2018 Kia Niro Review
2018 Kia Niro Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
Director, Vehicle Testing
Jonathan Elfalan has worked in the automotive industry since 2005. As a director of vehicle testing at Edmunds, Jonathan has tested and reviewed thousands of cars and written thousands of car-related articles over the course of his career. Jonathan got his start testing cars for Road & Track magazine as a newly minted mechanical engineer grad from University of California, Irvine, and has also contributed to Motor Trend and the Associated Press. He likes to say he learned to drive a manual transmission in a rear-wheel-drive mid-engine vehicle but often omits it was his family's 1991 Toyota Previa minivan.
- Impressive fuel economy from the base trim model
- One of the more affordable hybrids in the segment
- Batteries are hidden under the rear seat and don't affect cargo space
- All-wheel drive isn't offered despite crossover styling
- Feels lazy when driving in the default Eco mode
- Less cargo space than most rivals
- Feature-laden Touring trim sacrifices fuel efficiency
The most significant change for the 2018 Niro is the addition of lane keeping assist, replacing the previous lane departure warning system. It's included in the Advanced Technology package available on LX and EX trims, and it's standard on the top Touring trim. A new Premium package for the EX adds all the Touring trim content, except for the 18-inch wheels, while the Touring trim now receives all available features as standard equipment. Lastly, in lieu of the Touring Launch model from 2017, there's a Touring Graphite Edition that slots in between the EX and Touring models and has unique color accents.
The 2018 Kia Niro should be considered a hatchback even though it's officially classified as a hybrid SUV. Crossovers and SUVs typically have extra ground clearance and can be equipped with all-wheel drive for inclement weather driving or even light off-roading. The Niro doesn't check either of these boxes.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2018 Kia Niro FE 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.11 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$77/mo for Niro FE
Avg. Compact SUV
The Niro's main appeal comes from a modern exterior design that doesn't shout "hybrid," as well as a relatively peppy powertrain that makes it both capable of outrunning a Toyota Prius and returning up to 50 mpg in combined city and highway driving, according to EPA estimates.
One thing to be aware of with the Niro is how it allocates interior space. Compared to its mechanical sibling, the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro has a significantly smaller cargo area behind the rear seats. That said, rear passengers in the Niro will enjoy slightly more legroom and headroom, and much of that space can be converted to cargo room when the rear seatbacks are folded.
Like many vehicles from Kia, the Niro offers a healthy number of features for the money, especially at the higher trim levels. But if you genuinely need crossover capability in your hybrid, we'd suggest checking out the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
Notably, we picked the 2018 Kia Niro as one of Edmunds' Best Hybrid SUVs for this year.
Edmunds' Expert Rating7.0 / 10
The 2018 Kia Niro is a sharply styled hybrid electric vehicle that will appeal to those who like the look of a crossover but don't necessarily need crossover-level capability. Its strengths are fuel efficiency and affordability, but it also offers a ton of modern features at the top trim levels.
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 EX (1.6L inline-4 hybrid | 6-speed dual-clutch automatic | FWD) but have been updated to reflect current trim features for 2018 models.
|Overall||7.0 / 10|
Edmunds' instrumented testing confirmed that the Niro is quicker than its rival, the Toyota Prius, by a good margin. But 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.
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 quickly, but this mode is less efficient. We need an in-between mode.
Braking feels completely natural under normal conditions, and the switchover 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.
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.
The Niro handles more like a car than a crossover because it's essentially a hatchback. It stays planted through turns better than expected and carries its weight lower thanks to batteries mounted beneath the rear passenger seat.
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 are only remedied by driving in Sport mode. We're not sure what changed, but we hope Kia changes it back.
At the very least, crossovers should have the option of all-wheel drive and decent ground clearance. The Niro unfortunately has neither, and people expecting otherwise will be disappointed.
The Niro may not feel luxurious, but there's a good level of comfort on hand for the daily commute. The seats have sufficient support and powerful heaters, with ventilation available at the EX and Touring levels. The biggest strike is the amount of road noise, which gets tiresome on long drives.
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 cold climates.
Ride comfort for the most part is agreeable. Though 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 carlike, instead of floppy like a tall SUV or crossover.
Noise & vibration7.0
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.
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.
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 so it's not an issue.
Ease of use8.0
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, a nice feature.
Getting in/getting out8.0
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 step-over, but it should be easy for most, including elderly passengers.
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.
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.
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 rearward is decent and relatively unobstructed by the rear headrests. A rearview camera is standard on all trims.
A lot of hard plastic covers the lower half of the doors, dash and center console. In the light gray color scheme, the interior looks 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 better on the doors.
