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2020 Kia Niro Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.4

The 2020 Kia Niro isn't quick, but it's capable and provides enough power for your daily commute. It also rides smoothly over rough pavement. The real highlight is the fuel economy, which is great even by hybrid standards.

  • "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. … 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 (2019)
  • 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 (2019)
  • "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

The Niro, in both hybrid and plug-in-hybrid models, features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combine to produce 139 horsepower. Whereas many hybrids come with a continuously variable automatic transmission, the Niro's powertrain includes a six-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The engine won't blow you away with its acceleration, but it gets the Niro moving well enough that you won't be taking a leap of faith you when you merge onto the highway. The transmission's shifts aren't as smooth as they could be, however.

The Niro EV is a purely electric vehicle. It features a 201-horsepower electric motor and a single-speed transmission.

According to EPA estimates, the base Niro gets 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. Those are terrific ratings, even for a hybrid SUV. The LXS and EX Premium models get 51 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway.

Touring models get 46/40 mpg city/highway. Plug-in-hybrid models get 46 mpg and 105 MPG-equivalent city/highway combined and have an all-electric range of 26 miles.

At the time of writing, fuel economy for the 2020 Niro Electric was not available. The 2019 model, however, 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 (2019)
  • 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 household-style power outlet, you can charge the Niro plug-in hybrid in nine hours. With a 240-volt outlet, you can charge it in 2½ hours.

It takes nearly 60 hours to power up the Niro Electric with a 120-volt outlet and about 9½ hours to charge it with a 7.2-kWh charger. DC fast charging is standard and can recharge about 80% of your battery in 75 minutes. The Niro's regenerative brakes also capture energy, recharging the battery every time you press the brake pedal.

Handling and Braking

The Kia Niro delivers a comfortable ride over uneven pavement, though it's a little noisy at times. It handles surprisingly well, remaining planted around turns and providing a tight turning radius, which makes it easy to maneuver. The brake pedal is a bit squishy, leading to longer-than-expected stopping times.

Front-wheel drive comes standard. Unlike many SUVs, the Niro doesn't offer all-wheel drive.

  • The Niro easily tackles uneven roads, delivering a controlled, stable ride. However, we noted an unusual level of impact noise coming into the cabin when driving over bump-ridden roads. Steering responses in the Niro are swift and accurate. The steering features no dead zones, and the car tracks straight on the highway. Steering effort, already firm, increases when Sport mode is engaged." -- Car and Driver
  • "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 (2019)
  • "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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