(Editor’s Note: This vehicle is a 2017 model year being covered during calendar year 2018. That means the 2018 Kia Niro is available at dealerships. There are no significant differences between the two model years, so this review remains applicable. Of course, if you’re looking at a pre-owned Niro this also applies. Carry on.)
The Kia Niro is a formidable subcompact SUV that offers the efficiency of a hybrid drive and the city scooting ability buyers are looking for. But, the subcompact SUV class is competitive, and the Niro has a higher starting price than its competition. Is it worth the extra money? Let’s take a closer look.
2017 Kia Niro exterior
Well, it’s a Kia. There’s no doubting the Niro’s lineage but thankfully designers stepped back from the ledge that is the Sportage and took the Niro in a slightly more pedestrian direction. It’s a solid “meh,” and that’s perfectly acceptable in the subcompact SUV category.
2017 Kia Niro performance
The Kia Niro isn’t built to beat many vehicles off the line, but it isn’t sluggish either. If you are more focused on fuel efficiency than quickness, the car’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor mated to a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission won’t disappoint. It achieves 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque.
The base model gets 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. The fully loaded Niro Touring gets only 46 mpg in the city and 40 mg on the highway. During my week in the Niro, I was disappointed with the fuel economy, especially the estimated range. The range fluxtuated wildly as I was driving, much more so than it does in other vehicles, and I ended up getting nowhere near the 500 miles that was estimated with a full tank.
Braking in the Niro is strong, and the regenerative brakes are natural to the touch, rather than grabby like in many hybrids. The subcompact SUV is composed through corners and engaging but it won’t be confused with being sporty anytime soon.
2017 Kia Niro interior
The cabin of the Kia Niro is more than utilitarian but very straightforward in typical Kia style. Buttons, knobs, and switches are where you intuitively think they should be. The car’s dual-zone automatic climate control, rearview camera, and 7-inch touch screen come standard and the available features list has what you think it should including push-button start, adaptive cruise control, a rear-seat USB port, a Harman Kardon eight-speaker audio system, a sunroof, wireless phone charging, and an upgraded UVO system with an 8-inch touch screen with navigation.
The SUV seats five and its cabin feels spacious. The Niro’s seats are comfortable and adults fit easily in both rows. There are two sets of LATCH connections.
2017 Kia Niro cargo
The Niro’s cargo space isn’t spectacular but it is in line with other vehicles in its class. You’ll have 19.4 cubic feet of cargo space and 54.5 cubic feet of space with the second row seats folded.
2017 Kia Niro safety
The 2017 Kia Niro has not been evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Niro comes loaded with the basic list of safety features that are standard in most subcompact SUVs today.
2017 Kia Niro pricing
The Kia Niro starts several thousand dollars higher than many other subcompact SUVs. It’s the only subcompact SUV, aside from the MINI Cooper Countryman (available as a PHEV), that offers an alternative powertrain to the traditional setup. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Nissan Rogue Hybrid are priced slightly higher than the Niro, but they’re also larger vehicles.
For this review, I drove the 2017 Kia Niro Touring, a top of the line model with a starting MSRP of $32,200. The Touring model comes fully loaded, without any packages available. Taxes as well as destination and delivery charges put the total cost at $33,335.
2017 Kia Niro final thoughts
The Kia Niro isn’t an exceptional vehicle. It isn’t quick, have a cabin filled with high-end materials, or provide a particularly engaging driving experience. The Niro does, however, do as advertised. It’s an acceptable grocery getter that has seating that offers easy ingress/egress. The Niro is spacious, so your kids won’t be crowded in the second row. If you’re spending your days running errands, the Niro will likely save you money at the pump. It wouldn’t be the first subcompact SUV on my list but I can see why people are buying them.