2021 Kia Niro

2021 Kia Niro Review: A Contemporary Hybrid Crossover

The Kia Niro is a compact crossover SUV offering car-like drivability and SUV-like practicality synonymous with the class, but with the added advantage of hybrid-level fuel efficiency. Under the hood of the Niro is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder hybridized engine that's coupled to an electric motor for combined outputs of 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. This is routed to the Niro's front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. With this powertrain, the Niro is one of the most fuel-efficient hybrids out there. With EPA gas mileage estimates of 50 mpg returned in mixed driving conditions, only a few cars like the Hyundai Ioniq and Toyota Prius can surpass the Niro's efficiency. The Niro isn't just an easy-to-drive, practical, and highly fuel-efficient crossover hybrid SUV, but it's also a relatively stylish one that's packed with contemporary features and safety technology, which altogether make it an ideal family commuter.

2021 Kia Niro Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Niro?

After a raft of updates last year, Kia has continued improving the Niro for 2021. Rear occupant alert is now a standard feature while models with the eight-inch infotainment display now come with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, replacing the previous wired integrations. If fitted with the Smart Key, the Niro also gets a remote start system. With navigation, a MapCare program with a decade of map updates is now included. Finally, models with navigation and smart cruise control now also get navigation-based smart cruise control as well as a Curve function.

Pros and Cons

  • Commodious and quiet cabin
  • Exceptionally fuel-efficient
  • Relatively practical cargo bay
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Attractive crossover styling
  • Powertrain feels unrefined
  • Ride quality is mediocre at best
  • Mundane handling dynamics
  • Base trims are rather bare-bones
  • No all-wheel-drive available

Best Deals on Niro

2021 Kia Niro Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
1.6L Inline-4 Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$24,690
LXS
1.6L Inline-4 Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$26,090
Touring
1.6L Inline-4 Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$28,390
Touring SE
1.6L Inline-4 Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$30,950
EX Premium
1.6L Inline-4 Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$32,950

Niro Exterior

The Kia Niro carries the typical modern crossover SUV design ethos and features a diamond-patterned grille upfront with stylishly designed headlights, and LED daytime running lights in a double-chevron arrangement for an even more contemporary aesthetic. There are redesigned taillights and a more pronounced faux skid plate at the rear, too. From the Touring model onward, front fog lights, LED rear combination lights, and a power tilt/sliding sunroof is standard. Bi-function projection headlights with auto light control are standard in all but the Touring Special Edition, which features LEDs instead. All models feature a black beltline, wheel arch cladding, and a rear spoiler with a LED high-mounted stop lamp. The LX, LXS, and EX Premium all ride atop 16-inch alloy wheels, while the Touring and Touring Special Edition both ride on larger 18-inch alloy wheels.

2021 Kia Niro Front Angle View Kia
2021 Kia Niro Rear Angle View Kia
2021 Kia Niro Side View Kia
See All 2021 Kia Niro Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Because of its hybridized components, the Niro boasts slightly larger dimensions than the average compact crossover SUV. At an overall length of 171.5 inches, it's 7.5 inches longer than the Hyundai Kona, its height of 60.8 inches makes it a tad bit shorter, but its width of 71.1 inches makes it a little wider. Its 106.3-inch wheelbase is 3.9 inches longer than the Kona's though the Kona rides 0.4-inches higher than the Niro's 6.3-inch running ground clearance. In terms of curb weight, the Niro registers figures of between 3,100 and 3,280 pounds.

  • Length 171.5 in
  • Wheelbase 106.3 in
  • Height 60.4 in
  • Max Width 71.1 in
  • Front Width 61.6 in
  • Rear Width 62.2 in
  • Curb Weight 3,100.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

There are a total of seven exterior paint colors available for the 2021 Kia Niro lineup. Available for all models at no additional cost are Silky Silver and Deep Cerulean. Other colors will either require an additional charge or choosing a different trim. These are Aurora Black, Snow White Pearl, Horizon Blue, Runway Red, and Solar Orange. Both Horizon Blue and Solar Orange are reserved for the Touring Special Edition.

  • Runway Red
  • Aurora Black Pearl
  • Snow White Pearl
  • Silky Silver
  • Deep Cerulean
  • Horizon Blue
  • Solar Orange

Kia Niro Hybrid Performance

The Kia Niro hybrid combines a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, delivering power to the front wheels quite adequately. With its 0 to 60 mph time of around 8.6 seconds, however, the Niro won't be exciting to even the most reserved of drivers, but it does still manage to feel somewhat peppy around town. Its combined 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque are more than enough to do the school run without a hassle, as we found in our review. Sadly, Kia doesn't offer the Niro the option of all-wheel drive or with the ability to tow at all. Though notably pricier, both the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V hybrids are equipped with more powerful engines and are offered with permanent all-wheel-drive systems as standard, giving the Niro a run for its money.

