According to Kia Motors America vice president of product planning Orth Hedrick, you must benchmark only one vehicle if you want to produce a new hybrid car that is not expensive. He said: “We had to study the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which of course is the new Prius. This vehicle, and what it represents in the market, really drove a lot of the decisions we made with the Niro.”
Moreover, he added that although the Toyota hybrid is a terrific car when it comes to mileage, many owners complained about the look of the Prius, so Kia wanted to focus on that segment as well. He stated: “We heard a lot from our consumers in our test that they loved the mileage but couldn’t stand the way [the Prius] looked, couldn’t stand the way they drove.”
The Kia Niro is a tall hatchback that is equipped with a familiar “tiger nose” grille which is prominent and makes the front end unique. Moreover, there are large chrome accents, whereas the fog lights can be found in the lower fascia of this model. Both headlights and taillights are large and in order to keep aero drag low, air curtains work with active grille shutters, a rear spoiler, a diffuser and an underbody tray. Kia also wanted to produce a vehicle that is appealing to crossover lovers, so the new model has 0.4 inches more ground clearance compared to a Kia Soul.
Weight and Materials
The 2017 Kia Niro is based on a new platform that has been specifically modified for this hybrid. The engineers used high-strength steel for 53% of the car, but taking into consideration that the 1.56-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion-polymer battery is heavy they needed some lightweight material to shed as much weight as possible. This is why the hood, brake calipers, steering knuckles, liftgate and some other suspension parts are made of aluminum.
Kia Niro Specs
The 2017 Kia Niro comes with a 1.6-liter I4 gas engine that produces 104 hp and 109 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with an electric motor that delivers 43 hp, and the combined output is 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Most vehicles of this South Korean carmaker have a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, but the Niro comes with a six-speed dual clutch gearbox. Kia engineers wanted to reduce the weight of the vehicle, so it was possible to remove one gear because of the motor’s low-end torque. Just for the record, the same powertrain is used in Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.
There are slight differences in fuel efficiency between different trim levels of the 2017 Kia Niro. For example, the LX and EX are rated at 51 mpg city, 46 mpg highway and 49 mpg combined. The Touring trim which is heavier returns 46/40/43 mpg, whereas the special FE model achieves 52/49/50 mpg, which is outstanding even for a hybrid.
Similar to many hybrids, where you have a drive-mode selector switch, Nero allows you to choose between Eco and the Sport mode by flicking the shifter to the left. There is nothing special about the Eco mode and the driving in this one is what we expected of a hybrid, whereas in the sport mode, the ride is jumpy and not quite stable.
Unless you decide to put the pedal to the medal, the engine of the 2017 Kia Niro is really quiet, and it even restarts and shuts off with minimum noise. The acceleration of the new model is better compared to the other hybrids, and it is at the same level as the performances of the similar vehicles. Although it is not a sports car, the steering in the Nero is realistic, and the driver has a sense of control. The suspension comes with MacPherson struts in the front and multi-link trailing arms in the back, and because of this, the handling and braking are improved.
2017 Kia Niro Interior
There is enough room in the cargo area, but if you want to increase it, you can do it by folding the rear seats flat. The passengers at the back have enough legroom and headroom, and they will feel comfortable, even during longer rides. Some of the most important equipment that you can find inside the 2017 Kia Niro is a seven- or eight-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, 110-volt power outlet, cooled front seats, LED running day lights and if your phone’s battery is dying you can use wireless phone charging. Furthermore, the safety features that are essential are the lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and pre-collision braking.
We believe that the 2017 Kia Niro can be a true competitor of the Toyota Prius as it offers practicality, great mileage, and good driving feel, whereas it is certainly more beautiful than Prius. However, the Prius is reliable, offers better fuel economy and it has some history behind its name.
Do you like the 2017 Kia Niro?