Compared to a small sedan, the Niro offers an appealing amount of utility for its size. But, 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.
There's convenient storage for personal items forward of the gear shifter, where you would charge your phone wirelessly if so equipped. The door pockets will hold a 16-ounce water bottle and a couple other small items, but they are on the narrow side. The center armrest bin is average size.
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 other hybrid hatchbacks.
Child safety seat accommodation6.5
LATCH anchors are tucked away in between cushions where the rear seatbacks fold down, which makes access moderately difficult. There is a pair of anchors per outboard rear seat and an easy-access top tether on the back of each seat.
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 & navigation6.5
The Uvo navigation system is the same as in other Kia models, easy to use but beginning to look dated compared to other systems on the market. The base stereo system won't impress the more musically savvy, but the optional Harman Kardon system is a noticeable upgrade.
With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard in all models, you likely won't miss the upgraded navigation system in the Touring model. The Touring trim also comes with wireless charging for smartphones that have the capability. That feature is available as a package option at the EX level.
The adaptive cruise control (called Smart Cruise Control) works 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.
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.
Which Niro does Edmunds recommend?
If fuel efficiency is your No. 1 priority, the base Niro FE is the way to go, with fuel economy of 50 mpg combined . But the sweet spot of cost and comfort is the EX trim, with added features such as push-button ignition, heated seats, and blind-spot and cross-traffic monitoring. We'd also spring for more driver aids with the optional Advanced Technology package. But for those who want "the kitchen sink," there's the Premium package, which equips the EX with everything the Touring trim has but retains the more fuel-efficient 16-inch wheels.
2018 Kia Niro models
The Kia Niro is available in five trims beginning with the most fuel-efficient FE trim, with features added incrementally moving up to the LX, EX, Touring Graphite Edition and Touring trims. All models come with a 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 comes surprisingly well-equipped for a base model, while the fully loaded Touring trim comes with nearly every modern comfort feature standard.
The base FE comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, six-way manually adjustable front seats, a 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.
Stepping up to the LX trim 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. Kia did away with all the stand-alone options from 2017 and instead offers the Advanced Technology package, which bundles forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and a few upper trim items such as front foglights, LED daytime running lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob.
The EX trim comes with all the LX trim items plus power-folding and heated side mirrors, a high-gloss black upper console, cloth and leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear air-conditioning vents, an additional USB charge port, and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. Like the LX trim, all EX options are now bundled into packages. The Advance Technology package includes the same active safety features as the LX but also adds a 10-way power driver's seat. The non-safety items from the LX package are already included in the EX trim.
A new Premium package for the EX trim adds nearly all the Touring trim content, including xenon headlights, a gloss black front grille with chrome trim, a sunroof, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory function, a heated steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen display, navigation, an eight-speaker premium Harmon Kardon sound system, LED map lights, front and rear parking system, wireless phone charging and a 110-volt power outlet. The only thing the package doesn't add is the Touring trim's 18-inch wheels, which affords better fuel economy and a slightly cheaper price tag.
The Touring trim comes with everything standard this year including the active safety aids from the Advanced Technology package on lower trim models. The only choices you have are colors and smaller accessories. So if you plan to check all the boxes, and you don't mind 18-inch wheels instead of the EX's 16-inchers, you're best off beelining it to the Touring trim.
Similar to the Touring Launch model from last year, the Touring Graphite Edition is priced in between the EX and top Touring trims. In terms of features, it's closer to the EX trim but adds the 10-way power driver's seat, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a premium Harman Kardon audio system. It also features a trim exclusive Platinum Graphite paint, glossy black 18-inch wheels, glossy black roof rails and a metallic-colored front grille. The only caveat is none of the EX trim's packages are available with this trim.
