We're willing to give it a chance.
Kia used the 2016 Chicago Auto Show to expand its lineup, showing the all-new Niro CUV to the world. The Niro is the automaker’s first hybrid design. That is, it's not based off of an existing gas-powered model like the Optima Hybrid or Soul EV. We’ve been hearing a lot about Kia’s rumored desire for a sportier lineup, which is why the Niro kind of caught us off guard. While it won’t win any drag races it seems the Niro was designed with fun in mind.
The Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder good for 103 horsepower. Paired with an electric motor placed on the transmission that contributes an extra 43 horses, the Niro’s total power output is rated at 146 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. All of this action is controlled by a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Yup, there’s no boring CVT here but front-wheel drive is standard…and the only option. But the Niro isn’t about pure driving pleasure, although Kia promises “a very un-hybrid-like driving experience." No, this car is for cost-conscious consumers who want good gas mileage and a spacious interior.
On the mpg front Kia is targeting a combined fuel rating of 50 mpg. As a point of reference, the new Prius has a 54/50 city/highway rating. The battery pack has been placed under the rear seats to free up extra cabin and cargo space. The interior isn’t much to write home about in terms of materials but that 7-inch touchscreen in the center console is nice, as are the fully foldable rear seats. From the outside the Niro looks like any other compact and sporty SUV, which is a good thing as dedicated hybrids sometimes look goofy. That means you, Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. Pricing and availability have not been announced but what has been shared is that a plug-in Niro will be available somewhere down the road.