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2017 Kia Niro hopes to slay the Toyota Prius in the hybrid wars

Sleek looks, tight chassis tuning and a hybrid drivetrain using a dual-clutch transmission in the new 2017 Kia Niro give green customers a vehicle option that isn't a total bore to drive.

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Jon Wong

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Kia's "un-hybrid" hybrid goes on sale in January with a base price that will be less than $23,000.

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Unlike its main competitor, the Toyota Prius, the Niro features styling that doesn't scream that it is a hybrid. Instead, styling is simple and sleek with the company's trademark tiger-nose grille up front.

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Range-topping Touring version of the Niro rides on 18-inch wheels and tires.

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The Niro's hybrid drivetrain features a 1.6-liter engine, and electric motor powered by a 1.56-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery. Net system output is 139 horsepower, and 195 pound-feet of torque.

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Unlike many hybrids that use continuously variable transmissions, the Niro uses a dual-clutch gearbox.

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The EPA fuel economy ratings have the Touring model at 46 mpg city and 40 mpg on the highway. Midrange LX and EX models, that are shod with 16-inch wheels and tires, receive a 51 mpg city and 46 mpg highway rating. Sitting atop the fuel efficiency mountain in the lineup is the FE model with a 52 mpg city and 49 mpg highway rating.

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All Niro models come with Kia's UVO3 infotainment interface, which is capable of running both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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Smart cruise control, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking are available as options on EX and Touring trim levels.

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In addition to 18-inch wheels, the Touring comes standard with a sunroof, glossy-black radiator grille trim, leather seats, 10-way power driver's seat, three-level ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, 8-inch LCD touchscreen display system and Harman Kardon premium sound system.

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Other optional features include HID headlights and a wireless phone charger.

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