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
5 out of 5 stars
Update: Reliable Hybrid Keeps on Keeping On at 40k
2017 Kia Niro Touring 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM)
OK, this little miracle car has crossed the 40K barrier with nary a squeak or rattle. I have no idea if other Kias are screwed together as well as this one, but this is one phenomenal piece of engineering and construction. I have to admit that the Niro is now sharing a garage with a Hyundai Kona Ultimate EV, and the Hyundai has stolen some of its thunder. Still, when I fill up the Niro. … and it shows over 500 miles of range, it is an a category that all EVs will only aspire to for a while. And when you drive them side by side, sure, the EV is smoother, faster, quieter . . . but there's no range anxiety with the Niro, and given that gas stations will be with us for quite some time, and batteries sand charging remain at least somewhat problematic, our Niro will still see plenty of service as our long-distance champion. Third update: approaching 30K miles. Still zero problems. Mileage is going up. Now averaging 46-48 mpg under all driving conditions. Slightly higher in the city. Everything is holding together nicely. No squeaks or rattles, and no deterioration of controls or interior surfaces. Still very, very happy. Second Update: 20K miles, zero problems! Mileage is consistent at 43-44 mpg in all conditions. UPDATE: We're now at nearly 8K miles. The Niro has been flawless - - zero recalls, zero software updates, and no initial quality problems. Many times it seems like a new car is infatuating, but over time it begins to show its weaknesses. My complaints with the Niro are remarkably minor; our Grand Touring model has shiny black surfaces around the gear shift, and when the sun hits it, there can be glare in my eyes. Solution: keep a baseball cap over the shifter in sunny weather (this may not affect others who are a different height.) And some of the sensors are a bit sensitive; for instance, if the nose of the car is pointing down (say, after crossing a curb) the front parking sensors might start beeping. No biggie; you can temporarily turn them off with the conveniently located switch right in the center shifter area. On the plus side, these sensors will tell you if you're going to scrape the bottom of the car or if you're going to run over a concrete barrier at the front of a parking space. After several extended road trips, we can pretty much assume that our mileage for both city and highway is consistent at around 45 to 47 mpg, even when driving at 70mph or above for long intervals. The comfort factor has held up, and back seat passengers have made no complaining noises. Cargo capacity is not immense, but the nicely rectangular trunk has few intrusions (holds lots of wine boxes!) Of course the seats go down easily when you need to maximize hauling. We only use Sport mode for entering highways or other "quick" maneuvers, but the extreme boost in torque and power is very handy and we have never felt the car is underpowered. Additional pluses: great turning circle; easy to park because of size and auto-dipping side mirrors as well as a backup camera that both shows the steering angle and the actual rear bumper of the car; excellent integration with Car Play from Apple (now with Google Maps.) Air conditioning is fast and efficient, even on 100 degree days. - - - Initial review follows. - - - The Kia Niro may not be the car for everyone, but is certainly the right car at the right time for us. Many great comfort features, including a heated steering wheel; heated AND ventilated front seats; adjustable power back bolster in the driver's seat; auto folding and dipping rear view mirrors; HID projector headlights; and a host of safety features. The Touring version includes both front and rear parking sensors, a rare find even at twice the price. There's adaptive cruise control, cross traffic detection, Lane Departure warning and collision and pedestrian warning (but no auto-braking or auto steering correction.) The seats are firm but surprisingly comfortable, and the ride is pretty quiet (Touring has more sound proofing packed into it.) The wheelbase is stretched out with the wheels at the corners, for a more supple ride than you'd expect. Apple and and Google Maps plus Spotify and more are delivered via Car Play (also has Android Auto.) This is not a powerful automobile, but with the Sport mode you harness the combined power of both electric and gas motors for a substantial boost when needed via a flick of the gear lever to the side - - great for entering freeways, or for a burst of passing power. In sum, if you're sick of burning through tons of gas, and having to visit the station more often than you'd like, the Niro is the ideal solution, and provides enough comfort and utility to cover most of the bases for singles, couples and small families. It is not really an SUV so much as a "tall wagon" but does carry quite a substantial load with the seat down. It's slightly smaller size and very tight turning circle compared to many SUVs makes it far easier to maneuver and park in urban situations.
5 out of 5 stars
All we expected and more
Retired grandparent, 12/30/2017
2017 Kia Niro LX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM)
We are at 10,000 miles and the car has been perfect. In trying to think of something negative, the only two things are that the gasoline engine/exhaust may be noisier than a typical 4-cyl but maybe that only seems that way since the car is so quiet in EV mode. The other thing is that it seems the engine is programmed to kick in when battery charge gets below about 50% and it seems like … it should be able to run EV until battery gets lower than that. But how can we complain when we get over 60mpg on most trips. We learned a few things to nurse those extra MPG: When accelerating, keep the fuel economy meter below the halfway mark, when you reach cruising speed, momentarily let off the gas to force the EV mode to kick in, then gently press gas pedal to maintain your speed on battery (If you keep foot on gas pedal, it tends to remain in gasoline mode). When braking, anticipate stops and press brake lightly so that the regen slows down the vehicle without having to use the friction wasting brakes until necessary. Try to avoid high-speed freeway driving (we found MPG really drops above 60-65 MPH). In moderate weather we get over 60 MPG but in cold weather we were only getting 45-50 MPG. For maximum MPG, only use A/C and headlights when necessary, and for short local trips in cold weather, don't turn on the heater (if forces the gasoline engine to run even when your battery us charged in order to produce heat for the passenger compartment. Unless you need defroster, wear your coat and gloves and leave the gasoline engine off. I have recently added a small silicon block heater pad on the underside of the oil pan to warm the engine on cold winter mornings so the engine is warm when starting and doesn't have to run nearly as much to produce heat, and expect our winter MPG will greatly improve.
