2018 Niro New Car Test Drive
The Kia Niro was introduced as a new vehicle for 2017, a compact gas-electric hybrid wagon. For 2018, a plug-in hybrid version has been added. All come with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is not available. Its closest rival might be the Toyota Prius v, although the v has a larger cargo capacity.
The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is EPA-rated at 46 miles per gallon Combined, or 105 MPGe when running electrically. It has a range of 26 miles on electric power alone, in warm weather; we got enough seat time to confirm this.
The conventional hybrid version, the kind that you do not (and cannot) plug in, is rated 50 mpg Combined for a stripped FE model (with less power-using equipment) or 43 mpg for a well-equipped Niro Touring model. Those figures are in Eco mode, which brings acceleration performance down quite a lot.
Both the plug-in hybrid and non-plug-in hybrid versions use a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection, tuned for the highly efficient Atkinson cycle. It makes 104 horsepower, with an electric motor squeezed between the engine and the 6-speed direct-shift automatic transmission, bringing the combined horsepower to a functional 139, with a strong 195 pound-feet of torque. The plug-in model has the more powerful electric motor, at 45 kilowatts (60 hp), as opposed to the 32-kw (43-hp) motor in the regular hybrid.
Kia's system only uses one electric motor, unlike the smoother dual-motor systems used by Toyota, Honda, GM and Ford.
The small platform of the Niro is shared with the Hyundai Ioniq hatchback. The low and wide stance, five-door body, and vertical liftgate make it feel like a wagon. It drives nicely and handles well, thanks to light weight and a low center of gravity. It feels sportier than the Toyota Prius.
It's practical as well as economical. The styling, cabin and features are attractive. It's quiet in the cabin, and there's good room for passengers and cargo.
Safety equipment includes seven airbags and a rearview camera with guiding lines. Most of the latest safety features are available, including blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and autonomous emergency braking.
The 2018 Niro Hybrid comes in FE, LX, EX and Touring models. The Kia Niro FE ($23,340) comes standard with dual-zone climate control, LED headlamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, six-way manual front seats, 60/40-split folding rear seats, rearview camera, steering-wheel audio controls, two 12-Volt power outlets and USB and auxiliary input jacks on the center console, a 4.2-inch digital display between the instruments, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Niro LX ($23,650) adds roof rails, keyless ignition, rear center armrest, and LED taillamps. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Niro EX ($26,150) gets cloth-and-leather upholstery, fog lights and LED running lights, power folding heated door mirrors with integrated turn signals, blind-spot monitors, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a USB charger in the center console, and glossy black interior trim.
Niro Touring ($32,000) got a price increase of $2000 more than the other models, for 2018. It adds leather seats, ventilated in front, 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system with HD radio, front and rear parking assist, 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, and a heated steering wheel.
The Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid, also referred to as the Niro PHEV, comes in LX ($27,900), EX ($31,500), and EX Premium ($34,500) trim levels. The plug-in has a locking charge port, so the car can't be unplugged while at a public charging station; a charge-timing function to take advantage of lower overnight electric rates; and a portable charging cord. It qualifies for a (-$4543) federal income tax credit the year it's purchased, assuming the buyer's tax situation permits the full credit to be used. It also earns state purchase rebates in New York (-$2000), California (-$1500), and other states, plus regional and corporate incentives.