Introducing: The Kia Niro

25 Jan

We’ve been excited about the Kia Niro for a long time. Not only is the Niro the first-ever dedicated hybrid crossover platform, it’s Kia’s first dedicated hybrid (Kia’s only other hybrid offering, the Optima Hybrid, is essentially just a normal Optima with a hybrid powertrain.) So when we found out that we would be receiving Niro training, we were floored.

And take it from folks who had seriously high hopes for the Niro: we were not disappointed.

The first and most important aspect of our introduction to the car was our instructor: Kia sent a professional race car driver and drifter to teach us about their new hybrid crossover! Think hybrids are ill-equipped for performance enthusiasts? As we found out last week, the instant torque generated by an electric motor couple with the low center of gravity provided by a lithium-ion polymer battery under the rear passenger seat makes the Niro a legitimately zippy, maneuverable machine. It was a treat to spend our first drive in a car that can get 50 miles per gallon exploring what it can do with its hair down.

We were also impressed by the Niro’s features, especially as they stack up to the competition. We were told that Niro customers will be most interested in two primary rival vehicles: the Toyota Prius (no surprise there!), and the Honda HR-V. The results are in, and Kia wins.

The Prius barely outdoes the Niro on EPA-estimated MPG, but the Niro is 200 pounds lighter, gets 29 more horsepower and a truly-astonishing 75 more pound-feet of torque – the speed you feel when you accelerate. The Niro comes with a longer vehicle warranty, more than double the limited powertrain warranty, and a longer hybrid battery warranty, on top of creature comforts like ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, roof rack, and wireless phone charging that the Prius doesn’t offer.

The HRV made Kia’s list of competitors because it’s a relatively-efficient small SUV, but relatively-efficient doesn’t cut it when you’re fighting with the Niro. Kia’s peppy hybrid crossover gets an EPA-estimated 50 MPG, whereas Honda’s HRV gets only 31 MPG. The Niro’s 195 lb-ft of torque crushes the Honda’s 127, and the list of features offered in the Niro that aren’t present in the Honda is staggering: heated steering wheel, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, android auto – the list goes on and on. Oh, and the Niro has the HRV beat on every warranty, too.

So what are our first impressions of one of the most important new Kias in years? The Niro is a nimble, torquey, fun, stylish, value-packed diamond. The features, efficiency, and fun you get for the Niro’s price-point, combined with the peace-of-mind of Kia’s warranties, are absolutely unbeatable.

Let’s put it this way: the biggest competition you will have for getting a Niro when they arrive at our lot will be from all of us thinking about buying one!