2018 Kia Niro

2018 Kia Niro Review

The feature-laden 2018 Kia Niro blends popular crossover styling with stellar fuel economy.
3 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Jonathan Elfalan
Edmunds Editor

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.

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.



what's new

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.

we 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.




trim levels & features

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.



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 EX (1.6L inline-4 hybrid | 6-speed dual-clutch automatic | FWD) but have been updated to reflect current trim features for 2018 models.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.0 / 5.0

Driving

2.5 / 5.0

Acceleration3.0 / 5.0
Braking2.5 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling3.5 / 5.0
Drivability2.0 / 5.0

Comfort

3.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort3.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.0 / 5.0
Climate control4.0 / 5.0

Interior

4.0 / 5.0

Ease of use4.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Driving position5.0 / 5.0
Roominess3.5 / 5.0
Visibility4.0 / 5.0
Quality2.5 / 5.0

Utility

3.0 / 5.0

Small-item storage3.0 / 5.0
Cargo space3.0 / 5.0

Technology

3.5 / 5.0

Audio & navigation3.0 / 5.0
Smartphone integration4.5 / 5.0
Driver aids3.5 / 5.0
Voice control4.0 / 5.0

Driving

edmunds rating
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.

Acceleration

edmunds rating
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

edmunds rating
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

edmunds rating
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.

Handling

edmunds rating
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.

Drivability

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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.

Off-road

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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.

Comfort

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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.

Seat comfort

edmunds rating
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

edmunds rating
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 & vibration

edmunds rating
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 control

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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.

Interior

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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 use

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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 out

edmunds rating
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.

Driving position

edmunds rating
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.

Roominess

edmunds rating
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.

Visibility

edmunds rating
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.

Quality

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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.

Utility

edmunds rating
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.

Small-item storage

edmunds rating
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.

Cargo space

edmunds rating
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 accommodation

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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.

Technology

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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 & navigation

edmunds rating
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.

Smartphone integration

edmunds rating
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.

Driver aids

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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.

Voice control

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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.