Saturday, September 26, 2020
Glance 2019 Kia Niro at a glance

2019 Kia Niro at a glance

If I’m to be perfectly honest, I really thought the Kia Niro was going to do a lot better than it has so far. Kia has sold its fair share of them, but I really thought a hybrid SUV with a competitive price tag would do be a slam dunk.

I was sure it would wreak havoc on Toyota Prius sales, for one, and cause massive headaches for every other automaker trying to market a hybrid vehicle for less than $30,000.

I’m not quite sure why the Niro isn’t the new segment king in sales. Maybe hybrid buyers don’t want an SUV. Maybe the Niro isn’t versatile enough to outshine the Prius which is quite practical in its own right. Maybe Kia isn’t aggressive enough in promoting it.

It’s a bit of a shame because the Kia Niro is the most enjoyable hybrid vehicle you can drive right now in this price range.

Kia Niro Hybrid

What the 2019 Kia Niro does well

1. It doesn’t feel like you’re driving a hybrid vehicle from a handling stand point. The Niro features sharp, sporty handling that makes it quite enjoyable on a winding road without being uncomfortable or annoying in the city.

2. One issue with hybrid vehicles is battery placement which can hurt available cargo space. That doesn’t happen if the vehicle is built as a hybrid from the beginning like the Niro. There’s 635 liters of cargo space with all seats in place in the Niro, making it one of the most versatile hybrids you can buy on the market today.

3. It has remarkable fuel economy for such a spacious vehicle. Average fuel economy is less than 4.8 liters per 100 kilometers in the Niro.

4. Currently only offered as a hybrid, the 2019 Kia Niro will get a plug-in hybrid version later on as well as an all-electric version. The PHEV Niro will feature 42 kilometers of range in electric mode which isn’t too far off what you get in the Prius.

5. Overall, the Niro doesn’t feel like a hybrid vehicle. Its interior is stylish and traditional, and it drives like any normal compact SUV. For many who want the advantages of driving a hybrid without feeling like they are in a spaceship, this is a definite advantage.

Kia introducing mild-hybrid diesel technology

What the 2019 Kia Niro doesn’t so well

1. It certainly lacks power, there’s no doubt about that. It’s hybrid powertrain delivers a measly 139 horsepower and more often than not you’ll find that accelerating and passing in the Niro is quite underwhelming. A little more kick would work well with the Niro’s precise handling.

2. It’s only front-wheel drive. The Niro looks like an SUV and has the cargo capacity to go with its looks, but it doesn’t have all-important AWD. That may also explain why it’s not having the success it should.

3. It’s a bit lacking when it comes to features and equipment. For example, to get 18-inch wheels, you need to get the $34,985 SX model. If not, you’re on hubcaps. The base L model gets decent equipment (heated front seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a 7-inch center display), but you’ll spend more than $30,000 for a sunroof and blind spot monitoring. In other words, when you compare value, the Niro is okay at best.

Kia Niro Hybrid

What we tell our friends

If you want a hybrid vehicle that drives like a normal vehicle and happens to have a decent amount of space, check out the Niro. On the other hand, there are better hybrids out there, and better sport utility vehicles as well. You could get a Honda HR-V or Nissan Qashqai with more space for less money and still-very-good fuel economy, or a more versatile and upscale compact SUV with a lot more space for the same price.

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Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur was studying to be a CPA when he decided to drop everything and launch a car website in 2012. Don't ask. The journey has been an interesting one, but today he has co-founded and manages 8 websites including EcoloAuto.com and MotorIllustrated.com as General Manager of NetMedia360. He also sits on the board of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. Send me an email

4 COMMENTS

  1. I’m buying the 2019 version myself. I was going to get the 2018 but they didn’t have anymore in the top trim level – SX Touring – in graphite. I actually wanted the PHEV, but since the cons gutted the green subsidies that’s off the table. Still, the regular hybrid gets just as good mileage. A lot of reviews – including this one –

    As for the cargo space, the Quashqi and Honda have 2 and 4 cubic feet more respectively. To compare their fuel economy to the Niro, however, is laughable at best. The Niro is the only vehicle – in this class – where I constantly see people amazed at the fuel efficiency they’re getting. One guy in Arizona (on Youtube) has been averaging 66mpg with good driving habits. Every other SUV/Crossover I’ve been researching over the past year has the exact opposite complaints with mileage generally falling woefully short of official specs. And the Niro has way more comfortable and larger seating and leg room. I’m 6′, 220 – broad shouldered – and I can barely fit into those vehicles – leg room several inches to short in the Quashqi as well – where I’m plenty comfortable in the Niro.

