2017 Kia Niro

2017 Kia Niro Review

The all-new Kia Niro delivers a more palatable hybrid drive experience with stellar fuel economy.
3.0 / 5
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Jonathan Elfalan
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The all-new 2017 Kia Niro is classified as a compact hybrid crossover SUV, though it really functions more like a hatchback. Your view of the road is marginally higher because of the Niro's elevated stance, but Kia doesn't offer the Niro with all-wheel drive, so don't expect to be a snow-busting trailblazer in bad weather. The Niro's core appeal comes from its traditional exterior design (no "hybrid!" shouting here) as well as a new powertrain that is capable of returning up to an EPA-estimated 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

A 1.6-liter four-cylinder and electric motor produce a combined output of 139 horsepower. That's a bit more than average, and it helps the Niro be pretty peppy off the line and keep pace with the rest of its hybrid-electric competition. The Niro further differentiates itself by using a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission in lieu of the more conventional continuously variable transmission (CVT). The shifts come quick and smooth, and we think it provides a more pleasant driving experience compared to a CVT automatic, especially under maximum acceleration.

The Toyota Prius still reigns supreme in terms of fuel economy, and a RAV4 Hybrid bests the Niro for cargo space, but overall the new Kia Niro should hit the spot for a lot of hybrid shoppers.



What's new for 2017

The 2017 Kia Niro is an all-new model.

We recommend

Those looking for maximum fuel efficiency will want the base Niro FE, with a combined city/highway fuel economy of 50 mpg. However, we think the additional comfort and convenience of the EX trim with items such as push-button start, heated seats, blind-spot monitoring and optional active safety systems are worth the added cost and only marginally affect overall fuel economy.



Trim levels & features

The Kia Niro is available in five trims beginning with the base FE, gradually adding features at each level with the LX, EX, Touring and limited-edition Touring Launch. All trims come powered by the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder hybrid-electric powertrain (139 hp, 195 lb-ft total output) that sends power to the front wheels through a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. The FE is the most basic, but also the lightest and most fuel-efficient model, while the well-equipped Touring provides a host of modern comfort features.

The base FE comes with features including 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, six-way manually adjustable front seats, 60/40-split folding rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, selectable drive modes, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera, Uvo eServices app suite, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system with a USB port.

The LX is the next trim up and adds rear LED taillights, roof rails, keyless ignition and entry, an underfloor storage tray for the rear cargo area and a rear center armrest with cupholders. Stand-alone options on the LX include front foglights, LED daytime running lights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The EX trim includes everything above, including the LX options, plus power-folding and heated side mirrors, a high-gloss black upper console, combination cloth and leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear air-conditioning vents, an additional USB charger and a blind-spot monitoring system. You can also equip the EX with a sunroof, LED interior lights, a power driver seat and additional active safety systems such as lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.

In addition to the EX model equipment, the top Touring trim comes with 18-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a glossy black front grille trim, the sunroof, driver-seat memory settings, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, a larger 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, HD and satellite radio, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, LED interior lights and door scuff plates. Options that are only available on the Touring trim include xenon headlights, a 110-volt outlet and a wireless phone charger. The active safety systems available to the EX model are also available on Touring models.

The limited Touring Launch model sits in between the EX and top Touring trims in terms of equipment, but it comes in two unique paint colors with a different metallic grille insert. The only items it shares with the Touring trim include the 18-inch wheels, the power driver seat, and the 8-inch infotainment system with premium Harman Kardon audio. Otherwise it's closer to the EX trim and isn't offered with any options, including the active safety systems.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2017 Kia Niro Touring (1.6L four-cyl. gas-electric hybrid; 6-speed dual-clutch automatic).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.0 / 5

Driving

2.5 / 5

Acceleration3.0 / 5
Braking2.5 / 5
Steering3.0 / 5
Handling3.5 / 5
Drivability2.0 / 5

Comfort

3.5 / 5

Seat comfort3.5 / 5
Ride comfort3.0 / 5
Noise & vibration3.0 / 5
Climate control4.0 / 5

Interior

4.0 / 5

Ease of use4.0 / 5
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5
Driving position5.0 / 5
Roominess3.5 / 5
Visibility4.0 / 5
Quality2.5 / 5

Utility

3.0 / 5

Small-item storage3.0 / 5
Cargo space3.0 / 5

Technology

3.5 / 5

Audio & navigation3.0 / 5
Smartphone integration4.5 / 5
Driver aids3.5 / 5
Voice control4.0 / 5

Driving2.5

Edmunds instrumented testing confirms the Niro to be quicker than its rival, the Toyota Prius, by a good margin. However, we also found its emergency braking performance to be subpar, and the powertrain tuning on this production model to be far more crude than the model we previously drove.

Acceleration3.0

When driven in the default "Eco" mode, the Niro feels wholly unmotivated. In Sport mode, the Niro accelerates to 60 mph nearly a full second quicker than the Toyota Prius. There's good low-end torque and the transmission shifts quick, but this mode is less efficient. We need an in-between mode.

Braking2.5

Braking feels completely natural under normal conditions, and the switch over from electric-regeneration to conventional brakes is imperceivable. Under panic braking however, the pedal goes to the floor and the test-best stopping distance from 60 mph at 129 feet is truck territory. Not good.

Steering3.0

Steering is direct and responsive with a good level of assist. And there's a clear difference in the degree of assist when you switch between Normal and Sport mode. But this car lacks a clear sense of on-center feel or feedback, which can be disconcerting because it demands constant attention.