2021 Kia Niro Front Angle View 1 Kia
2021 Kia Niro Rear Angle View 1 Kia
2021 Kia Niro Rim Kia

Engine and Transmission

The Niro's 1.6-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine is just fine for routine excursions around town. While the engine itself produces 104 hp and 109 lb-ft, the AC synchronous motor it's integrated with contributes an additional 43 hp and 125 lb-ft for combined outputs of 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. All outputs are routed via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission to the front wheels of every model.

The Niro is quite peppy with this setup, especially around town, however, the engine's limitations are quickly reached, particularly when accelerating up steep inclines or on longer journeys, and when needing to travel at higher speeds - top speed is only 101.9 mph. While most modern hybrids make use of a CVT, the Niro's DCT is a nice break from the norm. Its responses are more precise and it tangibly delivers power more readily; there is, however, a noticeable sense of hesitation in the shift programming, particularly with hard acceleration from a stop. Engaging the Sport drive mode helps to mitigate this a bit by improving the powertrain's throttle response and shift times.

  • Engine
    1.6L Inline-4 Hybrid
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

It takes a little time for the Niro to gather itself up initially, and the slow pick-up can be annoying, but it can be mostly mitigated through use of the Sport mode. Because of the Kia Niro's compact crossover configuration, it rides more like a typical car than an SUV. It's easy to maneuver around tight city streets and it exhibits very little body roll in the corners, thanks to its low center of gravity. The Niro isn't the most comfortable vehicle on the road, but its ride quality is suitable nonetheless. The suspension competently soaks up most larger bumps, while more common road imperfections and undulations are effectively kept from reverberating through to the cabin. The cabin remains appreciably quiet too, even at higher speeds.

As for the steering, responses are accurate and the weighting neither too hefty or too light. Engaging the Sport mode, however, weights up the feel significantly. There is some vagueness on the center feel of the steering, but it otherwise always tracks straight with no hint of dead spots. While the brakes work fine in everyday driving scenarios, they can occasionally feel rather spongy, especially with heavy braking due to the changeover to regenerative braking.

Niro Gas Mileage

The Kia Niro performs exceptionally as a hybrid, in a class where gas mileage is the name of the game - only the Hyundai Ioniq and Toyota Prius improve on what the Niro delivers. The most efficient Niro manages figures of 53/48/50 mpg city/highway/combined. The mid-spec LXS and top-spec EX Premium are a little heavier and are subsequently a little less frugal with EPA estimates of 51/46/49 mpg on those same cycles. The Touring and Touring Special Edition are both equipped with larger 18-inch alloy wheels resulting in even lower gas mileage estimates of 46/40/43 mpg. Every model is equipped with a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion battery and an 11.9-gallon gas tank. With the tank filled up, the Niro LX should be able to cruise on for around 595 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    11.9 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 53/48 mpg
* 2021 Kia Niro LX FWD

Kia Niro Crossover Interior

Kia did a great job with the Niro's interior. The build quality is spot on and the combination of both hard and soft-touch materials have been used in a way that has the cabin look and feel masterfully coordinated and well put together. The layout is very simplistic and easy to understand, and the 10.25-inch LCD touchscreen in the Touring Special Edition and EX Premium is certainly a crowd-pleaser, along with the eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Passenger room is decent throughout the cabin, while any adult will easily find a suitable seating position up front. Room in the rear seats can be rather limited, especially with taller adults occupying the front seats, however.

2021 Kia Niro Interior Overview Kia
2021 Kia Niro Interior Rundown Kia
2021 Kia Niro Climate Control Kia
See All 2021 Kia Niro Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

Overall cabin room in the Kia Niro crossover is decent for the segment. While there is seating for up to five passengers, only four will actually be comfortable, as the shoulder room in the rear seats diminishes quickly with two adults in the outboard seats. There's plenty of room in the front seats even for six-foot-tall adults, and the seats feature decent levels of adjustability, making it easy for most passengers to find an optimal seating position. Outward visibility is good out front, though the sloping rearward roofline does hinder the view out the back a little. Fortunately, the standard rearview camera helps make rearward maneuvers easier. Ingress and egress are effortless to and from any of the seats, thanks to the Niro's large door openings.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.7 in
  • Front Head Room 40.1 in
  • Rear Leg Room 37.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.1 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The interior of the Niro is aesthetically pleasing, despite its prominent use of hard-touch plastics. Soft-touch materials have been used on key touch points and a leather-wrapped steering wheel helps create the impression of decent quality. Woven and knit cloth seating upholstery is standard in the LX and LXS in Gray or Charcoal, while the Touring features a cloth/leather combination in Charcoal. The Touring Special Edition features leather upholstery with orange accented stitching and orange dash trim depending on the exterior color chosen. The seats in the EX Premium are upholstered purely in synthetic leather upholstery. Most of the available color options are linked to specific exterior paint colors, and this needs to be kept in mind when selecting your overall look.

