The 2019 Kia Niro is not alone in that rarefied air of cars that approach 50 mpg—see the Toyota Prius and the Hyundai Ioniq—but the Niro might be the most versatile of the bunch. Available as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and an all-electric EV, the Niro is also that most desired of things: a crossover. With a high seating position, a little extra ground clearance, and a versatile cargo hold, the Niro is a good choice for buyers who want it all. Just as long as they don't want all-wheel drive, too, since the Niro doesn't offer it. We like the Niro EV so much, we named it to our Editors' Choice list for 2019.
What's New for 2019?
The major news for 2019 Niro is the addition of an all-electric version to the lineup. This Niro EV boasts a claimed driving range of 239 miles from its 64-kWh battery. Otherwise, changes are minimal and equate to minor color and trim combination changes. The Graphite Edition model has been renamed the S Touring and the Niro's optional navigation system gets an upgrade to its software.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- FE: $24,430
- LX: $24,740
- EX: $27,240
- Plug-in hybrid LX: $29,140
- S Touring: $29,640
- Touring: $33,090
- EV: $38,000 (est.)
While the base FE (for Fuel Economy: it's EPA rated at 52 mpg city) is intriguing as an experiment in self-sacrifice, the next-step-up LX offers a few more creature comforts. It returns slightly decreased fuel economy but adds the following features to the base offering: roof rails, LED taillights, and push-button start.
Powertrain, Charging, and Performance
Likes: Designed to be fuel efficient, nicely weighted steering, stable and forgiving ride.
Dislikes: Front-wheel-drive only, noisy over bumps, not exactly thrilling acceleration.
A 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor team up with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission in the nonhybrid Niro. The system makes a total of 139 horsepower and motivated the Niro FE from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds during our testing, placing it in the hunt with much of the competition. The options-laden Touring model we tested, weighed down by 168 pounds of extra equipment, needed 9.6 seconds to complete the same task. The Niro plug-in uses the same basic powertrain as the hybrid model, albeit with a larger battery pack for increased EV range. That battery adds up to 26 miles of EV operation, according to the EPA. We haven't tested the new all-electric Niro EV, but it comes standard with DC fast-charging capabilities that Kia claims can refill 80 percent of the battery in just 75 minutes.
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.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Kia improved the Niro's aerodynamic efficiency by fitting it with grille shutters that close at around 35 mph to smooth airflow over the short nose. The effort works: The stripped-down FE's EPA-rated 52 mpg in the city is just 2 mpg fewer than the more svelte Prius. Across the lineup, the Niro performed worse at highway speeds than did the teetotaling Prius; the FE delivered 42 mpg in our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test while the loaded Touring managed 39 mpg. The plug-in hybrid boasts a claimed electric-only range of 26 miles and the new all-electric model comes with a 64-kWh battery and up to 239 miles of total range.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Easy-to-fold rear seats, simple infotainment software, spacious interior.
Dislikes: Not as much cargo space as some rivals, navigation not standard, base models come with few features.
The base FE features a fuss-free interior that is heavy on plastic and cloth. Partial-leather seat trim is standard starting with the EX. Also standard across the lineup is two-zone automatic climate control, with controls for the driver and front-seat passenger. There's even a button to turn the passenger's climate control off if that seat is empty, which could save energy in hot summer months when hybrids traditionally forfeit efficiency due to the increased load from the air conditioner.
Kia's infotainment system uses a touchscreen supplemented by hard buttons. The system is intuitive and simple, and Kia earns significant goodwill by providing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Base Niros receive few infotainment baubles beyond smartphone connectivity and SiriusXM compatibility. The optional navigation system uses GPS data to predict energy demands, and will, for instance, save up energy in the battery in anticipation of a hill climb.
The Niro was designed from the outset to be a hybrid, not converted from an existing gasoline-powered vehicle. As a result, cargo space is not reduced by its battery pack. Unfortunately, the rear seats don't form a flat load floor when folded, and other similarly sized crossovers can accommodate more cargo. We managed to fit six carry-on suitcases behind the rear seats and 18 with the rear seats folded.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn't tested a Niro, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has tested both the hybrid and the plug-in hybrid models. The former earned a Top Safety Pick+ designation but the latter didn't due to headlamps that scored Poor in IIHS's testing. Kia's package of driver-assistance technology is available starting with the LX by way of the Advanced Technology package. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the EX and up. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking
- Available blind-spot monitoring
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Kia and its sister company, Hyundai, offer one of the most comprehensive vehicle warranties available. The 10-year powertrain warranty is the cornerstone, but Kia beats the competition almost across the board. The only thing that's missing is complimentary scheduled maintenance, offered in this class only by Chevrolet.
- Limited warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles
- Hybrid components are covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance