2019 Kia Niro


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2019 Kia Niro Performance Review


Performance: 8.5

The 2019 Kia Niro isn't insanely quick, but it provides enough power for most of your daily driving needs. Unlike most of its hybrid competitors, the Niro comes with a smooth-shifting six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Mix this with the Kia's excellent fuel efficiency, and you have the makings of a good commuter vehicle. A fully electric model is new for 2019.

  • "Despite its 139 horsepower and 3,000-pound weight, the Niro accelerates briskly. Setting the drive mode to Sport sharpens the throttle response, improves the 6-speed automatic’s shift points and firms up the steering. We like that Kia has avoided the trend toward using a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) in its hybrid, a decision that doesn’t seem to have affected fuel economy. The 1.6-liter engine and electric motor work seamlessly together, and you’d be hard-pressed to know you’re driving a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, that is, until the electric motor goes solo." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • The ride comfort, for the most part, is agreeable. Though we didn't experience any harsh crashing over bumps, we wouldn't call the Niro plush either. On the other hand, body movement felt well-controlled and car-like, instead of floppy as in a tall SUV or crossover." -- Edmunds
  • "The Niro uses a 104-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine along with an electric drive supported by a 1.56-kWh lithium-ion battery. Combined output is 139 hp. The Niro's dual-clutch transmission is more efficient than a normal automatic, while aiming to deliver a more natural driving feel than the oft-used continuously variable transmission (CVT) found in most hybrids." -- Consumer Reports (2018)

Acceleration and Power

With 139 horsepower combined from its four-cylinder engine and electric motor, the Niro hybrid and plug-in hybrid have plenty of power, though they may take some time to travel uphill and get up to high speeds. You may be able to nip that in the bud, however, with the available Sport mode, which optimizes the Kia for quicker acceleration. Unlike many hybrid and electric vehicles, Niro hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are paired with a dual-clutch automatic transmission. This transmission creates more natural shifting. That said, many reviewers claim that the shifts aren't smooth. The brand-new Niro EV model comes with a 150-kW electric motor that makes 201-horsepower. It's mated to a single-speed transmission.

With the base Niro hybrid, you'll get an outstanding 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. Estimates from both the plug-in hybrid and Niro Electric models are also admirable. The plug-in hybrid gets 105 MPGe combined and has a 26-mile range, while the Niro Electric gets 112 MPGe and has a 239-mile range.

  • When driven in the default Eco mode, the Niro feels wholly unmotivated. In Sport mode, the Niro accelerates to 60 mph nearly a full second quicker than the Toyota Prius. There's good low-end torque and the transmission shifts quickly, but this mode is less efficient. We need an in-between mode." -- Edmunds
  • The Niro uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine which, in conjunction with the electric drive unit, puts out a combined 139 hp. This blend is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. While that combo delivers power in a seemingly conventional way (unlike hybrids that use a continuously variable transmission), the Niro suffers from an initial delay off the line. In addition, shifts aren't smooth. As with other hybrids, the Niro can propel itself solely on electric power at low speeds, provided you use a light touch on the gas pedal." -- Consumer Reports (2018)
  • "Its combined 139 horsepower won't win any drag races, but there's plenty of acceleration, especially in Sport Mode, which sharpens throttle response, tightens the steering and quickens the action of the hatchback's smooth 6-speed automatic transmission." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

With a 120-volt outlet, you can charge the Niro plug-in hybrid in nine hours. With a 240-volt outlet, you can charge it in two and a half hours. It takes nearly 60 hours to charge the Niro Electric with a 120-volt outlet and about nine and a half hours to charge it with a 7.2 kWh charger. A DC fast-charge is standard, which will give you 80 percent of your battery life in 75 minutes. The Niro's regenerative brakes also capture energy to recharge the battery every time you press the brake pedals.

Handling and Braking

The Niro is by no means an athletic vehicle, but its good steering feedback and compliant handling around corners make it a fine vehicle to drive every day. It also exhibits a comfortable ride over rough roads. The brake pedals require more pressure than you're probably used to, however, and unlike many subcompact SUVs, the Niro doesn't offer all-wheel drive.

  • The steering is direct and responsive with a good level of assist. And there's a clear difference in the degree of assist when you switch between Normal and Sport modes. But this car lacks a clear sense of on-center feel or feedback, which can be disconcerting because it demands constant attention." -- Edmunds
  • "In town, the Niro feels right at home, with a tight turning radius and helpful assists such as the standard rearview camera and available rear cross-traffic alert." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Niro had mediocre braking performance with fairly long dry and wet stops. Most testers found the brake pedal to be a bit spongy and that it required more effort than usual to stop smoothly." -- Consumer Reports (2018)
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2019 Kia Niro

MSRP: $23,490 - $35,200

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