2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring – Quick Review

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring: Touted as the "Un-Hybrid" personal urban hybrid crossover

(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)

Recently Roadblazing.com’s blog site ChicagoNow.com “Drive..He Said” evaluated the 4th generation of the “Godfather of Green” cars, the re-designed 2017 Toyota Prius.

Noting that while the latest Prius still merits the respect of the growing ranks of competitors, both a polarizing design & timid driving experience conspire to put off potential gas-electric hybrid converts.

If there is such a thing, the all-new for 2018 Kia Niro sub-compact crossover utility vehicle badly wants to be the “conventional” urban hybrid alternative to Prius’ unconventionalism.

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WHAT: All-new 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring gasoline electric hybrid sub-compact urban crossover utility vehicle, sharing platform with all-new Hyundai Ioniq hybrid/ BEV sportback.

Standard Power: 1591 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 104 hp/ 109 lb-ft; 104 kW (139 hp) net hybrid

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring: Propulsion relies on a 1.6L twin-cam DI gas engine supplemented by a 43 kW combo traction/ regenerative braking fed by a 6.5 kWh Li-Ion battery pack mounted under the 2nd Row seat; Power is sent to front wheel by clutch coupling to a upshift happy, loathe to down-shift 6-speed dual clutch transaxle

parallel to: 1 x 240V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor: 32 kW, 1 x 240V synchronous AC Hybrid Starter Generator: 8 kW

electric supply battery: 64 Lithium Ion Polymer cells, 240V, 6.5 amp hr, 1.56 kWh;

+6-speed dual clutch automatic helical transaxle

(Stay tuned for a plug-in BEV Kia Niro.)

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Fenders = more relaxed than Sportage’s, grille = dark lattice bowtie; Lower airdam features dark clad horizontal bars, chrome trimmed bezels for the fog lamps and corner brake ducts;

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring: a more conventional silhouette than the typical polarizing ground-up gas-electric hybrid design

Chiseled doors comprise Coke-bottle fuselage; Roof with integrated brushed metallic rails slopes aft of B-pillar, with small fixed window separating C & D pillars;

Formidable gloss black rear roof spoiler blends with similar outboard tail-lamp trim; Liftgate makes concave descent to bumper cover; Chrome trimmed dark cladding rises in center lower rear fascia, terminating in diffused pseudo skid plate; -1: Deep recessing of liftgate e-latch release is challenge.

WHY: Urbanites clamor for their gas-electric hybrids in a more conventional small family crossover wagon package;

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2017

WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, South Korea

WHERE TO: Up to the challenge of urban scoots and country skedaddles.

HOW ROADWORTHY: Kia’s stated quest for Niro is a “Non [traditional] gas-electric hybrid” [read “Toyota Prius”] driving experience

Conspicuous in its omission is the absence of an aggressive regenerative slowing mode AKA golf cart braking;  Instead the throttle and dual clutch gearbox do the toiling: Going easy on the throttle earns more blue-green tree leaves in the UVO’s Eco Driving menu display; In normal drive, the dual clutch transmission eagerly heads for the highest gear, sapping useful engine speed; With the selector moved left to “Sport/ Manumatic” mode, gears are held more steadfast for purposeful acceleration, but with droning high-revving & detriment to fuel economy;

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring: 46 mpg observed combined gas electric hybrid fuel economy

Instead of being stuck with Kia Soul’s flinty torsion beam rear suspension, Niro’s 4-link fully independent layout gains more compliance; A battery pack formed lower center of gravity contains most body roll and pitch; Frost heaves transmit mild thuds, and the axles jitter slightly rather than hop;  Kia has ditched their obnoxious steering weight variability, having found a middling natural heft, even if road feel is filtered out; Regenerative e-motor slowing doesn’t do any favors for an inert responding 4-disc brake set-up, hampering confidence at the end of pedal travel;

