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2017 Kia Niro: A Better Crossover For Less

Small SUV/Crossover vehicles are clearly the hottest segment on the market these days. Also on the list of hottest vehicles are hybrid gas/electric vehicles, and Kia has combined the two to make one of the most appealing small crossovers on the market, the 2017 Kia Nero. Starting at only $22k, there’s a ton to love about this recent addition to a crowded market.

First and foremost is the size and style; Kia has managed to create something that doesn’t really look like anything else on the market. Instead of accentuating the height and making it look like an off-road vehicle, it looks more like a tall wagon. There’s little tradeoff, however, as the way it’s designed the tall belt-line retains interior headroom and cargo room. The added benefit is that it doesn’t look like every other one on the road.
It also doesn’t look like it’s trying to be from another planet, a trap that many designers fall into for a hybrid vehicle. Just because the powertrain is futuristic doesn’t mean the car needs to look like it’s from a bad sci-fi movie, or even from a good sci-fi movie. It’s okay for it to just look like a car! In this case it’s unique and tasteful without looking like it’s copying another body style. Kia has done a great job here, and it makes the Nero that much more appealing.

Combining a gasoline-powered 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with a 43hp electric motor produces a total output of 139hp and 195lb-ft of torque. The critical number there is the torque, as it usually takes a turbocharger to create that kind of grunt. It helps the Niro get off the line smartly, although once in the powerband of the gas engine[,] it does feel a bit anemic. The transmission doesn’t shift very crisply either, leading to a disconnected driving feel – but it’s a small price to pay for the efficiency. Mileage is rated at 50-Combined MGP for the entry-level FE model, tuned for maximum mileage. The top-of-the-range Touring model we tested wears a 46MPG Combined rating. These are stellar numbers, especially if you do a fair bit of city driving.

Combining a gasoline-powered 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with a 43hp electric motor produces a total output of 139hp and 195lb-ft of torque. The critical number there is the torque, as it usually takes a turbocharger to create that kind of grunt. It helps the Niro get off the line smartly, although once in the powerband of the gas engine[,] it does feel a bit anemic. The transmission doesn’t shift very crisply either, leading to a disconnected driving feel – but it’s a small price to pay for the efficiency. Mileage is rated at 50-Combined MGP for the entry-level FE model, tuned for maximum mileage. The top-of-the-range Touring model we tested wears a 46MPG Combined rating. These are stellar numbers, especially if you do a fair bit of city driving.

The infotainment and control systems that Kia are using are not revolutionary, but they are very easy to use and have a ton of helpful features. The interior itself looks great too, with some nicely chosen materials. Is it a luxury car inside? Not really, but for a top-of-the-line Touring model with all options, you’re just over $30k. That’s huge bang for the buck considering the utility, efficiency and features. That’s with high-end audio, heated/cooled seats, active-safety features and great connectivity. There’s even a wireless charging station for your phone!

If the hybrid technology still scares you a [little] bit, this Niro comes with one of the best warranties on the market as well, with 5yr-60k mile bumper-to-bumper coverage, and 10ry-100k miles on the powertrain. Try to get that down at the Toyota dealer on a Prius. It will cost you extra to be sure.

What the Kia Niro represents then is a rare combination of looks, utility, efficiency, features and value. You can drive a hybrid without looking like you’re trying to show everyone you’re driving a hybrid. You can also save more because of the warranty. We often are reaching to find good points, but with this we’re reaching to find anything negative. If you’re in the market for a hybrid, and really check out the competition, we bet you’ll end up with one of these!

Jason.S@mychinews.com