Stealth Hybrid

The all-new 2017 Kia Niro redefines what a hybrid can be

BYAlan Rider
When does a hybrid fail to feel like a hybrid? When it’s the all-new 2017 Kia Niro.
 
Yes, this compact four-door hatchback does technically have a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain under the hood. And it’s an impressive one, too, returning 52 mpg city and 49 mpg highway in the lightest-weight FE base model.
 
Truth be told, my balking over the Niro’s hybrid label comes down to form. Its pleasantly ordinary lines simply don’t give it that sleek, car-of-the-future look we’ve come to expect from these eco-friendly machines. That is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to living with the Niro on a day-to-day basis. I enjoyed motoring around town in the top-of-the-line Touring model and wringing maximum mpg out of a gallon of petrol in this understated vehicle.
 
Then, there’s the practicality of the Niro’s four-door hatchback design (Kia calls it a crossover, but without an available all-wheel-drive system I don’t think that categorization quite fits). Fold those rear seatbacks down and you wind up with more than twice as much total cargo room — 54.5 cubic feet to be exact — as the hybrid segment’s best-seller, the Toyota Prius. This space was made easier to use by a flat load floor and a wide-opening rear liftgate.
 
Advanced safety features like autonomous emergency braking and handy everyday technology like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration make the all-new Kia Niro a surprisingly practical four-door hatchback you can think of as a stealth hybrid.
ALAN RIDER has been writing about the intersection of automobiles and adventure travel for more than two decades.

2017 Kia Niro

Vehicle Type: 
Hybrid
Base Price: 
$22,890
Price as Tested: 
$31,550
Fuel Economy: 
52 MPG City
49 MPG Highway
Key Safety Features: 
  • Advanced airbag system, including driver’s knee airbag
  • Anti-lock Braking System
  • Electronic stability control
  • Rearview camera
The Good: 
  • Exceptional fuel economy
  • Above-average cargo room
  • Straightforward styling/controls
The Bad: 
  • Heavier upper trim levels not quite as fuel-efficient
  • No all-wheel-drive powertrain available
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