$17,916 - $23,312

2017 Kia Niro Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Kia Niro was new.


Performance: 6.7

The 2017 Kia Niro isn't like other hybrids when it comes to performance. Kia employs a smooth-shifting dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission instead of a loud continuously variable automatic transmission, which is common in other hybrids. The Niro's regenerative braking system is also superior to other hybrids' systems. It has plenty of power for highway and day-to-day driving, and it provides a smooth and comfortable drive.

  • "Yes, you give up some fuel efficiency and ride comfort with the Kia, but that's a price I'm willing to pay to have a car that's actually a little fun to bounce around town in, and won't be a complete letdown when I find myself on curvy roads in the middle of Texas." -- CNET
  • "Kia likes to talk about the new Niro being fun to drive – there's even a Sport driving mode – but keep your expectations in check. While the Niro's quick-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch transmission, independent rear suspension, and decent driving feel help compensate for the Niro's challenged power-to-weight ratio, the Niro remains first and foremost a practical mileage-maxer." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "In case you missed any previous hints that this is not a rugged SUV, note that all-wheel drive is missing from the lineup, and there are no plans to add it." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The 2017 Kia Niro comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. They produce a combined 139 horsepower. The Niro doesn't have a continuously variable automatic transmission, which is common in many hybrids. Instead, a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission is standard. So you'll have smooth shifting without the loud droning that often accompanies CVTs. Since there is no tachometer, you won't be able to base your manual shifts on RPMs.

The Niro has plenty of power for everyday and highway driving, even in its standard Eco driving mode, which works to control parts of the SUV to achieve optimal fuel economy. Put the Niro in Sport mode and you'll hardly notice you're driving a hybrid, but you will get some noise from the engine. Additionally, it smoothly transitions from electric to gas.

The Kia Niro's base FE model gets 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. The top-of-the-line Touring trim gets 46 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway.

  • "The transmission works pretty well, and certainly feels more like what you find in the average automobile. It isn't lightning fast, but is still generally smooth and responds promptly enough in both automatic and manual mode. … The powertrain is acceptably peppy as well. It's not going to blow you away, but it sets off with solid pace, thanks in part to the electric motor's immediate torque. And in Sport mode, the throttle is responsive and the transmission holds gears longer. Unfortunately, the gas engine is not a refined piece of machinery, and you hear a lot from it in the Sport mode. It buzzes and moans at and near wide-open throttle. Because of all this, you'll probably just want to leave the shifter in Drive." -- Autoblog
  • "Unlike the Prius, the Niro doesn't immediately understeer when pushed, nor does it make an annoying drone under acceleration, as Kia opts to use a six-speed dual-clutch transmission instead of a continuously variable system. A welcome piece of hardware, the dual clutch gearbox delivers snappy shifts, with a responsive manual shift function. However, its lack of a tachometer made manual shifting most useless." -- CNET
  • "When the Niro is in its default Eco driving mode, however, it's hard to tell you're driving a hybrid. In Sport mode, it's all but impossible to tell. That's mostly because Kia ditched the CVT and put in a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission instead. That means the engine revs up and shifts like a normal car. Also, unlike some other hybrids, there's not a big change in the car's sound when the gas engine comes on. Overall, you just pull away from lights. It's a bit slow in Eco mode, where it feels like a slightly slow normal car. The only clue to its hybrid nature is that the Niro is very quiet when it gets going with only the electric motor working, as it can under some conditions." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

The Kia Niro provides a smooth and comfortable ride. It also has a superior regenerative braking system compared to other hybrids. Unlike the brakes in most hybrids, the Niro's are smooth. Even first-time hybrid drivers will feel comfortable operating them. The Niro isn't especially athletic, but it has good control and its steering provides fairly good feedback. It comes with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is not available.

  • "The drivetrain goes about its business smoothly switching between electric, gas power or a combination of the two. The regenerative brakes offer good modulation and the steering feels decent." -- CNET
  • "Finally, the brakes are very good for a hybrid. They're a bit mushy and vague, but there's none of the weird, grabby action you can get from other hybrids, like the Chevrolet Volt." -- Cars.com
  • "The Niro also exhibits good ride, handling, and NVH qualities. Although it doesn't feel overtly sporty, on the South Texas back roads where we drove the Niro, we found good body control and a lack of the queasy rebound moments that you find in some crossovers. The steering is nicely weighted and requires very few corrections to maintain a straight path on the highway." -- Car and Driver

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