Road Test: 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid
How Does 53+ MPG Sound?
The second generation 2023 Kia Niro is offered in three models–the all-electric Niro EV, the Niro plug-in hybrid, and the one reviewed here, the Niro hybrid. First debuting in 2017, the Niro is a key model for Kia as it offers three different propulsion choices, all of which offer excellent fuel economy or all-electric driving range. This is our in-depth look at the hybrid model.
The 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid running on 87 octane is the class leader in fuel economy. The 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine is coupled to a 32-kilowatt electric motor for a combined 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The front wheels (all-wheel drive is not available) are driven through a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Niro has an EPA rated fuel economy of between 49 and 53 miles per gallon, depending if equipped with 16-inch or 18-inch wheels, which delivers a driving range of up-to 588 miles.
The Niro isn’t plugged in to recharge the battery but does have a very efficient regenerative charging system that converts kinetic energy into electric energy, when applying the brakes or coasting, and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on the instrument cluster where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and motor.
The Niro, weighing-in at 3,247 pounds, feels planted on the road, with the under-seat battery placement creating a low center of gravity resulting in generally good driving dynamics. The motor driven power steering was tuned well for zippy handling, with maneuvering in town, especially parking, being easy. Where the Niro comes up a bit short is on the highway where road imperfections can be felt.
We clocked 10.8 seconds in a few 0-60 miles per hour runs, which is not quick. We fully understand the Niro is not made for speed but for efficiency, and are confident buyers will gladly trade speed for stellar hybrid fuel economy.
There are four drive modes of Eco, EV, Sport and Green Zone. Eco is best when on the highway to maximize fuel economy and Sport for when an extra boost of performance is needed. The Green Zone mode automatically switches to EV mode through navigation and driving history when driving in residential neighborhoods, past schools and hospitals.
Completely redesigned for 2023 this compact crossover now claims stylish good looks and will stand-out from the competition. Clean Fleet Report’s was painted in Cityscape Green, but the most eye catching element from the side view is what Kia calls the Aero Blade. This boomerang-shaped panel is designed to direct airflow underneath the C pillar, aiding in the a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.29. The Aero Blade can be painted the body color or in gloss black to match the same treatment found on the lower doors and facias. Decide for yourself if you like the look, and if so it is $195 premium.
The gently sloped hood draws a smooth profile to the laid-back A pillars, leading to a near-flat roof with rack rails and a shark fin antenna. The roof ends at an integrated spoiler over the rear hatch window that incorporates the LED high brake light. The vertical, boomerang-shaped LED taillights frame the rear hatch, siting above a painted skid plate-like feature and a very demure “Hybrid” badge on the lower right corner of the hatch.
The signature tiger nose grille continues from the previous generation Niro, but now is part of a more rounded nose that wraps seamlessly into the fenders, meeting-up with the distinctive “heartbeat” (think: cardiac monitor) designed LED daytime running lights. Make sure to check-out the heartbeat lights and how the exterior mirrors light up as you approach the Niro.
The spacious and airy cabin includes ample leg and headroom up front, and for two six-footers to sit comfortably in the rear seat. Clean Fleet Report was driving the Niro SX Touring model with heated and ventilated front seats covered in vegan leather that is soft to the touch and looked pretty good. The driver gets 10-way power adjustable with lumbar, while the passenger gets 6-way manual adjustments including seat height. Outward visibility is excellent as the 6.3-inch ground clearance results in an outlook on the road a bit higher than a sedan, but not as high as a SUV.
The 60/40 split rear seat is separated by a center armrest with cup holders. When folded the seat produces a near-flat cargo area, with easy access through the large hatch opening. The backside of the front seats have unique grab handles to aid entering and exiting the rear seats.
The center dash in the SX Touring model houses a 10.25-inch LCD touchscreen (an 8-inch LCD screen is standard on the base Niro LX) for navigation and the 8-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, with a subwoofer, that plays AM/FM and SiriusXM, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Kia Connect provides access to vehicle systems including remote start, and connects to a smartphone app for Apple and Android operating systems. Smartphone integration and voice commands are via Bluetooth. The vegan leather-wrapped steering wheel had controls for audio, telephone and the smart cruise control.
Kia has a clever design that switches between the dual-zone climate controls and infotainment controls. On the narrow horizontal screen below the main touch screen, there are capacitive touch points for the temperature and fan, and then by pressing the up-arrow icon, converts the heater control knobs to volume and channel knobs to control the radio. This space saver had a short learning curve, quickly showing its benefits.
Comfort and convenience features include an auto-dimming rear view camera, smart key with push button start/stop, Auto Hold, power-folding heated outside mirrors, wireless phone charging, carpeted floor mats ($155 option), LED interior and mood lights, rear passenger HVAC vents, driver and passenger power windows with automatic up/down, power door locks and sunroof, and new for 2023 a power rear lift gate.
Safety and Warranties
The Niro Hybrid comes with an extensive list of standard safety features. They include seven airbags, forward emergency braking and collision warning, stability control, smart cruise control, blind spot monitoring, park assist with front and rear sensors, vehicle stability management, traction control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring system, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert.
The 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid comes with these warranties:
Powertrain – 10 years/100,000 mile
Battery – 10 years/100,000 miles
Basic – Five years/60,000 miles
Roadside Assistance – Five years/60,000 miles
The 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid comes in three trim levels and two packages. These base prices include the $1,295 destination fee. The Niro hybrid is sold in all fifty states.
LX – $27,785
EX – $30,385
EX Touring – $32,685
SX – $33,785
SX Touring – $36,085
Observations: 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid
The 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid wasn’t designed nor intended to be a a sporty car, but one that is hard to beat for fuel economy, convenience features and value. Clean Fleet Report is impressed with the overall drivability, comfort and features of the Kia hybrid, plus the unbeatable warranty.
The Niro Hybrid has a few key hybrid competitors of the Ford Escape, Toyota Corolla and RAV4. The Niro hybrid only is available in front wheel drive, as are the Escape and Corolla, while the RAV4 hybrid only comes with all-wheel drive. So make sure to compare carefully the features and efficiency to determine which hybrid compact SUV to buy.
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Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Kia.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Source: Clean Fleet Report