A Stealth Hybrid
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD. – Some hybrid gas sipping vehicles do not look like other vehicles on the road.
But when Kia designers in California and South Korea went to work on that they call an “Urban Crossover Hybrid Vehicle” the goal was for it to blend in while still displaying a very fashionable, contemporary style.
And they succeeded. Unless one sees the sign on the body, no one would know this is a hybrid. Unless you are the one paying the petrol bill.
The base model you see is rated at a significant 50 mpg combined. Due to more equipment and heftier tires, the Touring model carries an EPA of 46/40/43. In a week’s worth of driving in a variety of traffic conditions, I came in at 40 on the button. To bring down weight and improve MPG, the hood, tailgate and several suspension elements are made of aluminum.
All models are powered by a 1.6-liter four with 104 horsepower. The “tractive” electric motor kicks in to bring total power to 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. There is no CVT thank heavens, Kia selecting a six speed dual clutch automatic with Sport Mode instead.
The hybrid’s 1.56-kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery is not located in the luggage space, but under the rear seat and that allows for a flat load floor.
Look for a 0-60 of about 9.5 seconds and that is on the slow side. But one should remember the name of the game here is fuel economy. And I would note that crude oil prices have increased recently and again on Friday.
Kia offers five trim models with the tested Touring at the top of the list and it was feature laden.
Among other things 18” tires with alloy wheels, with a temporary spare as an option. Also leather seat trim, 10- way adjustable and heated/cooled driver’s seat with height adjuster and 2-way power lumber support with memory. A Sunroof along with a heated steering wheel, and 8-inch LCD display screen. Great sounds came from a Harmon Kardon audio system and Niro plays nicely with Apple CarPlay and Android auto.
Those 18-inch tires contributed to better than expected handling yet the ride was smooth with the suspension agreeably handling roads needing a patch job.
Inside there was excellent visibility all around with ingress and egress aided by an elevated seating position.
Most controls could be operated without checking the owner’s manual, and that is a huge step forward by my reckoning. Fit, finish and material quality were superior at this price range. Overall cargo volume is a bit below some of the competition but there was ample room for those sitting in front and for adults to feel wanted in the second row.
Here is a neat feature: Smart Air Intake, which reduces drag by carefully managing the intake of outside air for the HVAC system, and also an accompanying Auto Defog system that prevents condensation from building on the glass by monitoring cabin air conditions to manage the cycling of the A/C compressor.
Okay, how much does all this cost? $30,545 without a single option for the Touring model with an impressive list of comfort and safety features plus the 10 year, 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty. I would rate this as a top flight bargain in today’s market.
A base model FE model starts at $22,890, with the mid-range EX coming in at $25,700.
I like nimble small crossovers that include all the desirable features and sip gas. Thus, the Niro gets a five star rating.