HOW FAR: 46 combined miles per gallon = 18% < 2017 Toyota Eco Two

HOW BIG/ LITTLE:  Lengthwise splits difference between Kia Soul personal cute ute and Sportage compact family SAV, Sitting on wheelbase 1″ > Sportage, yet standing -3″ lower in height, comes amazingly close in rear legroom;  Packaging battery under rear seat & nixing the donut spare for a tire inflator manages 20 cubic feet of cargo space, nudging past Soul’s;

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring: 2nd Row seating for 3 adults with generous 38″-inches legroom

Compared to 4th generation Toyota Prius [Eco Two]: Despite sharing identical 106.3″ wheelbase, 1.5″ cabin height > Prius + less sloped rear roof = 4″ 2nd Row legroom > Prius; Niro’s abrupt wagon-style liftgate = 28% hatch area cargo space < Prius;

HOW USEFUL: Low load floor w/ 60/40% split 2nd Row seatbacks; +1 Sub-load floor storage management caddy; +1 Low cowl for improved forward visiblity; -1 Seat cushion comfort wanting over longer road stints; +1 Front pax seat includes height adjustment; +1 Manageable liftgate reach; -1 Minimal door pocket storage; Tow Rating: Not Rated.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring: manageable liftgate height & useful wide aperture w/ retracting tonneau

HOW SAFE: 7 airbags; Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Assist, Roll Mitigation, Blind spot, rear cross traffic warning, Partial adaptive cruise control, Lane change assist Autonomous emergency braking -1 Lane departure warning has difficulty sensing lane markings;

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring: Adaptive Tech. Pkg. ($1900 opt.) includes Driver assist functions: include Rear cross traffic alert, Blind spot & Lane departure warning, Collision avoidance e-braking

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Heated & cooled driver/ front passenger seats; 10-way power driver’s seat;  Driver’s seat & wing mirror 2 position memory; Heated D-shape heated leather steering wheel with large tactile spoke-integrated controls;

Cool Gizmo(s): Key-fob proximity hands-free power folding wing mirrors;
Qi inductive wireless device charger

Details Done Right: Metallic bezel rotary dials, tipped door switchgear; Dashboard blue tinted vent bezels; Piano gloss black appliques;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Hard plastic grain; -1 Leather feels fake & lacks hide scent; -1 Steering wheel heating switch hidden from view; -1 Red night instrument + switch illumination = retina burning;

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 8″ matte capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; +1 Large icons; Voice command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation; Complimentary UVO telematics includes Park Minder, Geo-fencing; low depth Harman Kardon audio w/ 8 GB juke box; UVO-3 Apps: Android Auto, Apple Car Play, Google Local Search, destination import, Siri-Eyes, Pandora, SoundHound, Yelp;

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring: cockpit UVO-3 infotainment including apps, Android Auto, Apple Car Play

 Subscription based: Sirius XM TravelLink Sports, Weather, Traffic; Fueling; Cinema;

USB x 2, 12V x 3; 115V AC x 1; Qi inductive wireless device charger; +1 Generous lower center stack mobile device connectivity/ storage;

HOW MUCH: $32,445 = fully loaded 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring;

WHAT’S MISSING: Positive transmission action; Steering feel; Progressive brake pedal; native SMS messaging app; Heated rear seats; Heads-up display; AWD option??

ANY COMPETITION:  Ford C-Max: +1 Taller euro-crossover packaging, available plug-in BEV; Hyundai Ioniq: +1 sportback and available plug-in BEV,  Toyota Prius: +1 traditional hybrid experience, genuine hatchback cargo space, available plug-in BEV; Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: +1 upscale cabin finish, ride compliance, road clearance.

BOTTOM LINE: Laudable first attempt at ground-up gas-electric hybrid vehicle by Kia results in a stylish, urban & suburban usable, reasonably efficient value driven package.

An automotive enthusiast since an orange toy VW Beetle ended up in his playpen and following him everywhere, George Straton has been chief editor at ChicagoNow.com/Drive-He-Said automotive lifestyle blog since 2010. In 2017 George established Roadblazing.com, dedicated to accurate and relevant automotive reviews, news and road trip stories. George is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. George also happens to be an attorney and Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers fan.

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