At the heart of the Niro is a compact 1.6L 4-cylinder gasoline engine producing 104 horsepower. This engine alone would make the Niro a pretty poor performer, luckily there is an electric motor as well helping to motivate the vehicle. Combined with the electric motor, the Niro produces 139 hp and a very robust 195 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a 6-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. Unlike most other hybrids, which use a continuously variable transmission, the Kia's dual clutch unit helps provide strong acceleration at the cost of slight penalty to fuel economy. The tradeoff is worth it-- the Niro doesn't feel anchored to the ground like some other hybrids while still returning up to 50 mpg in combined city and highway driving in its most basic form.
The Kia Niro comes in four basic trims, FE, LX, EX and Touring. The Base FE trim has fewer amenities than its siblings but still comes with all the notable features one would expect in a compact car or SUV these days. Standard features include a 7-inch color touch screen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, steering wheel mounted controls for the sound system and cruise control, a USB input jack, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic temperature control, power external mirrors and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The LX trim primarily adds roof rails, LED rear lights, fog lamps, an immobilizer and a push button start system. The EX trim meanwhile, builds on the LX by offering partial-leather seating surfaces, heated exterior mirrors and heated front seats.
The top of the line Touring trim gets a power sunroof, full leather seating a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats.
Standard safety items on the Niro include anti-lock brakes, stability control a brake assist system, a bevy of airbags and a hill start control system. A rearview camera is also standard across the entire Niro range.
Even in the crowded compact crossover class, the Kia Niro stands alone. Why? It's the only one that comes standard with electrification. And in addition to the hybrid model tested here, Kia offers its Niro with plug-in power, or as a fully electric vehicle with an estimated 239 miles of range.
The Niro shares its underpinnings with the Hyundai Ioniq, which is a more traditional Prius fighter. But thanks to its crossover shape and extra cargo space, the Niro presents itself to be a much more compelling hybrid package.
The Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that works in concert with a 1.56-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery to produce 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. In a subcompact crossover that weighs about 3,300 pounds, that's simply not enough. Driving up steep sections of the Grapevine on Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles, I had to dig deep into the throttle in order to keep pace in traffic.
The Good The 2019 Kia Niro combines capacious crossover cargo capacity and terrific fuel economy in a handsome, comfortable package.
The Bad It needs quite a bit more highway-passing power, especially on inclines.
The Bottom Line The Niro represents the best of many worlds with little money required to reap its benefits.
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