New 2018 Kia Niro Plugin Hybrid Wagon New 2018
Kia Niro Plugin Hybrid Wagon

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KBB Editor's Overview

By KBB.com Editorial Staff

Available as a hybrid and as a plug-in hybrid, the 2018 Kia Niro is a stylish, family-friendly 4-door hatchback with outstanding fuel economy and impressive safety and convenience features. Introduced just last year, the new Kia Niro competes with the best-selling Toyota Prius, Ford C-Max, Chevy Volt and the similar Hyundai Ioniq. And with a combined city/highway fuel-economy rating of 50 mpg, the Niro Hybrid is one of the most efficient in the class. The new Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid can be driven 26 miles on electricity alone, before a 1.6-liter gasoline engine turns on to charge the batteries and expand range to over 600 miles. Four trim levels are available with prices starting around $24,000 for a Niro Hybrid FE, which includes a standard 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a rearview camera.

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You'll Like This Car If...

Hybrid shoppers looking for an impressive mix of fuel economy, comfort and eye-pleasing design will like the 2018 Kia Niro. It’s perfect for small families looking for a stylish, affordable and fun-to-drive runabout with a high-quality interior, hatchback versatility and room for five.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you’re looking for the absolute highest miles-per-gallon rating, the Toyota Prius is still the king with a combined rating as high as 56 mpg. The Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s 26 miles of electric range is outperformed by the Chevy Volt, which can travel about 50 miles on a full battery charge. Although Kia markets the new Niro as an SUV, it is not available with all-wheel drive.

What's New for 2018

This year Kia adds the Plug-In Hybrid model to the Niro lineup. Also, Lane Keep Assist replaces Kia’s Lane Departure Warning system, and the Advanced Tech Package is now standard on the top-of-the-line Niro Touring trim level. EX models get a new Electrochromatic rearview mirror that keeps glare down.

Driving It

Driving Impressions

Kia has managed to inject some fun-to-drive spirit into the new 2018 Niro Hybrid. Unlike some small electrified vehicles the Niro never feels like a fancy golf cart or a pod without personality. Although it weighs 3,000 pounds, the Niro is athletic and feels light on its feet, with a welcome agility. Its steering feel is surprisingly satisfying. Its combined 139 horsepower won’t win any drag races, but there’s plenty of acceleration, especially in Sport Mode, which sharpens throttle response, tightens the steering and quickens the action of the hatchback’s smooth 6-speed automatic transmission. It also keeps the Niro’s 1.6-liter gas engine more involved for additional power. The complex powertrain is seamless in its operation, and once up to speed the Niro is quiet and comfortable. The Niro also performs well in the city, thanks to a tight turning radius, standard rearview camera, good outward visibility, and available rear cross-traffic alert.

Favorite Features

REAR CROSS TRAFFIC ALERT
Standard on the upper-trim levels, this clever system uses sensors in the rear bumper to scan the Niro’s surroundings and warns the driver of vehicles and pedestrians approaching from the side. It makes backing out of your driveway or out of tight parking spaces a lot less stressful.

SPORT MODE
Engaged with a button on the Kia’s console, Sport Mode transforms the driving dynamics of the new Niro Hybrid. It sharpens throttle response, tightens the steering and quickens the action of the hatchback’s 6-speed automatic transmission. It also keeps the Niro’s 1.6-liter gas engine more involved for additional power.

Vehicle Details

Interior

A number of years ago, Kia’s interior design went from frumpy to fantastic, and the cabin of the 2018 Kia Niro is one of the finest in its class. The design is clean and simple with an upscale feel and high-quality materials. The layout is intuitive and all of the controls work with precision. Seat comfort is excellent and the 6-speed automatic is controlled with a conventional shifter on the console, which is a good thing. There’s a handy open bin with USB and power ports ahead of the shifter, and the Niro’s audio and climate controls are smartly situated. There’s plenty of rear-seat headroom and legroom for 6-footers, and the 60/40-split-folding seatback adds valuable cargo/passenger flexibility.

Exterior

Kia markets the new Niro as a compact-crossover SUV, and its exterior design backs up that market position. The hybrid’s black plastic wheel arches, rear skidplate and other design cues add visual height, and its rather formal roofline bears a strong resemblance to Kia’s much larger 3-row Sorento SUV. It all gives the well-proportioned Niro a more rugged appearance than the futuristic Toyota Prius and the mechanically similar Hyundai Ioniq. While every Niro gets body-color door handles and mirrors, you have to reach all the way to the top-line Niro Touring to move out of 16-inch wheel covers into 18-inch alloys.

Notable Standard Equipment

The 2018 Kia Niro lineup starts around $24,000 (with destination) for the Niro FE trim, but Kia doesn’t plan to sell many of them and you shouldn’t plan to buy one (you get one extra mpg, but it’s not worth the equipment trade-off). So let’s focus on the standard-equipment roster of the Niro LX, which is priced just a few hundred dollars higher than the FE. Highlights include keyless entry and push-button start, UVO3 infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, AM/FM/SiriusXM audio, a 7-inch touch screen, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and dual-zone automatic climate control, to name a few.

Notable Optional Equipment

A fully loaded 2018 Kia Niro Touring with the Advanced Technology Package stickers around $32,500 with destination. In addition to 18-inch aluminum wheels and power-folding heated outside mirrors with integrated turn indicators, a loaded Touring model features upgrades like a moonroof and heated and ventilated leather front seats. The touch screen is upgraded to eight inches, sound is upgraded to an 8-speaker harman/kardon system, and there’s a wireless charger for compatible phones. Then there’s a long list of driver-assist technologies that includes blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control, plus front and rear parking sensors.

Under the Hood

The new Niro’s gas-electric hybrid system comprises a 4-cylinder engine and a lithium-ion polymer battery, the output of which is run to the front wheels via a quick-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s an impressive system for both its outstanding efficiency and its seamless operation. It’s important to note, however, that Niro Touring models are rated to return 43 mpg combined, versus 49 mpg for LX and EX models. Kia explains it as a consequence of added weight and aerodynamic differences. At 12,000 miles per year and $3 gallon, the difference is about $9 per month.

1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine + 1.56-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery
139 horsepower (gas/electric combined)
195 lb-ft of torque (gas/electric combined)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 52/49 mpg (FE), 51/46 mpg (EX, LX), 46/40 mpg (Touring)

Niro Plug-in
1.6-liter Atkinson cycle inline-4
104 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
109 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
44.5-kW Interior-Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
60 horsepower, 125 lb-ft of torque
Electric-only range: 26 miles
EPA city/highway fuel economy (combined): 46

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Pricing Notes

The 2018 Kia Niro lineup starts with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) around $24,000 and tops out around $32,500 for a fully loaded Niro Touring model, putting it in the same ballpark as the 2018 Toyota Prius. The new Niro Plug-in hybrid kicks off at $28,840. While the Niro is covered by Kia’s superior 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the Prius boasts an established reputation and excellent resale value. While we haven’t yet published official resale value predictions for this all-new model, there’s a good chance a $30,000 Niro will cost you more over a full buy-own-sell ownership cycle than a $30,000 Prius. Keep in mind, however, that it’s usually worth spending a little extra to drive the car you prefer. Check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the Kia Niro.

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