For Kia’s first dedicated hybrid model, the brand decided to not go after the Prius, like some other automakers have tried and instead it took a different route – a hybrid crossover. It’s actually quite smart, since Kia’s new subcompact crossover hasn’t arrived yet, the idea of a small hybrid crossover would easily check two boxes: One a fuel efficient hybrid and two a smaller crossover. Pull off the covers and what we have here is the 2017 Kia Niro – a fresh alternative to the conventional Prius. Did Kia succeed? Here are five of the best and worst things about the 2017 Kia Niro:
2The Niro comes up a bit short in the power department
The Niro Hybrid is powered by a 1.6L hybrid powertrain that mates a 103-hp 1.6L four-cylinder to a 43-hp electric motor for a combined output of 139-hp and 195 lb-ft. of torque. Thankfully the powertrain does without the crappy CVT that plagues most other hybrids and instead uses a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. There’s one other thing missing if you need a real SUV, the Niro is only available with front-wheel drive and Kia has no plans to introduce an all-wheel drive version.
Yes the Niro is a hybrid and since it’s a hybrid, the emphasis is on fuel efficiency rather than power. Yes that’s great, but driving it around town in normal mode can be a bit scary with the Niro’s sluggish performance. Try accelerating onto the 405 in Los Angeles, when the traffic is actually moving. More than once I said “Sorry, please don’t hit me” as I tried to merge into the speeding traffic. The Kia Niro does have a Sport driving mode, which does help a little bit, but then it just felt redundant to drive a car that is supposed to be all about efficiency, in the thirstier Sport mode.