2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

#33
in Fullsize SUVs
2018 MODEL

$27,900 - $34,500

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Detailed Review

Unlike other hybrids, the $24,000 2018 Kia Niro looks like a conventional subcompact crossover and like a conventional subcompact crossover, it has excellent luggage capacity, spacious interiors, commanding driving position and a rugged raised stance.


7.7/10
Features

 

5.7/10
Engine

 

9.0/10
Fuel Economy

 

7.0/10
Interior

 

5.7/10
Exterior

 
 
 
 

With starting price less than $24,000 the car cements its position as a practical deal. However, the powertrain lack eagerness. Also, higher trims compromise fuel efficiency while the base FE trim is bare bone. If all weather performance is your priority, Niro is not for you, as it's offered in only FWD drivetrain. 

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Features

7.7/10

The base Kia Niro FE starts at $23,340 – more expensive than non-hybrid rivals. Small 16-inch alloys with low resistance tires further boost efficiency to 50 mpg combined – most efficient among all trims. Next up is the Niro LX ($23,650). This trim also unlocks the optional LX Advanced technology package ($1,450). The EX trim gets considerably more expensive at $26,150.

Three packages are also available – EX Advanced Technology Package ($1,950), Touring Graphite Edition ($2,400) and EX Premium Package ($5,300). Also, the 18-Inch wheel with Touring Graphite Edition package decrease fuel efficiency too – a massive 6 MPG penalty compared to 16-inch wheel equipped Niro.

Trims FE LX EX TOURING
MSRP $23,340 $23,650 $26,150 $32,000
Features
  • UVO w/ 7″ Color
  • Touch-Screen Display and AM/FM/MP3/Sirius
  • Android Auto
  • Apple CarPlay.
  • Privacy glass.
  • Cruise control.
  • FE+
  • Roof rails.
  • Rear combination lamps, LED.
  • Smart key with push-button start and immobilizer.
  • LX+
  • LED daytime running lights and log lights.
  • Cloth/Leather seat trim.
  • Heated front seats and outside mirrors.
  • EX+
  • Leather seat trim.
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Ventilated front seats.

The top of line Touring trim ($32,200) basically gets all the packages available on lower trims as standard. The Niro Touring is only available with the 18-inch wheels that slap a significant efficiency penalty of 6 MPG as mentioned earlier.

We recommend

Although the base Niro FE delivers brutal fuel efficiency, the LX demands just over $300 more, compromises just a little in terms of efficiency (1 MPG) and comes with increased creature comfort. Further, LX Advanced technology package with advanced driver assistance system and other luxury is available as an option.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Engine

5.7/10

When you are opting for a subcompact SUV, most probably, your priority is efficiency and frugality – Manufacturers know this. Although the Kia Niro engine feels unenthusiastic, it’s actually the fastest among the competitors here. However, the Niro rides compliantly and it turns with enthusiasm. The brakes are especially impressive for a hybrid.

“A reluctant, unrefined powertrain is our biggest complaint about the Niro, and many of the vehicles in this diverse class, hybrid and non-, face similar challenges. Its dynamics otherwise exceed expectations.” – Car and Driver

Engine and Transmission

The Kia Niro employs parallel hybrid powertrain. A 1.6 L naturally aspirated I-4 developing 104 hp is supplemented by a transmission mounted 43 hp AC Synchronous Permanent Magnet Motor for a combined output of 139 hp. A 1.56 kWh Lithium Ion-polymer battery pack mounted under the rear seat stores and discharges the energy and keeps the center of gravity low.

Models Kia Niro Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR Mazda CX-3
MSRP $23,340 $19,570 $22,500 $20,110
Engine 1.6 L 4-cylinder and Full Parallel Hybrid System 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC I4 2.0L I-4 DOHC 16-Valve 2.0L SKYACTIV-G DOHC 16-Valve 4-Cylinder
Transmission 6 speed Automatic 6 speed Manual CVT Automatic 6 speed Automatic
Power 139 hp @ 5,700 rpm 141 hp @ 6500 rpm 144 hp @ 6100 rpm 146 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 195 lb.-ft @ 4,000 rpm 127 ft-lbs.  @ 4300 rpm 139 ft-lbs. @ 3900 rpm 146 ft-lbs. @ 2800 rpm

The power is transmitted exclusively to front wheels through a 6-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic. The engine was specifically developed for a hybrid employing Atkinson cycle and Cooled EGR technology for maximizing efficiency. However, the quest for maximum efficiency has compromised the performance. Even with a DCT, the powertrain feels unenthusiastic.