Niro SUV Trunk and Cargo Space

With the Niro's battery pack stored below the rear seats rather than in the cargo bay, practicality is kept to a relatively decent standard in comparison with the competition. The Niro offers up 19.4 cubic feet of usable space in its cargo bay which is more than enough room for a couple of hiking rucksacks and a cooler box for snacks. Cargo room expands to 54.5 cubic feet with the 60/40 split-folding rear seats released. While the Niro's cargo bay is a little larger than the Hyundai Kona's, which offers 19.2 cubes, the larger Honda CR-V Hybrid's 33.2 cubes trumps both, though.

In-cabin storage solutions include a small-items bin in the forward center stack, two cupholders behind that, and a reasonably large center armrest cubby further back. There's a passenger-side glove box, door side pockets capable of holding bottles in all doors, seatback map pockets from mid-level trims, and two cupholders in the center rear armrest.

2021 Kia Niro Maximum Cargo Space Kia
2021 Kia Niro Trunk Space Kia
2021 Kia Niro Front Angle View 2 Kia

Niro Infotainment and Features

Features

While the base trims of the Niro are more basic, specification levels do increase favorably with the jump to each consecutive trim. In the LX, there's keyless entry and remote engine start, a drive mode select system, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, six-way manually-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an integrated rearview camera, cruise control, and hill-start assist. Moving up to the LXS sees the addition of push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and Kia's Drive Wise suite of advanced driver-assist technologies including blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, and driver attention warning.

The Touring is the first model to feature steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and gets a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, an electronic parking brake, lane following assist, and smart cruise control with stop and go. The Touring Special Edition gets navigation-based smart cruise control and highway driving assist. Finally, the top-spec EX Premium features a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and rear parking sensors.

Infotainment

Infotainment is covered by an eight-inch touchscreen as standard. The images it displays are crisp and it comes tethered to an AM/FM/MP3-compatible stereo and stock six-speaker sound system, with full smartphone integration including wireless Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free operation, and voice recognition. In the Touring, the system is upgraded with both HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite radio, along with an embedded modem. The Touring Special Edition and EX Premium both feature a larger 10.25-inch LCD touchscreen although here, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay integration is wired, not wireless. These trims also boast a premium eight-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system as standard. A single front USB charger and 12V power outlet are provided and a wireless phone charger is fitted to the EX Premium.

Niro Problems and Reliability

It's been a trouble-free couple of years for the Kia Niro in the USA. The last model year to be affected by a recall was the 2018 version; the issue back then was for a possible fire risk from electrical resistance at the main relay. J.D. Power last rated the Niro in 2019 when it received a reasonable quality and reliability rating of 77/100. Even so, Kia still covers the Niro with an impressive ten-year/100,000-mile hybrid system and powertrain warranty and with a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Roadside assistance also runs for five years or 60,000 miles.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Hybrid/Electric Components:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

Niro Safety

Recent Kia Niro safety reviews have returned decent but not perfect results. The 2021 Kia Niro achieved maximum Good ratings in every crashworthiness test conducted by the IIHS. The results from the NHTSA were not perfect, though; the Kia scored a four-star overall safety rating but only three stars for the front passenger side test due to the higher likelihood of a chest injury for this occupant in a crash.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

A consignment of seven airbags, including a driver's side knee airbag, is standard across the Niro lineup. At the base level, assisting the driver in the way of safety is an integrated rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, cruise control, and hill-start assist. The LXS is additionally installed with Kia's Drive Wise suite of driver assists which comprises blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, and driver attention warning with lead vehicle departure alert. On top of those, the Touring also gets lane following assist and smart cruise control with stop and go. The Touring Special Edition has navigation-based smart cruise control and highway driving assist but only the EX Premium enjoys rear parking sensors.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Kia Niro a good SUV?

As a hybrid compact crossover, the Kia Niro is a pretty straightforward package and its advantages lie clearly in what it offers as a hybridized crossover SUV - exceptional gas mileage estimates as a hybrid FWD vehicle, along with the easy drivability and decent level of practicality synonymous with that of its crossover SUV body. It also boasts a brilliant infotainment system, which is one of the more user-friendly, comprehensive, and high-quality units out there. The bigger 10.25-inch LCD touchscreen is one of the largest screens within the compact class, to boot. Unfortunately, there are also many downsides to the Kia Niro. Firstly, it's not available in all-wheel drive, it offers no towing capability, and its straight-line performance and handling dynamics are average at best. Overall, the Kia Niro offers a fair balance, but many of its competitors beat it in key areas and are certainly worth consideration.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Kia Niro?

