2018 Kia Niro: The coolest things can come from small packages

31 Jan 2018 | 1,124 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds Prepare to be surprised by the 2018 Kia Niro. First this small front wheel drive crossover is pretty roomy when you see how small it is on the outside.  It can hold an incredible number of boxes with the back seat folded down--ten of the standard boxes used by grocery stores for stocking. It's economical beyond belief.  And the styling is just about the coolest you will find with a hybrid product.  And did we mention price?  The value proposition is astonishing. for about $29,000--a fairly modest price for today's crossovers--you get a long list of features, including the latest in technology. [caption id="attachment_9136" align="alignnone" width="648"] 2018 Niro[/caption] Our 2018 Kia Niro EX was priced at $28,895. Power comes from a combination of 1.6 liter, 139 horsepower four cylinder engine connected with a 43 horsepower electric motor.  It has a six speed dual clutch transmission and a regenerative braking system, idle stop and go system and other items that are already familiar to most people acquainted with hybrid electric cars. In this case, the Niro performs reasonably well on the road, and is a great deal of fun when it comes to handling.  I love how it corners, stops and just seems to beg for more challenging driving because of the confidence it inspires. And if economy is your thing, you've come to the right place when it comes to the Kia Niro. We're talking 51 city and 46 highway with a combined mileage of 49 mpg overall. Annual fuel cost: $750. Cost estimates are based on driving 15,000 miles annually with gasoline costing $2.45 a gallon. You can save $3,250 in fuel costs over the next five years. And it uses two gallons of gas per 100 miles driven.  Is it economical? Duh!! Only one thing bothered me:  The engine sounded somewhat rougher and unrefined than some similar vehicles I've driven.  A little adjusting here and there by Kia's engineers should take care of this. I liked the Niro a lot. First, it is absolutely spot-on perfect for urban driving with its fuel economy figures, its plenteous value for the money quotient, and its outstanding warranty package and stylish good looks.  Of course, it has lots of competition, and the subcompact sport utility field is so crowded, complex and confusing right now that it is hard to say which cars are truly its competitors and which are similar but aimed at totally different markets. You also get as much technology available to you as you can possibly imagine. Consider:  Among the offerings are Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 7-inch touchscreen interface, Kia's Uvo Services app suite, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system. If you decide to get the EX version,  you will receive a really terrific Harmon Kardon sound system with eight speakers, along with a larger eight display for the navigation system. Thankfully, I found the  infotainment graphics to be straightforward and easy to understand, and I thought the entire arrangement was presented on the dashboard in a really modern, information heavy format And I also loved how easy the smartphone connection works.  CarPlay and Android Auto get you set up with Bluetooth, for example in less than about five seconds. Kia's Niro also has you covered when it comes to safety features. Equipment includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, hill start assist, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are standard on the EX and Touring trims. Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control are optional on the EX and standard on the Touring. As for styling, the Niro is really a beautiful product compared to some of the small and truthfully, ugly, hybrid cars out there.  It's got styling that looks like Infiniti's crossovers, and quite a bit of similarity to the Kia Sportage, itself a pretty terrific looking crossover.  inside you will find one of the most creative, informing and easy to understand dashboard arrangements out there.  And the Nero keeps you better informed of what the car is doing than most of its competitors.  But where the Niro falls short is the choice of materials.  The steering wheel felt a bit slippery and greasy, and there are plenty of hard edges and hard plastic throughout the EX model we drove.  Maybe the higher level Niros do better on this count--it is probably worth checking that out. Another more practical aesthetic problem:  It takes quite a hunt to find the button to open the back hatch once you are at the rear of the car.  We needed to do a lot of groping and checking to finally hit it, and when it's freezing outside, this is NOT my idea of fun. Another issue is that you cannot get the Niro with all-wheel drive.  Maybe that's because the Sportage, the next size up in crossovers for Kia, has all wheel drive available and it costs only a bit more than the Niro. But I think with so many small crossovers offering all wheel drive, I think it makes sense for the bottom line for Kia to offer it on the Niro too.  Otherwise, the company may lose customers who expect all wheel drive in their crossovers. As you might expect, the warranty package is  probably one of the biggest argument for buying the Niro--and the same can be said for other Kia products. You get all this: 10 year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty 10 year/100,000 mile limited battery warranty 5 year/60,000 mile limited basic warranty 5 year/60,000 mile roadside assistance warranty. Really, with all that the Niro offers, we expect this one to be a big, big seller for Kia.      

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