    As for the power, your review fails to mention, as most reviews on it do, that there are three driving modes with the Nrio, Eco, Normal, and Sport. No, you won’t win any races in it, but as you did mention, this is a vehicle who get a kick out of bypassing gas pumps while other are wasting their money on gas needlessly. And it’s certainly faster than any non-turbo model SUV/Crossover. I’ve taken the VW Sportswagen, Hyundai Tucson, Kona, and half a dozen other similar class vehicles in this past year and if they weren’t the turbo editions they were painfully anemic. Yes, the turbo vehicles have a lot more power but they also burn three times as much gas – and that turbo will die sooner than later costing several grand to replace. In sport mode the Niro holds its own in town or on the highway more than fine.

    And something huge you’ve overlooked with that comparison is how much more you get for the money in the Niro than any of those other vehicles. Throw in all the stuff that comes standard on the Niro – EX Premium and SX Touring – and you’re talking several thousand more dollars for something comparable, and more of their warranties suck compared to Kia and Hynundai as well. And lastly those companies tend to treat Canadian consumers very shabbily as they sell those same vehicles in the US for signifigantly less – yes, with the exchange factored in, and much better warranties state side. Only Kia and Hyundai treat the Canadian consumer with a great deal more respect -though those in the US still do have it somewhat better all around. Perfect example is the VW Alltrack which costs $10,000 more in Canada and the warranty is only half as good as what they provide in the US – when I found that out I kissed VW away forever.

    Besides the astounding fuel economy, one thing I rarely ever see mentioned in any review is just how quiet they are. When you turn the engine on you have to gun it to make sure, in fact, that it’s on. As one of the millions of people who suffers from tinnitus, believe me, a quiet ride is more important than you realize.

    And as for the lack of AWD? It would be niice but completely unnecessary. 80% of Canadians live within 3 hours of the border. In my 30 plus years driving in this country I’ve never felt the need for AWD or 4X4. Good srt of snow tires and Bob’s your uncle.

    As you stated in your first paragraph, I admit I’m pretty flabbergasted that it hasn’t done much better too. All I ever hear from people I know is them bitching about gas prices and how much it costs to keep running their cars. Personally I hope gas prices continue to go through the roof to get all these environmental monstrosities off the road that 99% of them don’t need to be driving – namely pickups/full sized suvs/sports cars. There are alternatives, embrace them or stop whining. Meantime I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank with my savings.

    I’ve done the test drives, the research, etc. etc. etc. and the Niiro is easily the winner in this segment of cars. You’re nuts and wasting your money on anything else.

  2. Some good points in the article and Sparky’s comments. I just bought at 2018 EX Premium – one below the highest trim level. Delivery next week. I liked the full leather and premium audio in the SX Touring highest trim level, but the 18″ wheels are low profile (45s) which doesn’t make sense on the rough roads where I live in rural Ontario. Plus there is a significant penalty (~10%) in fuel economy going to the SX Touring from the lower trim levels, which kind of defeats the purpose of buying a hybrid vehicle.

    I’m tall (6′-3″) with long legs and found the Niro spacious and comfortable. Usually, I just push the driver’s seat all the way back and leave it there. In the Niro, I tried that and was too far away from the pedals, so I had to move the seat forward. I hardly remember doing that on any cars including my 2005 Subaru Outback, which is a bigger vehicle but has less leg room.

  3. Been a Toyota guy all along and I have read very good reviews of the Niro and was almost ready to go Niro until I read that the best safety features like autonomous braking are not even available below the SX trim, which besides adding significant costs adds a 10% fuel penalty, at which point Niro is no longer attractive.

  4. I just bought the 2018 model Niro EX and I have to say, this is one of the most interesting and enjoyable vehicles I have ever had. The gas mileage is superb and in Sport mode it goes like a scared jack rabbit. Its fit and finish is great and Consumers Reports rates it as THE most reliable car they have ever evaluated (although time will tell on that one…). The EX model should come with the higher end software safety features but they will likely upgrade on future models for those. In addition, this car is very comfortable and fully adjustable for the size of the driver. Overall, I am very satisfied so far with this car and have found no irritating features so far. The designers have done well

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