The 2019 Kia Niro and 2019 Hyundai Kona have much in common but are also quite different. Let’s dive into this comparison test and see what’s what.
For the purpose of this comparison and because I’ve not driven either the Kona or Niro EV, they will not be featured in this story. We do hope to compare them for you before long.
Having said that, the Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro meet somewhere around the bottom of their trims ranges and then head on in very different directions. If you’re in the market for these vehicles or almost any subcompact crossover, you’ll probably have noticed that one of these two outsells the other by quite a margin.
For this comparison, we’ve assembled these two dizygotic twins to point out the differences to help you figure them out and pick a winner.
Which is more enjoyable to drive?
While both vehicles share a platform, although enhanced to meet powertrain, space and target demands, to drive them back-to-back is to immediately notice important dissimilarities between the two.
The 2019 Kia Niro is a hybrid and as such, is designed for a near singular purpose. Its 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine and electric motor combine for a total system output of 139-horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. To it is mated a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission and only the front wheels are driven. To sum up the Niro, although it is incredibly efficient, there’s very little pleasure to be had from the powertrain’s slow and lazy responsiveness. Also, the cabin is extremely noisy.
On the other hand, the Hyundai Kona can be spec’d with either a 147-horsepower 2.0-litre or turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engines. The latter boosted mill generates 175-horsepower and 195 torques. Both of these engines are far livelier and entertaining, however the 1.6T is a huge winner. Transmission choices are a 6-speed automatic or 7-speed dual-clutch (1.6T) and FWD and AWD are offered.
The Kona is much sportier and fun with a nicely tuned suspension that is equal parts comfortable and a capable handler.
Answer: the 2019 Hyundai Kona
Which is more fuel-efficient?
The Hyundai Kona with AWD, regardless of the engine, will return 8.6L/100km combined. The FWD 2.0-litre is slightly more economical at 7.9L/100km. These numbers are on the high-side of the segment average. The most fuel-efficient vehicle in the category is the Kia Niro.
The 2019 Niro hybrid is rated at 4.6/5.1 L/100 km (highway/city) for an overall average that hovers in the 4.8L/100km range. I drove the Niro in wintery conditions and managed 5.3-5.4L/100km.
Answer: the 2019 Kia Niro
Which is more spacious?
Here, the Niro’s 100mm longer wheelbase and nearly 200mm of extra overall length give the Kia a considerable advantage.
Both front and second row occupants are fairly comfortable and well cared for. Rear passengers in the Kia will find more head- and legroom.
Cargo space differences are most obvious. The Niro once more takes the honours with 635 litres of useable volume behind the second row compared to the Hyundai’s 544 litres. With the rear bench stowed, the Kia is huge with up to 1,789 litres available versus the Kona’s 1,296 litres.
Answer: the 2019 Kia Niro
Which has the better value?
If like us, AWD is a must, the Kona strips the Niro of whatever advantages it may have over it. However, a FWD vehicle with a good set of winter tires will be fine and as such, we can almost compare the base Niro L at $25,495 to the $22,849 2.0L Preferred FWD Kona. The Hyundai does include a few extra features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, blind-spot monitoring and keyless entry with pushbutton start.
This then means the Niro’s hybrid powertrain represents a $3,250 to $3,500 premium. Considering that the Kona consumes roughly 50-60% more fuel than the Kia, this extra cost will be reimbursed after a few years with a minimum of 20,000 km travelled per year.
Beyond this, while Koreans typically suffer from poor resale values, we suspect that the Kona will do better on the used market if mostly because of the greater interest the buying public has demonstrated for the Hyundai.
Answer: it’s a tie
Which would we recommend?
We’ve already mentioned that we’re very much about AWD drivetrains and given that we still love driving, the Hyundai Kona 1.6T with AWD has our vote. In fact, the Kona as a whole is more interesting.
The Niro was presented as the hybrid that doesn’t look like one but what Kia forgot to do in the process is give their subcompact crossover a personality. The Kona, in stark contrast, oozes character and styling. It may not age as gracefully but heck, Kia went so far as to pull the Niro’s best colour for 2019 when they illuminated red. We like the new brown but it’s nowhere near enough.
For these reasons and because I’ve not yet turned 76, we’d recommend the 2019 Hyundai Kona. The buying public seems to agree.