Entry Price: $23,340
Price as Tested: $32,940
This week, we’re reviewing the 2018 Kia Niro Touring Hybrid, a small wagon that the Korean manufacturer debuted in ’17. Niro comes in a nice-looking five-door hatch design with room for five adults, although the middle rear seat passenger will be a bit tight. Niro is larger than sibling Kia Sportage by 1.2-inches in the wheelbase, making for a more comfortable ride and extra room for passengers and cargo.
The Niro starts at $23,340 for the entry FE, then graduates to the LX at $23,650, EX at $26,150 and top class Touring that starts at $32,000 and is near fully loaded. Regardless of choice, consumers receive the exact same drivetrain hybrid system in each and every model.
Niro’s hybrid system utilizes an electric motor, Lithium Ion Polymer battery and an internal combustion engine for motivation, much like the other popular hybrids on the market. This combination delivers a net horsepower of 139 with a most impressive 195 lb. ft. of torque.
All Niros rely on a 104-horse 1.6-liter Atkinson four-cylinder that works in tandem with a 43-horsepower electric motor and a battery that mounts under the rear seat. Kia calls its hybrid system “Full Parallel” that delivers smooth, reliable performance and terrific hybrid efficiency. (Don’t add the horsepower of the engine and electric motor together as neither ever works in unison at 100-percent capacity. The 139-horse total is correct).
A modern design six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission delivers the power to 16-inch tires on alloy wheels on the entry and mid-level models. Upper class Niro Touring comes with 18-inch tires and a host of other high end amenity features. The result is a Niro that is heavier and thus impacts the MPG numbers lower, with 46 city and 40 highway the EPA estimates versus the 52 city and 49 highway the lower priced models.
The front drive Niro handles well as all suspension components are made of strong yet lightweight components. Notable is that the current Niro is not available in an all-wheel-drive (AWD) format, which is puzzling since every other competitor today offers both two and four-wheel drive models on cars/wagons/crossovers like this.
All Kia Niro models feature a UVO infotainment stereo system that highlights eServices technology and numerous functions via your smartphone. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility is standard, as is SiriusXM radio. The FE, LX and EX touch-screens are a seven-inch design with six-speaker stereo, while the Touring versions receive eight-inch screens and enhanced Harmon Kardon stereos with navigation and eight-speakers.
Another feature notable is a blind-spot detection system with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert that is standard on the EX and Touring models. All expected modern day safety items are included on every Niro built, from four-wheel ABS disc brakes to all the airbags.
Niro Touring for 2018 now features the advanced technology package as standard fare. An option on the 2017 we drove last year, this package features smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, 10-way power seats and more. I highly recommend the Touring model if you can afford it as this option costs from $1,450 to $1,950 on the lower class Niros and is not available on the entry model.
Touring models come with countless other standard amenities, from power sunroof to heated steering wheel and seats. Your Kia dealer will explain everything when you visit.
I was impressed with the pep of the Niro drivetrain under full throttle, especially from a dead start. The excellent torque available should erase any concerns of Niro being slow when it comes to acceleration or merging on higher speed freeways. And, unlike other hybrids that utilize continuous variable transmissions (CVT), Niro relies on an advanced dual clutch Sportmatic six-speed automatic that I prefer over the CVT. Additionally, Niro offers a driver switchable Economy and Sport mode, the latter offering a more aggressive (albeit less MPG) approach as the engine will rev higher before shifting.
A very composed highway cruiser in Eco mode, Niro reacts well with the bigger 18-inch tires and grabs well in tight turns. With a full fuel tank, Niro has an optimal 511-mile cruising range.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, 3,274 lb. curb weight, 11.9 gal. fuel tank, 17.5 ft. turn circle, 6.3-inch ground clearance, and from 19.4 to 54.5 cu. ft. of cargo space.
Amongst the bevy of driver and passenger enhancements, Niro Touring’s exterior looks and inviting leather cabin are most noteworthy. With easy to drive fundamentals in the city to impressive handling on country roads, Kia’s new hybrid wagon is both attractive looking and can be a very economical choice. Add in Kia’s 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain/battery warranty and any current year-end incentives, and you could park a winner in your driveway.
To summarize, any leftover 2018 Niro model offers a great opportunity to save some serious money as the 2019 Niro lineup is unchanged at press time.
Likes: Hybrid powertrain, safety, looks, dual-clutch automatic.
Dislikes: High tech safety unavailable on entry FE, no AWD model.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media.