The 2023 Kia Niro proves why you stick with a winning formula

A green Kia Niro Hybrid and a white Kia Niro EV
Enlarge / In green, the Kia Niro hybrid; in white, the Kia Niro EV. (Kia Niro PHEV not pictured)

Jonathan Gitlin

LEUCADIA, Calif. — The Kia Niro is not a flashy car. It doesn’t have a weird origin story like its stablemate “the boar with the backpack”. There are no sporting pretensions or intentions to explore Moab off the grid. Instead, it was just an affordable family crossover, quietly making its way as efficiently as possible with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicle versions.

The Niro fills the lower end of Kia’s electrified lineup in the US, and for the 2023 model year there’s a new second-generation Niro available for sale. There are still hybrid, plug-in hybrid and BEV versions, which have even gotten a little cheaper, at least when four years of inflation are taken into account.

Kia’s design team always gives their work interesting names, and the Niro’s design philosophy is ‘Joy for Reason’. But if you didn’t find the first Niro Offense, you probably won’t with the new one. Perhaps the most notable feature is the contrasting section that runs along the D-pillar behind the rear door. It’s not just there for looks – it’s a functional aeroblade that controls airflow at the rear of the car to minimize drag and increase efficiency, and it can be body-colored if you prefer.

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The black stripe is a functional Aeroblade.
Enlarge / The black stripe is a functional Aeroblade.

Jonathan Gitlin

The Niro has inevitably grown a little. But not by much – about two and a half inches longer at 174 inches (4,420 mm) nose-to-tail and about a half inch wider at 71.8 inches (1,824 mm). The wheelbase is also slightly stretched to 2,720 mm (107.1 in). The height of the crossover is unchanged at 1,544 mm (60.8 inches).

The Niro hybrid

The cheapest Niro is the one with the smallest battery – the “normal” hybrid version. That starts at $26,490 for the Niro LX, but you can spend up to $34,790 on a Niro SX Touring with all the trimmings.

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The Niro hybrid is powered by a 1.6L direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 104 hp (77 kW) and 106 lb-ft (144 Nm), which is mated to a 43 hp (32 kW) 125 lb – ft (170 Nm) permanent magnet electric motor powered by a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion polymer traction battery. Together they put the Niro hybrid on the road with a total of 139 hp (104 kW) and 195 lb-ft (265 Nm) via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission that drives the front wheels.

The Niro hybrid interior is rugged and straightforward, but oversaturated with piano black.
Enlarge / The Niro hybrid interior is rugged and straightforward, but oversaturated with piano black.

Jonathan Gitlin

When outfitted with the smallest wheels – 16-inch pieces in this case – the Niro Hybrid is most efficient, achieving an EPA rating of 53mpg (4.44L/100km), making it one of the most efficient non- Plug-in models makes cars from every automaker. Opt for the Touring Package, which increases wheel size to 18 inches and drops that to 49mpg (4.8L/100km), a simple demonstration of the effect larger wheels have on drag and efficiency.

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It’s even able to detect the presence of things like residential areas, school districts and hospitals (via its GPS data) and switches to EV mode at low speeds to minimize the amount of air pollution around those potentially at risk ejects people around.

The Niro PHEV

The Niro PHEV qualifies for California's carpool lanes.
Enlarge / The Niro PHEV qualifies for California’s carpool lanes.

Jonathan Gitlin

Kia has simplified the plug-in hybrid Niro offerings for 2023, dropping the more minimalist LX, giving you a choice of either the Niro PHEV EX ($33,740) or the Niro PHEV SX Touring ($39,490). The most notable specification change of the new Niro PHEV is a slightly larger traction battery capacity – now up 2.2 kWh to 11.1 kWh. That equates to an all-electric range of 33 miles (53 km), a 25 percent increase over the old car.

Under the hood of the Niro PHEV is the same 1.6 L GDI engine and six-speed gearbox as the hybrid, but the electric motor is almost twice as powerful, putting out 84 hp (62 kW) and 150 lb-ft (203 Nm) on the show, which brings a total output of 180 hp (134 kW) – the total torque remains the same as with the Niro hybrid.

Charge time for the 11.1kWh battery is around three hours on a Level 2 charger, and Kia claims 108mpge (3.2mph/kWh or 19.4kWh/100km).

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