5 out of 5 stars
Sleeper Hybrid Winner
2018 Kia Niro EX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM)
We had a Soul that was up on lease. We really liked the Soul, but in primarily city driving, the gas mileage was terrible. Having owned 4 Kia vehicles, beginning with a 2001, Kia Rio, the vehicles keep gaining refinement and great features. Build quality is at it's highest level so far. To the Niro, this car is a perfect Soul Replacement. It feels like it rides high like the Soul, but … the gas mileage has been better than estimates. We averaged just over 56 mpg, in mixed driving in the first week. It runs so smoothly, the transition between electric and gas are noticeable, but not a hindrance of any kind. While I doubt we'll win a drag race, the car moves so quietly and easily, you can quickly find yourself over the speed limit. We opted for the mid-range EX, because it had all the tech we wanted. The tech package added leather seats and dash trim, but honestly it was way too much car, and the car as we have it is comfortable and has all but emergency braking. The interior craftsmanship is modern and interfaces are easy to use. I feel Edmunds 3 Star rating sells this vehicle way too short. Granted, I'd agree the mpg drop off for the highest trim level is unfortunate, but the EX, with or without the Tech package, provides more than enough comfort and safety features for the average commuter. I honestly can't wait to get another when our 2nd car is ready to be replaced.
5 out of 5 stars
An Excellent Hybrid Vehicle
Joseph Bristow, 10/11/2017
2017 Kia Niro LX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM)
I have driven the 2017 Kia Niro LX for over two months, and I have really come to like the car. I had been driving a 2006 Ford Focus ZX5 (four-door hatchback bought new in 2006), so this was a big step up for me. I found the Niro to be very comfortable with an excellent climate control system. The entertainment system is awesome. Bluetooth connectivity is perfect for local driving, … while Android Auto is great for long-distance trips. You don't need a navigation system with Android Auto. Just select the "Maps" button to open a map that shows where you are and traffic in your area. You can get turn-by-turn directions as well. Voice commands work well, and I haven't had any issues with being understood. The cargo area is similar to what my Focus had. It's perfect for groceries and really expands when you put the rear seats down. The glove compartment is a little small, but I don't have a lot of items to store, so it's not much of an issue for me. Acceleration in Eco mode is sluggish, as every review says, but Sport mode gives you the option of beefing up acceleration. I rarely use Sport mode, as I don't care about the slow acceleration. My goal with the Niro is to get the best gas mileage I can. To that end, I get about 45 mpg, measured by taking the number of miles I've driven divided by the amount of gas I put in the car (I stop filling when the pump handle pops). That is far better than I ever got in my old Focus, and to be able to go over 400 miles on a single tank is fantastic. Probably the one disappointing thing is the gas mileage I get on short trips. I happen to live within a mile of a commercial center, so getting groceries, eating meals and visiting other stores results in about a 2-mile round trip. I had imagined that the Niro would act like an electric car in that situation, but it doesn't. No matter how gentle I am with the gas pedal, I cannot get it to stay in electric mode during these short trips, which results in 25 to 30 mpg per trip, hurting my overall gas mileage. It's something I do quite often, so I'm hoping that future iterations of the Niro will be better at using electric mode on short trips. Interestingly, the Niro will utilize electric mode quite frequently in stop-and-go traffic, which makes me laugh at the other cars burning gas while I'm drifting along in electric mode. Despite my disappointment, I'm very pleased with the gas mileage I get from my Niro. I leased the Niro because 2017 is the first year for the model and it is my first experience driving a hybrid car. Given how pleased I am with the car, I'll likely turn it in and buy a new Niro when the lease is up.
We have a limited number of reviews for the 2018 Kia Niro, so we've included reviews for other years of the Niro since its last redesign.
2018 Niro Highlights
|Combined MPG||50 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$77/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||front wheel drive|
|Warranty||5 years / 60,000 miles|
Our experts like the Niro models:
- Blind-Spot Monitoring
- Detects and alerts you with visual and audio warnings when a vehicle in the adjacent lane is in your blind spot.
- Smart Cruise Control
- Maintains a set speed and interval to the car ahead and will bring the car to a stop briefly before relinquishing control.
- Lane Keeping Assist
- Identifies lane markings and applies a steering correction if you begin to drift out of your lane.