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2023 Kia Niro PHEV First Look: Good for the Planet and Good-Looking

2023 Kia Niro PHEV First Look: Good for the Planet and Good-Looking

  • An all new range of Niros including an electric vehicle, a plug-in hybrid and hybrid
  • Better EV range from the PHEV model
  • New looks inside and out
  • Kicks off the second Niro generation for 2023)

What is the Niro PHEV?

The Niro is Kia's affordable lineup of electrified SUVs. It's available in a variety of models and trims but has struggled to find buyers in recent years. In fact, the Niro was Kia's worst-selling model since it dropped its premium sedans, the Cadenza and K900, from its U.S. lineup. We think the Niro's bland exterior and ho-hum interior design play a big part in the buying public's general apathy. Kia clearly got the message because, for 2023, the Niro gets a from-the-ground-up redesign, one Kia likely hopes will make potential buyers take a second look before defaulting to the Prius.

Just as before, the 2023 Niro will come in three different flavors to suit a variety of buyers. There is a hybrid, a fully electric version and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Gone is the rolling jellybean styling and in comes a more technical, forward-looking design. There is a more squared-off theme that puts the Niro in line with the likes of the Sorento and the Soul. Only time will tell if the new looks are enough to steer those who want a small electrified SUV into Kia dealerships, but on first blush, the new Niro's fresh looks leave a positive impression.

What's under the Niro PHEV's hood?

The 2023 Niro PHEV features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that's paired up with a 83-horsepower electric motor. Total system output is rated at 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, and it's sent to the front wheels. The electric motor draws from an 11.1-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack that Kia says can go from dead to full in under three hours when connected to a Level 2 charger you can have installed in your home. In full EV mode, the new Niro will go up to 33 miles on a single charge as long as you opt for the 16-inch wheels, up from 26 miles for the previous model. Larger wheel options will decrease range, however.

The powertrain features a number of modes, with Eco and Sport being the most familiar. For the new Niro, Kia is introducing a "Green Zone" drive mode, which transitions the powertrain to full EV mode when the car enters a residential area. The feature is likely tailored for other markets that have specific zones where gas engines are no longer allowed, but it's a nice addition that might make short trips more efficient without you even noticing.

How's the Niro PHEV's interior?

Just like the exterior, the 2023 Niro gets a fresh interior too. It looks a lot like what we've seen from other Kia products, but Kia says this interior is sustainably made. Touch points like the dashboard and the headliner are made with animal-free textiles. The seats are a vegan leather and the doors are coated in BTX-free (a toxic set of chemicals) paint to reduce the impact on the environment and limit waste.

The steering wheel and dashboard design have been heavily influenced by the Kia EV6. Two 10.25-inch screens rest above the dashboard, with one acting as the driver's instrument panel and the other functioning as the infotainment display. The Niro features a switchable touch panel, just below the central touchscreen, that houses both the HVAC and media controls. The center console adopts the EV6's knob-like gear selector, too. Rear passengers might notice the Niro's slightly longer wheelbase that lends itself to more legroom behind the front row, while USB ports on the back of each front seat will help keep their devices charged up.

How's the Niro PHEV's tech?

Like most modern vehicles, the Niro is chock full of interior tech. For starters, there is the standard set of mobile-device pairing options — wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — while a wireless charging mat is optional. Heated and cooled seats with memory settings are an option, and there is an available head-up display.

The Niro also includes a long list of standard advanced driver assist systems. Forward collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist and other safety features are all included at no extra cost. Highway Driving Assist 2, which keeps the car at a set speed by following the car ahead and keeps the car in its lane without intervention from the driver, is available as a separate option on the Niro.

Edmunds says

The new Niro is here, and we're glad Kia has taken it from ho-hum to humdinger.