• 2017 Kia Niro

Kia’s first hybrid vehicle built on a dedicated platform.

Kia keeps hitting homerun after homerun with the new models it has been releasing lately, but its newest addition will take the brand into a previously unexplored segment. When it comes to the red-hot subcompact crossover market, the Kia Soul is probably the closest thing Kia has to compete in, but a more traditional crossover is about to slot in below the compact Sportage. It goes by the name Niro and, more important, it’s a hybrid.

Previewed by the KX3 Concept that was unveiled at the 2014 Guangzhou Motor Show in China (itself inspired by the 2013 Kia Niro Concept), the Niro was unveiled at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, where Kia showcased a range of green vehicles that also includes hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Optima. But unlike the four-door sedan, the Niro rides on the company’s first dedicated hybrid architecture, one that’s supposed to triple Kia’s global green car lineup by 2020.

"The Niro hits the sweet spot by offering the best combination of outstanding mpg, an engaging driving experience, utility, and most importantly, a stunning design that doesn’t shout ‘hybrid,’" said Orth Hedrick, vice president product planning KMA. “The subcompact CUV market continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the world, and the Niro offers a uniquely alluring yet practical package that consumers haven’t seen before.”

Granted, the Niro makes a lot of sense in today’s growing crossover market, but does it have what it takes to draw in customers from the established nameplates? Keep reading to find out more about that.

Updated 02/16/2016: We added a series of new images taken during the cars official debut at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show. Check the "Pictures" tab to see them.

Continue reading to find out more about the Kia Niro.

  • 2017 Kia Niro
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    146
  • MPG(Hwy):
    50
  • Torque @ RPM:
    195
  • Displacement:
    1.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    10 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    125 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    25000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Exterior
- image 665034
2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Exterior
- image 665035
2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Exterior
- image 665042

Kia describes the Niro’s styling as an "un-hybrid design" that "demonstrates that owners don’t have to sacrifice emotionally engaging design or functional utility in the name of efficiency." As fancy as it may sound, that statement is actually true, as most dedicated hybrids – think Toyota Prius – aren’t very exciting to look at. Sure, the Niro isn’t the kind of crossover that will blow your mind design-wise, but it doesn’t look out of place when parked between its conventional siblings.

Paired with the near vertical headlamps angled toward the A-pillars, the vertical vents in the bumper, and the large lower grille, it gives the Niro a sportier, car-like stance.

Speaking of siblings, the Niro slots between the Sportage and the Sorento as far as size goes (it has a 106-inch wheelbase), but it’s styling is more car-like. Although it also sports the company’s trademark "tiger-nose" grille, the element is strongly related to the Optima’s and not as rugged as the Sorento’s. Paired with the near vertical headlamps angled toward the A-pillars, the vertical vents in the bumper, and the large lower grille, it gives the Niro a sportier, car-like stance.

Around back, the new crossover borrows some design cues from the smaller Sportage, including the high-mounted taillights, the small rear glass, the skinny bumper lights, and the trapezoidal license plate recess in the apron. However, the Niro received many new features, such as the one-piece taillight and rear glass arrangement, the C-shaped LED light cluster, the sporty looking tailgate spoiler, and the body-colored apron with aluminum inserts. Again, the Niro is quite sporty to look at and make the Sportage look rather dull.

When viewed from the side, the Niro carries a lot of Sorento in its styling. The body panels are shaped almost the same (albeit with different proportions of course), and the glass house is also very similar. The Niro’s tends to go the coupe route toward the rear and the D-pillar is obviously thinner, but overall, Kia managed to integrate the Niro into its crossover lineup brilliantly.

Interior

2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Interior
- image 665043

Like most recently released Kia products, the Niro’s interior looks like a nice place to spend time in. Rounded off with various white and black inserts and fitted with an uncluttered and clean dashboard, the the interior feels modern and inviting. The instrument cluster is colorful and informative, the infotainment screen is large enough for a crossover, while the door panels and center console offer plenty of storage space for smaller objects.

The instrument cluster is colorful and informative, the infotainment screen is large enough for a crossover, while the door panels and center console offer plenty of storage space for smaller objects.

The 106.3-inch wheelbase, short overhangs, and wide stance means there’s ample leg, head, and shoulder room to enjoy in the front and back. The seats feature increased pad density in the cushion for a comfortable ride, while the elevated seating positions provides a good view of the road ahead as well as easy ingress and egress. To keep the Niro’s cabin as roomy as possible, Kia located the high-voltage battery underneath the rear seats. This also allows for a flat load floor.

Kia says that ensuring the Niro has a quiet interior was a key development focus for its engineers. The Niro received plenty of insulation in its front structure, optimized suspension bushing stiffness, body sealing, and expanding foam inside the A- and B-pillars. Other noise-reducing measures include acoustic windshield glass, newly designed engine mounts, and special embossed foam in the floor.

