Kia’s Niro subcompact hybrid SUV is remodeled for 2023 with kicky new styling, a roomier interior, higher fuel efficiency, better build quality, and an expanded list of active safety features as standard equipment.
There are three Niro models for 2023: hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and the fully electric Niro EV. Front-wheel drive is the standard configuration across the board. All-wheel drive isn’t on the menu.
The Niro HEV has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with a 32kW electric motor. They produce a combined 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Fuel efficiency transcends performance. That’s not necessarily a bad quality for the average consumer interested in a small hybrid car.
A Niro hybrid with 16-inch wheels has an impressive 53-mpg fuel economy rating for combined city and highway driving. If riding on the optional 18-inch wheels, that number lowers to 49 mpg.
Sport and Eco modes give drivers some options, and a Green Zone drive mode is new this year. It automatically transfers the Niro HEV into EV mode in residential areas, and near schools and hospitals.
Despite its reserved acceleration characteristics, the Niro HEV has a friendly personality on curvy roads and is capable of generating enjoyment. Its smooth six-speed automatic transmission is commendable.
The 2023 Niro HEV lineup includes five trim levels: LX, EX, EX Touring, SX, and SX Touring. Pricing starts at $26,590 for the LX and tops out at $34,890 for the SX Touring.
Niro’s new exterior has a dominating feature Kia calls the aero blade, a panel running from the roof down to the rear wheels. Available in body color or a variety of contrasting colors, and sure to generate commentary, Kia says it also aids airflow beneath the Niro’s D-pillar. My SX Touring test car’s Cityscape Green paint and black aero blade were a handsome color combination. The aero blade was a $195 option.
There’s seating for five inside the Niro HEV. The driver and front-seat passenger are given the lion’s share of the room, always the case in a subcompact car. Rear-seat legroom has increased by 2.4 inches from last year’s Niro and is among the best in its class. But my family is a family of tall people, so Niro’s rear-seat legroom doesn’t strike me as roomy.
The Niro HEV SX Touring has an abundant supply of comfort, convenience and infotainment equipment: heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents, wireless phone charger, sturdy and comfortable SynTex seating material, 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, and an eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system.
The audio and climate systems share controls on the touchscreen, which helps give the new Niro interior a clean, uncluttered look, but also adds the extra step of having to toggle between them.
2023 KIA NIRO SX TOURING
Base price, including destination charge: $36,185
Price as driven: $36,435
Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.