Handling3.5

The Niro handles more like a car than a crossover, because it's essentially a hatchback. It stays planted through turns better than expected, will rotate nicely off throttle, and carries its weight lower thanks to batteries mounted beneath the rear passenger seat.

Drivability2.0

Driving in the default Eco mode in this test car revealed some unpleasant characteristics we didn't experience in a prototype sample. Its anemic takeoff power and lazy first-to-second shift is only remedied by driving in Sport mode. We're not sure what changed, but we hope they change it back.

Off-road1.0

At the very least, crossovers should have the option of all-wheel and decent ground clearance. The Niro unfortunately has neither, and people expecting otherwise will be disappointed.

Comfort3.5

The Niro may not feel luxurious, but there's still a good level of comfort on hand for the daily commute. The seats have sufficient support and powerful heaters, with ventilation available at the Touring level. The biggest strike is the amount of road noise, which could get tiresome on long drives.

Seat comfort3.5

The seats aren't anything fancy but have good padding and decent lateral and lumbar support. The EX model comes with very effective seat heaters with three levels of intensity. The max heat level is hotter than most, which is really nice in freezing climates.

Ride comfort3.0

Ride comfort for the most part is agreeable. While we didn't experience any harsh crashing over bumps, we wouldn't call the Niro plush either. On the other hand, body movement felt well controlled and car-like, instead of floppy like a tall SUV or crossover.

Noise & vibration3.0

There is a fair amount of road noise and the occasional sound of loose gravel pinging against the underbody. Wind noise is better isolated, though there is still a little bit of it around the front side view mirrors at highway speeds. The interior is completely absent of squeaks and rattles.

Climate control4.0

Dual climate controls are straightforward and easy to reach, with the usual assortment of buttons and knobs for fan speed, temperature, etc. The system performed well to maintain pleasant cabin temps and the heated steering wheel on the Touring trim isn't included in at the EX.

Interior4.0

The cabin of the Niro is easy to get in and out of and scores high marks for interior passenger space, driver accommodation and a simple user interface. We might have had a small complaint with rear visibility, but all Niros come with rearview cameras, which makes it a nonissue.

Ease of use4.0

The touchscreen infotainment menus take a little familiarization but are easy enough to figure out and have shortcut buttons. When using the stalks to change headlight or wiper settings, a prompt appears in the gauge cluster showing your selection and others available. That's a nice feature.

Getting in/getting out4.0

The doors open wide, almost to 90 degrees, with nice size openings and comfortable seat heights. You still sit down into the seat rather than slide in because the bottom seat cushion height is around knee level. There's a small stepover, but it should be easy for most, including elderly passengers.

Driving position5.0

The tilt-and-telescoping steering column has a lot of adjustment, and the optional power driver seat has two-way lumbar adjustment and height adjustment. It's pretty easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to copious amounts of head- and legroom to suit a wide range of drivers.

Roominess3.5

There is good head- and legroom both front and rear, but hard plastic front seatbacks don't leave much of a buffer if sitting behind an especially tall driver. The middle passenger will appreciate the relatively flat floor, but sitting three adults in back will be a little tight.

Visibility4.0

Even with the raked front roof pillars, forward visibility is pretty good. The thick rear pillars create a bit of a blind spot when you're looking over your shoulder, but the view directly back is decent and relatively unobstructed by the rear headrests. A rearview camera is standard on all trims.

Quality2.5

A lot of hard plastic covers the lower half of the doors, dash and center console. In the light gray color scheme, it makes the interior look cheap. Even the soft-touch surfaces on the upper parts of the dash lack a quality feel. Armrest padding isn't bad but could be more ample on the doors.

Utility3.0

Compared to a small sedan, the Niro offers an appealing amount of utility for its size. However, when compared to other hybrid hatchbacks or crossover SUVs in the class, it doesn't offer quite as much cargo space or clever cabin storage for small items.

Small-item storage3.0

There's convenient storage for personal items forward of the gear shifter, where you would charge your phone wirelessly if so equipped (Touring only). The door pockets will hold a 16-ounce water bottle and a couple other small items but are on the narrow side. The center armrest bin is average size.

Cargo space3.0

The 60/40-split rear seats fold perfectly flat, and the optional underfloor storage adds a bit more utility. Yet, at 19.4 cubic feet with all seats in place (54.5 cubic feet with them folded), the Niro doesn't have as much space as most of the other hybrid hatchback offerings.

Child safety seat accommodation3.0

LATCH anchors are tucked away in between cushions where the rear seatbacks fold down, which makes access kind of difficult. There is a pair of anchors per outboard rear seat and an easy-access top tether on the back of each seat.

Technology3.5

The Niro is strong on the technology front, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included as standard equipment and a host of available advanced safety systems that aren't even offered on some cars above its class. The Uvo navigation system could use a design update but functions well.

Audio & navigation3.0

The Uvo navigation system is the same as in other Kia models, easy to use but beginning to look dated compared to other systems out on the market. The base stereo system won't impress the more musically savvy like the optional Harman Kardon system does.

Smartphone integration4.5

With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard in all models, you likely won't miss the upgraded navigation system in the Touring model. Touring trim models also have the option of wireless charging for smartphones that have the capability, but it isn't available at the EX level.

Driver aids3.5

The adaptive cruise control (called Smart Cruise Control) works pretty well to maintain a distance between the Niro and the car in front, but it will only bring the Niro to a complete stop for a moment before relinquishing control.

Voice control4.0

Native voice controls are available for navigation, radio, phone and even Google search (if equipped). The prompts are straightforward, and voice recognition works pretty well. And with Apple CarPlay standard, you have the power of Siri through the car's voice control button.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.