The most affordable model from the 2021 Niro lineup is the LX, which, in the US, comes in at a starting MSRP of $24,690, excluding any tax, registration, and licensing fees as well as Kia's $1,175 destination and handling charge. For a few extra driver-assist technologies, the LXS follows closely at a price of $26,090. The Touring adds several desirable creature comforts and is priced at $28,390. Next up is the Touring Special Edition, which features an exclusive aesthetic for a base price of $30,950. For everything the Niro lineup has to offer, the top-of-the-line EX Premium is offered at a sticker price of $32,950.

New 2021 Kia Niro Models

There are five models that make up the Kia Niro SUV lineup, the LX, LXS, Touring, Touring Special Edition, and EX Premium. Under the hood of every model is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine that's integrated with a 1.56 kWh battery and an electric motor. The front-wheel-drive Niro uses a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. No other configurations are available as there is just one transmission, one engine, and only FWD.

Riding atop 16-inch alloy wheels is the LX, featuring bi-function projection headlights with auto light control, a black beltline, wheel arch cladding, and a rear spoiler with a LED high-mounted stop lamp. In terms of cabin specs, there's keyless entry, six-way manually-adjustable front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. For safety, there's an integrated rearview camera, cruise control, and hill-start assist. Covering infotainment is an eight-inch LCD touchscreen and six-speaker sound system. Seats are upholstered in woven cloth upholstery.

In the LXS there's push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, and driver attention warning.

With 18-inch alloy wheels within the wheel arches, both the Touring and Touring Special Edition also come with front fog lights, LED rear combination lights, and a power tilt/sliding sunroof. Both get Kia's steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, an electronic parking brake, lane following assist, and smart cruise control with stop and go. The Special Edition features color-keyed leather seating upholstery.

The top-spec EX Premium features a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, rear park assist, synthetic leather seating upholstery.

See All 2021 Kia Niro Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There are no optional packages available for any of the 2021 Kia Niro models, although a few minor accessories can be specified. These range from $115 mud guards, a $325 interior lighting kit, or a $350 dimming rearview mirror with homelink and compass on the base model only. Cargo netting, a bumper applique, and aluminum scuff plates will cost you $100 or less.

🚗What 2021 Kia Niro Model Should I Buy?

The new Kia Niro LXS is the model to go for in the range. It's only a little more expensive than the base-spec Niro LX model, but comes standard with push-button start, which improves convenience, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, improving the cabin's atmosphere. There's also a good selection of advanced driver assist technologies, including blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, and driver attention warning. The LXS's 16-inch alloy wheels also help it to be one of the more fuel-efficient models in the lineup.

Check out other Kia Niro Styles

2021 Kia Niro Comparisons

Hyundai Kona Hyundai
Kia Sportage Kia
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Kia Niro104 hp53/48 mpg$24,690
Hyundai Kona 147 hp27/33 mpg$20,500
Kia Sportage 181 hp23/30 mpg$24,090

2021 Kia Niro vs Hyundai Kona

Though the Hyundai Kona is not a hybridized vehicle (although there is an EV variant in the range), it is quite a bit more affordable than the Kia Niro. What makes the Kona stand out, however, is its more powerful base engine, which sees it drive more enjoyably than the Niro already, considering the even more powerful turbocharged option which accelerates the Kona from 0 - 60 mph in a fraction over six seconds, according to an independent test drive. The Kona handles better too and is available with AWD. Neither of the Kona's engines is as fuel-efficient as the Niro's hybrid engine is, obviously, but it's still near the 30 mpg mark in combined driving scenarios. The Kona also arguably looks way better, boasting a bit more of a rugged aesthetic that better suits the crossover SUV ethos. The Niro earns points for having its better infotainment system and a better selection of features at standard, but the Kona, considering how much it costs, delivers more value overall.

See Hyundai Kona Review

2021 Kia Niro vs Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage is offered at around the same price as the Kia Niro. It's no hybrid vehicle, however, and the Sportage is also a larger vehicle overall. The Sportage is more spacious with better on-road feel. It comes equipped with a more powerful base engine and has a turbocharged engine available too. With this engine, the Sportage is easily the faster vehicle. Of course, the Niro is far more economical on fuel than what the Sportage is, with the latter's EPA estimates being 23/30/26 mpg, but that's about all it has over the Sportage. Unlike the Niro, the Sportage is available in AWD guise and also offers a 2,000-pound maximum towing capacity while the Niro isn't rated for towing at all. The Sportage's cabin is far more premium and is, along with the exterior, a little more contemporary as the Sportage is the newer vehicle. Ultimately, if fuel-efficient and eco-friendly living is your priority, then the Niro is your pick, but the Sportage otherwise offers more value on almost every other front.

See Kia Sportage Review

Kia Niro Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Kia Niro:

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