The 2017 Niro, an all-new subcompact hybrid from Kia, is a blend of hatchback, wagon and crossover, characterized by five doors and sitting higher than a sedan but lower than a typical SUV.
Fun fact that won’t mean a lot to the general consumer: Niro is a dedicated hybrid, meaning it isn’t a hybrid version of an existing gasoline-powered car, like other hybrids.
The Kia Niro also stands out in the affordable hybrid crowd due to its six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission rather than the more common CVT (constantly variable transmission) of other hybrids. Not to engage in transmission-shaming here, but CVTs sometimes get dissed for their sub-seamless performance.
Niro’s unrevolutionary exterior design (I mean that in a nice way) makes it an appealing option for prospective buyers who love the benefits of a hybrid but are unwilling to be seen driving a goofy-looking car.
There are five trim levels of the 2017 Kia Niro: FE, LX, EX, Touring and Touring Launch. In the modern Kia tradition, the amount of standard features at each level is generous.
The base FE model delivers the group’s best fuel economy: city/highway/combined 52/49/50 mpg. It includes a rearview camera, 60/40-split rear seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, Kia’s UVO eServices featuring a 7-inch touchscreen, 8 GB of music storage, access to onscreen apps such as Pandora and Soundhound, Wi-Fi tethering, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
My tester was the Touring model, whose fuel economy rating dips to 46/40/43 mpg with 168 pounds of extra weight, but the trade-off includes the addition of driver-assist safety systems (blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking assist), Harman Kardon premium audio, navigation, satellite radio, heated and ventilated front seats, power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment and memory, and so on.
The tester’s $1,900 optional Advanced Technology Package threw in HID headlights, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision and lane departure warning systems, smart cruise control, 115 volt inverter, and a wireless phone charger.
Niro’s hybrid powertrain delivers 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, producing can’t-complain performance for a car in this class. Handling is stable and precise enough to have some fun on twisty roads.
Inside the Niro, seats are comfortable, the ride is nice, and unwanted cabin noise is low. The wanted noise emanating from the Harman Kardon audio system’s eight speakers is heavenly.
Though a subcompact, Niro’s interior is tall and roomy, not at all claustrophobic. Even with that, the rear cargo area is still large enough to be useful.
The cabin’s crowning glory is a simple and sane user interface. Applause for Kia designers and engineers.
2017 KIA NIRO TOURING
Base price, including destination charge: $30,545
Price as driven: $32,840
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.