Acceleration

The Kia Niro is least powerful car among competitors here. However, that tiny electric motor gives the Niro a humongous torque advantage – almost 50 Nm more than the closest rival – the CX-3. This helps the Niro jump off the line like a rabbit while others with fossil powered IC engine struggle to pile up speed.

Models Kia Niro Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR Mazda CX-3
0-60 MPH 8.6 sec 9.3 sec 11.0 sec 8.6 sec
Quarter mile 16.7 sec @ 83 mph 16.8 sec @ 80.9 mph 17.4 sec @ 77.4 mph 16.3 sec @ 83.3 mph
Engine 1.6 L 4-cylinder and Full Parallel Hybrid System 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC I4 2.0L I-4 DOHC 16-Valve 2.0L SKYACTIV-G DOHC 16-Valve 4-Cylinder
EmissionTons/yr of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year 3.5 6.3 6.0 5.7

The Niro and CX-3 reach 60 mph from rest in 8.6 seconds. However, once at speed, the Niro loses steam. The Niro crosses quarter mile at 16.7 seconds – 0.4 of a second slower than CX-3. More peculiarly, HR-V crosses quarter mile neck-to-neck with Niro despite being almost a second slower than Niro from 0 to 60.

Ride and Handling

The Kia Niro handles surprisingly well for a crossover. It can take sharp turns at city speeds with aplomb, and with minimum body rolls. Its tight turning radius ensures navigating the concrete jungle will be less of a chore. The answer to all these surprises is that the Niro is essentially a hatchback with body claddings and squared off styling.

The heavy battery pack positioned low in the vehicle further helps in reducing body rolls and the Niro employs 53% high strength steel that lowers the weight and increases torsional rigidity too. All these lend it that composed and refined handling quality Further, liberal use of sound insulation, sealing, and dampers have reduced in-cabin noise considerably.

Braking

Hybrid vehicles are known to suffer from brake pedal that responds counterintuitively to pedal inputs – a result of energy recuperation during braking. However, reviewers noted that Niro brakes offer a natural pedal feel.

Model Kia Niro Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR Mazda CX-3
Brake pads-front(in) 11.0 11.5 11.8 11.0
Brake pads Rear(in) 10.3 11.1 11.1 11.1
Curb weight(lbs) 3106 2888 3300 2809
60-0 MPH (ft.) 138 127 137.0 117

On the downside, the Niro takes 138 feet to stop from 60 MPH – worst among the competitors. It was the Mazda CX-3 which took the center stage with its 117 feet performance. 

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Fuel Economy

9.0/10

Fuel efficiency is the sole reason for purchasing a Hybrid. And the Kia Niro leads the competition by a wide margin with the base FE trim delivering 52 MPG in the city and 49 MPG on the highway for a combined EPA rating of 50 MPG. However, these figures go down considerably when the Niro is equipped with the optional 18-Inch wheels that shun the low-rolling-resistance tires.

Model Kia Niro Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR Mazda CX-3
Mpg city 52 25 27 29
Mpg highway 49 33 31 34
Mpg combined 50 28 29 31

Another technology working to achieve those numbers is the Eco-Driving assistance system that uses GPS data to read the topography. The system automatically pre-charges before going uphill and employs regenerative braking on downhill sections.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Interior

7.0/10

“The Niro offers more passenger space than many competitors, but its interior comforts don’t come cheap, and the base model may be a few features shy of satisfying.” – Car and Driver

The interior of the Niro is well built and there is plenty of equipment on higher trims. There are none of the fussy details found on other hybrids and the layout is simple and usable. The front and rear seats offer great headroom and legroom and the view outside is commanding too reinforcing the crossover impression. However, the battery pack eats up the luggage capacity.

Seating and Comfort

The Kia Niro can seat 5 passengers in comfort and it affords best in class legroom and headroom to all of them. Although the seats are generally supportive, the rear seats have short seat squabs that can become an issue on those long drives.