On the convenience side, the Niro comes with several features seen on the Sportage, including the UVO3 system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and UVO eServices with 14 telematics services. Access to all those features is possible through the seven-inch touchscreen atop the center stack.

Drivetrain

2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 665050

Although the KX3 Concept used a turbocharged, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is the same powertrain combination in the 2016 Hyundai Veloster and 2016 Kia Optima, the Niro received a hybrid drivetrain. Specifically, a 1.6-liter "Kappa" four-cylinder engine rated at 103 horsepower is paired with a 43-horsepower electric motor that gets its juice from a 1.56-kWh lithium-polymer battery pack. The combo is similar to that seen in the Hyundai Ioniq, which rides on the same underpinnings but features a different exterior design. The total output of 146 horses and 195 pound-feet is sent to the road through a highly-efficient six-speed, double-clutch transmission and an all-wheel-drive system.

Kia says that the proved GDI and Atkinson cycle technology along with the DCT will enable the Niro to return up to 50 mpg on the highway.

Kia says that the proved GDI and Atkinson cycle technology along with the DCT will enable the Niro to return up to 50 mpg on the highway.

A plug-in hybrid version will be launched at a later date.

Not only powerful, the Niro is also lightweight thanks to its brand-new platform. Made from 53 percent ultra-high strength steel and extensive use of hot-stamped components, the crossover benefits from a durable structure that should earn it top honors from the NHTSA and the IIHS.

The brand has yet to reveal full specs, but did say that the Niro features an all-new EcoDAS1 assistance system with Coasting Guide and Predictive Energy Control. The Coasting Guide aims at maximizing fuel economy by coaching the driver on when to coast and brake, while Predictive Energy Control uses the navigation system and cruise control to anticipate changes on the road ahead and actively manage energy flow, determining when it’s best to recharge the battery and when to use stored energy. The Niro also received a Smart Air Intake, which reduces drag by carefully managing the intake of outside air for the HVAC system.

Prices

As is the case with most Kia products, expect the Kia Niro to be priced slightly below the competition. Expect a sticker of around $25,000.

Competition

Toyota Prius

2016 Toyota Prius
- image 648200

No automaker has managed to establish a dominance in the hybrid market as well as Toyota has with the Prius. The Prius became the quintessential hybrid car when its second generation debuted as a streamlined hatchback in 2003. For 2016, the Prius returns with an updated Hybrid Synergy Drive system that cranks out 150 horsepower and should boost, according to the company, fuel efficiency by as much as 10 percent, to 55 mpg. Sure, the Prius is smaller than the Niro and lacks the Kia’s crossover capabilities, but the Toyota can be had in the larger Prius V configuration for enhanced roominess. Pricing should start from around $26,000.

Find out more about the Toyota Prius here.

Hyundai Ioniq

2017 Hyundai Ioniq High Resolution Exterior
- image 662198

Riding on the same underpinnings and using the same engine, the Ioniq will most likely be cross-shopped with the Niro once both vehicles arrive in dealerships. Much like the Kia, the Ioniq also showcases a sporty design, but its shape is more similar to the Prius rather than a conventional crossover. The Ioniq also features a seven-inch touchscreen with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Eco-Driving Assistant System, but gets its own interior design. The hybrid drivetrain generates 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet in first gear and 139 horses and 173 pound-feet in second to sixth gears. Pricing is likely to start in the mid-$20,000 range.

Read more about the Hyundai Ioniq here.

Conclusion

2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Exterior
- image 665046

When Kia announced plans to develop a new crossover my first though was whether it can integrate such a model into its lineup without taking sales away from the popular Soul. Having seen the Niro, it’s safe to say that Kia made the right decision as the size and the drivetrain place this new crossover into a league of its own. The Niro should give Kia some traction on the hybrid market and will probably answer many question as to what needs to be done to further expand eco offerings by 2020. All I can hope is Kia will come up with better marketing for the Niro than the Rondo – an instant flop before being pulled from the U.S. market.

  • Leave it
    • Low ride height
    • Competes against its Hyundai sibling

Updated History

Updated 02/11/2016: Kia dropped the official details on the 2017 Niro at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.

Updated 11/16/2015: Kia dropped first two teaser images for its new Niro – labeled by the company as a Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV). The model will be unveiled next year and will be put into production in late 2016.

Updated 10/08/2015: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Kia Niro testing once again, this time in the Austrian Alps. As you can see Kia started to drop part of the camouflage, in order to get the right conditions. New rumors suggest that when the Niro will hit the market in 2016 it will only be offered with hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.

Spy Shots

October 8, 2015 - Kia Niro testing in the Austrian Alps

2017 Kia Niro Exterior Spyshots
- image 649874
2017 Kia Niro Exterior Spyshots
- image 649879
2017 Kia Niro Exterior Spyshots
- image 649875

May 18, 2015 - First testing session

2017 Kia Niro Exterior Spyshots
- image 630600
2017 Kia Niro Exterior Spyshots
- image 630604
2017 Kia Niro Exterior Spyshots
- image 630609
Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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