The Kia Niro: A Green Drivetrain for Every Need
Kia’s long, tall Niro hatchback has been one of the only green vehicles on the market available with three distinct powertrain configurations – regular hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full electric. The company has just announced the next-generation Niro, which will go on sale in all 50 states. Deliveries began in fall of 2022. At first glance, it seems to be a very appealing package for urban and suburban users alike.
Like its predecessors, the new Niro will once again be available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and an all-electric Niro EV. All Niro models are front-wheel-drive; a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard in HEV and PHEV. The Niro Hybrid features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder and a 32-kW permanent-magnet electric motor, for a combined maximum power output of 139 horsepower. It returns a targeted 53 mpg EPA estimate a total estimated driving range of 588 miles. The Niro plug-in hybrid pairs the same engine with a 62-kW electric motor, for a total system output of 180 hp. When it is connected to a Level 2 charger, the Niro PHEV can refill its 11.1-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery in under three hours. Fully charged, the all-electric range is estimated at 33 miles, an improvement of 25 percent over the model it replaces.
Finally, the all-electric Niro EV is powered by a 64.8-kWh battery and 201-horsepower electric motor with DC fast-charging capability as standard. Plugged in to a Level 3 fast charger, the Niro EV can replenish 10 to 80 percent in under 45 minutes, at a maximum charging capability of 85 kW. The 11-kW onboard charger also helps recharge the Niro EV in under seven hours on a Level 2 charger. Targeted electric range for the Niro EV is 253 miles (the EPA has not announced final figures).
The all-new Niro also introduces a clever Green Zone drive mode, which automatically switches the Niro Hybrid and Niro PHEV into electric drive mode in residential areas, and near schools and hospitals. The Niro automatically uses electric power based on navigation cues and driving history data, and recognizes favorite places, such as home and office set in the navigation system. The cars also use navigation data to calculate the amount of regeneration required using radar and road gradient information.
Niro EV: Space and Versatility
The Niro’s elongated, tall hatchback body is one of the most practical body styles on the market. A high seating position makes it easy to get into and out of, without any of the unnecessary height and bulk of trying to be an SUV. Its long wheelbase and long rear doors make access to the back seat easy for families – and provide tons of rear leg- and head-room for rear seat occupants. And it has a surprising amount of space under its nearly vertical rear hatch. Indeed, Niro has 8 more cubic feet of passenger cabin room and 50 percent more cargo room than the Tesla Model 3.
Niro HEV and Niro PHEV can be identified by black door cladding and wheel arches, while Niro EV is distinguished by Steel Grey or black exterior trim, depending on body color. New for the 2023 model is the “aero blade,” distinctive trim panel shape that can be painted in body color or in a variety of contrasting colors.
Upscale touches abound inside, and the interior of Niro EV is composed of animal-free textiles. The headliner is composed of recycled wallpaper, which contains 56 percent reused PET fibers. The slim seats with integrated coat hangers enhance roominess, and are covered by high-quality bio polyurethane and Tencel made from eucalyptus leaves. BTX-free paint, which is free from benzene, toluene, and xylene isomers, is used on the door panels to minimize the impact on the environment and reduce waste. Available dual 10.25-inch screens for the instrument cluster and infotainment system are available, and there’s adjustable mood lighting in a variety of color combinations.
Tech Takes Center Stage
Advanced technology is baked into the Niro, from customizable vehicle settings through the in-dash infotainment system to standard active safety equipment. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) include forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection; lane keeping assist; lane following assist; blind spot monitor; rear cross traffic collision avoidance assist; and more. Smart cruise control is available, as is Highway Driving Assist II, which on the Niro EV integrates the functionality of lane change assist, forward collision assist with lane change, and smart cruise control with machine learning.
Inside, an available heads-up display projects directions, safety warnings, vehicle speed, and infotainment directly in the driver’s line of sight, while wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard; a wireless phone charger is optional. With the Kia Access App, the driver can unlock the 2023 Niro’s doors, or even start the vehicle using an iPhone, Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Over-the-air (OTA) updates ensure that maps and the infotainment system are updated automatically. Drivers can also use Amazon-Alexa or Google Assistant-enabled devices to remotely control certain vehicle functions, such as remote start. Finally, a vehicle-to-load (V2L) onboard generator lets you “reverse” the charging port and use the car’s battery to power electric devices.
Three Shades of Green: the Kia Niro
The 2023 Niro family will bring efficient electrified powertrain options to a large number of buyers. Pricing has yet to be announced, but will likely be in the same ballpark as the current model – around $25,000 for the hybrid, $30,000 for the plug-in hybrid, and $42,000 for the full-electric version.
We like its sleek, aerodynamic, and technologically focused package, its versatile interior, and its distinctive looks. We also like the fact that, even in its second generation, Niro remains the only vehicle on the market available with three different electrified propulsion options – a green car for every need and circumstance.