Model Kia Niro Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR Mazda CX-3
Passenger capacity 5 5 5 5
Front (Head/Hip/Shoulder/Leg)(In.) 40.1/53.7/56.0/41.7 39.5/53.1/56.8/41.2 38.1/53/49/43.5 37.6/52.3/53.5/41.7
Second (Head/Hip/Shoulder/Leg)(In.) 39.1/48.3/55.2/37.4 38.3/47.4/54.5/39.3 38.3/48/52.5/31.7 37.2/49/50.4/35

While the interior of base Niro FE trim is plain with plenty of plastic and cloth, the Niro EX has some surfaces covered in leather. A two-zone automatic climate control is standard across the lineup with controls for driver and front passengers.

Infotainment System

The Kia Niro impresses with its standard 7-inch UVO touchscreen infotainment system having Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. The EX trim has optional 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with voice command navigation system (its standard on Touring trim). An 8-speaker premium Harman/Kardon premium audio system is available on EX and Touring trims.

Interior Features

Some features found in the cabin include -

Standard -

  • Tilting Steering Column
  • Telescoping Steering Column

Optional -

  • Memory Driver's seat
  • Cooled Front Seats
  • Heated Steering Wheel

Cargo Volume

This is where the hybrid nature of the Niro haunts it. The under-floor battery pack eats up the cargo space resulting in 19 cubic feet of storage space with all seats up. That’s considerably lower than the far more practical Honda HR-V having 24.3 cubic feet of luggage capacity. However, folding the second row liberates 55 cubic feet of luggage space – very close to HR-V’s 58.8 cubic feet.

Model Kia Niro Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR Mazda CX-3
Behind Second Row (cube ft.) 19.0 24.3 19.0 12.4
Second Row Folded (cube ft.) 55.0 58.8 36.4 44.5

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Exterior

5.7/10

“Un-Hybrid” is the word that Kia likes to use to describe the exterior styling of the Niro. While other hybrids shout that they were made to hug trees, the Niro looks like a conventional albeit modern crossover. A tiny “eco-hybrid” badge on the tailgate is the only detail that reveals that this is a Hybrid.

“The handsome Niro fits right in with its squat crossover pals. You’d never guess that a gas-sipping hybrid is lurking under its skin.” – Car and Driver

Even the exterior is optimized to extract maximum from every drop of fuel with a drag coefficient of 0.29. That’s comparable to the likes of Nissan GTR (Cd 0.26). This ensures the car slips through the air consuming minimum fuel. The overall stance is sporty with short overhangs and lower but wider proportions. Although the exterior is pleasant to look at, there are plenty of rugged details befitting its crossover tags. This includes rocker cladding, roof rails, rear skid plate and large wheel arches. 

Dimension and Weight

The Kia Niro weighs 3106 pounds with all the hybrid hardware – impressive as the non-hybrid vehicles here weigh almost 2800 pounds. Its generous wheelbase of 106.3 inches is the reason behind those roomy seats. It’s also lengthiest here at 171.5 inches.

Model Kia Niro Honda HR-V Toyota C-HR Mazda CX-3
curb weight(lbs) 3106 2888 3300 2809
Length(in) 171.5 169.1 171.2 168.3
Width(in) 71.1 69.8 60.6 60
Height(in) 60.4 63.2 61.6 60.7
Ground clearance(in) 6.3 7.1 5.9 6.2
Wheelbase(in) 106.3 102.8 103.9 101.2
Track width(in) F/R 61.6/62.2 60.4/60.6 60.6/60.6 60/59.9

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Safety

While the base Niro FE does not get advanced active safety features, the LX trim can be optioned with LX Advanced technology package ($1,450) bundled with following:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) w/ Pedestrian Detection
  • Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS)
  • Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS)
  • Smart Cruise Control (SCC)

The Kia Niro employs 53% advanced high strength steel with reinforced A and B pillars. This forms a strong passenger cell. Further, a full suite of airbags and other passive safety features are available. The Kia Niro is still not rated by NHTSA and IIHS.

