2017 Kia Niro Is a Great Crossover and Surprising Hybrid

2017 Kia Niro

The Niro is the latest addition to the Kia family, entering into the compact crossover market as a hybrid-only option. Oddly, the 2017 Niro’s hybrid system plays second fiddle to the little crossover’s basic excellence as a small five-seat compact hatch.

The manufacturer says

Cross over to a new kind of hybrid. From the fuel-stretching Parallel Hybrid System and regenerative braking system, to the impressively efficient and fun-to-drive dual-clutch automatic transmission with Sport Mode, the 2017 Niro is the perfect pairing of optimized fuel economy and dynamic driving performance.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Kia
  • Year, Model: 2017 Niro
  • Class, Type: Compact Crossover
  • Propulsion system: Hybrid-electric
  • Base Price: $22,890
  • MSRP as tested: $30,545
  • Availability: Now

Overview

The 2017 Kia Niro comes only as a front-wheel drive hybrid crossover in a wagon style. The electrified components in the drivetrain meld very well with the Niro’s dual-clutch transmission and compact little chassis, making for a lot of all-around excellence. The Niro is competitive with any offering in its segment, hybrid or no, with a sporty appeal.

Introduced as a production model at the Chicago Auto Show, the Niro entered the U.S. market for 2017 as the first of several planned vehicles for a new eco-car platform. Kia will use the platform to offer electrified hybrid options that are the same weight and size as are their conventional gasoline versions.

The 2017 Kia Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that runs in the Atkinson-cycle. Cooled exhaust gas recirculation improves efficiency while exhaust heat recovery does the same. Unusual on a lower-end vehicle like the Niro. The engine outputs 103 horsepower while the electric motor in the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is good for another 43 horsepower. A 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery sits beneath the rear seating providing both power to the propulsion electrics as well as the 12-volt systems. Total powertrain output is 146 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2017 Niro at 50 mpg combined. We averaged about 48 mpg in our week with the vehicle. We’d be hard pressed to name another crossover of this size and capability that gets similar mileage both on paper and in the real world.

There are five trim levels to the 2017 Kia Niro. The base model starts with a good array of standard features like automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, and a 7-inch infotainment system. Each trim level upgrades from there with more and better accoutrements to the top-level Touring and special edition Touring Launch models.

The Niro is more of a squared-off station wagon than it is a crossover, sitting a bit lower in stance and having a less rough-and-tumble appeal than some of its competitors. Yet that refinement brings a more usable compact than expected, with a great interior and plenty of space. The wide-opening doors allow easier access to the interior and a flat floor means easy entry and egress and simpler cargo loading and unloading. A total of 19.4 cubic feet is available with the rear seats up and 54.5 cubic feet with them folded.

What we like

Nicely-done interior that allows access for a variety of uses and needs.

Smart drivetrain with excellent efficiency to go with its sporty nature.

What we don't

Braking is a little soft given the Niro’s size.

Sporty drive does not necessarily translate to fast.

Conclusions

Our week in the 2017 Kia Niro, we learned that it is well-executed and definitely deserves more attention. What’s more, it makes the idea of a hybrid “normal,” making it everyday.

Test Period Length and Limitations
The 2017 Niro was a manufacturer’s press loan for about a week, during which time it was driven with a variety of passenger loads in a variety of driving conditions.

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