spent time in a Kia Niro and I’m back with a full report.

LOOKS

The Niro got some exterior enhancements ahead of the 2021 model year, including updates to its grille and front and rear designs, and the results are clearly positive. As much as you’ll hear people malign the looks of certain hybrids (especially the Prius), you’re equally likely to hear positive comments about the look of the Niro.

What stands out about the Kia Niro vs. some of the other hybrids you may know about is its SUV-like design. Sitting higher than a Prius or Ioniq hybrid (but smaller in stature than other hybrid SUVs including the Ford Escape, Toyota Venza and Toyota RAV4), it’s a nice middle-ground between these other options. The design of the LED headlights is particularly pleasing to the eye, and 16-inch wheels are featured.

Going inside the Niro, you will find quality materials, but nothing overly upscale. Head room and leg room are ample throughout the vehicle, and the rear seats fold down for versatility and increased cargo space (though overall cargo space is fairly modest compared to other hybrid SUVs. 

The Niro features dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a USB multimedia port, 60/40 split folding rear seats, and steering wheel controls for audio and cruise.

The EX Premium trim level model I tested also featured a power sunroof with sunshade, synthetic leather seat trim, heated and ventilated front seats, heated power folding outside mirrors, steering wheel paddle controls, heated steering wheel, electronic parking brake and LED tail lamps.

HOW’S THE RIDE?

The Kia Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine, paired with an electric motor. Total output for the vehicle is 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, and the Niro can use either motor (or both) as needed to boost efficiency. There is also a regenerative braking system to recharge the battery.

The FWD-only Niro features a six-speed automatic transmission, and offers the chance to drive in Sport mode (though it’s not really that sporty).

The tradeoff you make when buying a high mileage hybrid is in the area of power. These type of vehicles are best suited for those who are not going to be on the freeways regularly and won’t be needing large boosts of power. The Niro’s performance ability is not Ideal for entering a freeway or making passes. Lack of power can be frustrating in those scenarios. (0-to-60 times can reach the 9-second range)

Noises can also be a bit distracting in this vehicle. First there is what I call the “spaceship” sound effect you get in some hybrids. And on top of that, highway noise was also pretty intrusive into the vehicle.

While it handles very well, if you are looking for power, the Niro is not your type of vehicle.  

TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY

In terms of keeping the driver and passengers safe, the Niro features a large number of helpful safety systems. At times, though, I found they could be overly effective and too sensitive.

Features include forward collision avoidance, blind spot collision warning, lane keeping assist, driver attention warning (senses if you’re not paying attention), and an alert that warns you when the car in front of you has moved (such as at a stop light).

Higher trim levels get enhanced forward collision assistance that can detect cyclists, smart cruise control with stop-and-go, and lane following assist.

You get a full complement of air bags, electronic stability control and hill start assist control, vehicle stability management and a tire pressure monitor system. A rear camera with dynamic guidelines proved helpful.

Technologywise, the Niro comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen, optional wireless phone charger, and is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for phone mirroring. My test vehicle was upgraded to a 10.25 touchscreen that also included Navigation, as well as a premium audio system from Harman Kardon

Kia does a good job on the Niro’s infotainment system, which is easy to use. The screen can hold multiple pieces of information at one time, such as navigation, radio and fuel economy.

Kia’s UVO Link technology is also available on the Niro, and you get 3 months of SiriusXM satellite radio included.

MPG

The official fuel mileage numbers on the 2021 Kia Niro are 51 city/46 highway/49 combined. In my real-world testing, I was only about to average a maximum of 43 mpg.

Hybrid rivals like the Hyundai Ioniq and Toyota Prius will give you better mileage, but the Niro’s numbers still shine against most vehicles on the roadways. And the Niro has the SUV look and style that you won’t find on those two rivals.

PRICE

The Kia Niro I tested was priced at just over $34,000; and the base price starts about $25K. With most rival hybrid SUVs starting at $28K or into the $30K range, these numbers are strong and show affordability for the segment.

Warranties are also a strong point, as Kia offers:

— 10 year/100K miles power train warranty

— 10 year/100K mile battery warranty

— 5 year/60K mile limited basic warranty

— 60K mile roadside assistance

BOTTOM LINE 

If you want to save on fuel and have a decent-sized vehicle, but do not want to spring for a full EV, hybrid SUVs are your best option. Among the few options available, the stylish and tech-savvy Kia Niro is one that’s worth checking out. 

---

AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found
on Twitter @MattMyftiu



Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Kia Niro
  • Price as tested: $34,190 (starts around $25K) 
  • Best feature: Fuel mileage, design 
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars 
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Drivers looking for an affordable small hybrid SUV
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

AutoTechReviews  is your home for In-depth reviews of the latest cars, trucks, and SUVs; information on all the emerging vehicle technology; and breaking news from the world of NASCAR and other motorsports.

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter. Don’t miss any news or stories.

We do not spam!