Standard Safety Features

  • Dual Front Seat-Mounted Side Airbags

  • Full-Length Side Curtain Airbags
  • Driver’s Side Knee Airbag
  • 3-Point Seat Belts for All Seating Positions
  • Front Seat-Belt Pretensioners
  • 4-Wheel Disc Brakes w/ Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Hill Start Assist Control (HAC)

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Competition

Kia Niro Hybrid vs Honda HR-V

The Honda HR-V is the most practical subcompact SUV with generous cargo capacity, great balance of ride and handling and plenty of interior features. Although the HR-V is very fuel efficient for a conventional crossover, the Niro is hybrid and has a definite edge in fuel efficiency. However, Niro also commands a significant premium over the competitor.

Kia Niro Hybrid vs Toyota C-HR

The Toyota C-HR is arguably the most distinctive looking subcompact SUV. With that look-at-me style, it also ticks on some basics like great fuel economy, good build quality, and great driver-oriented ergonomics. However, if you value rear seat comfort and cargo capacity, the Kia Niro is a better option. Also, that hybrid powertrain gives Niro impeccable fuel economy.

Kia Niro Hybrid vs Mazda CX-3

The Mazda CX-3 is the go-to crossover for those who value driving dynamics. The driving dynamics is supplemented by its gorgeous exterior and take-me-now interior. However, the Niro is far more efficient as it’s a hybrid and the Niro also packs a roomy interior.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Final Verdict

The Kia Niro makes its stance clear – it delivers hybrid fuel economy with “un-hybrid” design and packs a roomy interior with decent cargo capacity. It has great build quality as well and it can be loaded with features if you are ready to pay.

Surprisingly, the Niro drives with enthusiasm too when one limits the discussion to handling characteristics. Further, It has the most natural feeling brake pedal on any hybrid. However, the powertrain is decidedly unenthusiastic as it’s engineered to be efficient rather than exciting.

Also, compared to the competition, the Niro will cost you more for a similarly equipped trim. The HR-V is almost as good as or better than the Niro in many criteria like practicality, comfort, and dynamics. The HR-V is a better buy for most. That said, the Niro has unmatched fuel efficiency and if that single-handedly wins you, go for it.

Pros

Smooth transmission

Efficient Engine

Suave looks

Cons

Not so good handling

Larger carbon footprint

What's New?

2 colors added to the lineup

No significant Change



Styles

 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid in Snow White Pearl color  2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid in Silky Silver color  2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid in Platinum Graphite color  2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid in Gravity Blue color  2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid in Aurora Black Pearl color
Snow White Pearl

Vehicle images are guides only and may not reflect the model's exact specifications/features– exact specifications/features should be confirmed with the seller.

Ratings

Features

7.7

Engine

5.7

Fuel Economy

9.0

Interior

7.0

Exterior

5.7

Driving

7.0

7.0

OVERALL RATING

Trims and Configurations

MSRP


 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid LX

LX

power
139 hp @ 5700 rpm
fuel
Regular unleaded
mpg
46 combined

$27,900


Style Prices MPG Engine Transmission Drivetrain Seats Colors
LX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM) Starting at $27,900 MSRP (48/46/44) 139 hp @ 5700 rpm, 1.6 L, I4, regular unleaded
See Full Specs
6-speed automatic front wheel drive 5   Aurora Black Pearl
  Gravity Blue
  Platinum Graphite
  Silky Silver
  Snow White Pearl

 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid EX

EX

power
139 hp @ 5700 rpm
fuel
Regular unleaded
mpg
46 combined

$31,500


Style Prices MPG Engine Transmission Drivetrain Seats Colors
EX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM) Starting at $31,500 MSRP (48/46/44) 139 hp @ 5700 rpm, 1.6 L, I4, regular unleaded
See Full Specs
6-speed automatic front wheel drive 5   Aurora Black Pearl
  Gravity Blue
  Platinum Graphite
  Silky Silver
  Snow White Pearl

 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid EX Premium

EX Premium

power
139 hp @ 5700 rpm
fuel
Regular unleaded
mpg
46 combined

$34,500


Style Prices MPG Engine Transmission Drivetrain Seats Colors
EX Premium 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM) Starting at $34,500 MSRP (48/46/44) 139 hp @ 5700 rpm, 1.6 L, I4, regular unleaded
See Full Specs
6-speed automatic front wheel drive 5   Aurora Black Pearl
  Gravity Blue
  Platinum Graphite
  Silky Silver
  Snow White Pearl