The Niro is built on a unique front-wheel-drive platform: The idea is to accommodate a variety powertrains, including the special needs of a 100 per cent electric model. Photo: KIA

The Niro is built on a unique front-wheel-drive platform: The idea is to accommodate a variety powertrains, including the special needs of a 100 per cent electric model. Photo: KIA

The Kia Niro, best suited for all eco-minded buyers

The Niro’s electrifying choices should satisfy plenty of petroleum-pump-passing patrons

The electric-vehicle era is now well and truly upon us and will doubtless expand over the next few years.

One of the foremost class members is the Kia Niro, which tries to be all things to all eco-minded buyers. Along with a battery-electric model, there’s a gasoline-electric hybrid variant as well as a plug-in hybrid version (PHEV) that uses the same powertrain.

The Niro trio arrives at a time of relatively stable fuel prices. They’ll need to rely on practicality and price as well as economy of operation to make a dent in the marketplace. Note that Hyundai — Kia’s parent — has the similarly powered Ioniq hatchback models, plus the electric version of the Kona small wagon.

The Kia Niro wagon’s compact shape has the practical part of the equation well in hand. The cargo area offers plenty of space with the rear seat in place or folded flat. You would never guess that the hybrid’s compact lithium-ion battery pack is hidden beneath the back seat.

The cabin is also a paragon of normalcy, other than a specific gauge for monitoring the hybrid or electric system’s operations, including the recovery system that feeds braking energy to the battery pack.

At the heart of both Niro hybrid models is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that by itself makes 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a 43-horsepower electric motor that produces 125 pound-feet of torque. Together, they’re rated at 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque.

Directing thrust to the front wheels is a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. That’s different than most other hybrids, including the Toyota Prius, which use continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) with no set gear ratios.

In standard “eco” mode, the hybrid’s six-speed maximizes the electric-only operating range and extracts the lowest fuel-consumption rating of 4.5 l/100 km in the city, 4.8 on the highway and 4.6 combined. Placing the shifter in Sportmatic mode increases gasoline-engine use for better acceleration, but will negatively affect fuel economy. Sportmatic mode also adds steering feel, according to Kia.

Opt for the PHEV and you’ll get an officially rated 42 kilometres of electric-only range before the gasoline engine takes over.

Meanwhile, the new-for-2019 Niro EV, should be easy to spot. A dimpled nose trimmed in electric blue replaces the traditional grille, and a small portal on the driver’s side hides both the 240-volt charge port and the 480-volt direct-current (DC) fast-charge receptacle.

At 240 volts, the battery pack charges in about 9.5 hours. At 480 volts DC, the Niro gets to to 80 per cent of capacity in a claimed 75 minutes (a 30-minute charge will yield 160 kilometres of range). Note that the DC chargers are commercial grade and you’ll have to locate them on your route, or plan your route around them.

The EV’s 201-horsepower motor — with 291 pound-feet of torque — links to a single-speed controller. In ideal (warm) weather, the maximum range is pegged at 382 kilometres by Kia.

Niro hybrid pricing starts at $27,400, including destination charges, for the base L trim. It gets dual-zone air conditioning and a seven-inch touch-screen.

The EX Premium adds roof rails, an under-floor storage tray and LED headlights, while the EX comes with upgraded interior trim, heated front seats plus a number of active-safety technologies, including emergency braking.

The SX Touring tops up with leather seat covers, power adjustable driver’s chair, Harmon Kardon-brand premium audio package, and front and rear park-assist warning systems. The standard 16-inch steel wheels are upgraded to 18-inch alloys for the Touring.

The least-expensive PHEV trim starts at $35,850, but it comes with more equipment than the base hybrid and is eliglble for a $2,500 Canadian-government rebate (up to $4,000 more for the PHEV in Quebec as well as in B.C.).

Niro EV pricing comes in at $46,900 to start, but the vehicle is eligible for a $5,000 federal rebate and up to $8,000 more in Quebec and in B.C.

No matter which system you choose, the Kia Niro stands ready to significantly reduce, or entirely eliminate, your trips to the pump.

What you should know: 2019 Kia Niro

Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive compact wagon

Engine (h.p.): 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder with electric motor (139, combined);

356-volt electric motor (201, EV)

Transmission: Six-speed automated manual; single-speed controller (EV)

Market position; Kia’s trio of models has moved into the territory previously dominated by the Toyota Prius. Although the Niro represents good value for the type of technology it has, the buyer base is mostly limited to early adopters.

Points: Attractive styling matches the rest of Kia’s expanding lineup. • Six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission could make all the difference with some buyers, in a good way. • Although Kia calls the Niro a “crossover,” it’s really a front-wheel-drive wagon built on a unique platform. • There’s good technology value, here, even if fuel savings won’t pay for it.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.); lane-change warning/assist (opt.)

L/100 km (city/hwy) 4.5/4.8 (hybrid); Base price (incl. destination) $27,400

BY COMPARISON

Toyota Prius

Base price: $29,850

Popular hybrid has standout looks. Plug-in Prime version is very efficient.

Honda Insight

Base price: $28,100

Affordable Civic-based hybrid comes with a full range of standard safety tech.

Hyundai Ioniq

Base price: $26,100

Sleek-looking hatchback uses similar electrified powertrains as the Niro.

If you’re interested in new or used vehicles, be sure to visit TodaysDrive.com to find your dream car today!

-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The Niro hybrid and the plug-in hybrid use the same 104-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine and 43-horsepower electric motor. The EV has a 201-horsepower motor and no internal-combustion engine. Photo: KIA

The Niro hybrid and the plug-in hybrid use the same 104-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine and 43-horsepower electric motor. The EV has a 201-horsepower motor and no internal-combustion engine. Photo: KIA

With the battery pack located out of the way below the rear seat, there’s acceptable legroom and cargo room for a vehicle in this class. Photo: KIA

With the battery pack located out of the way below the rear seat, there’s acceptable legroom and cargo room for a vehicle in this class. Photo: KIA

The Niro might be a high-tech machine, but the designers clearly wanted to give the impression of a normal vehicle with familiar features and shapes. It might seem odd that there’s an actual shift lever, but this is the hybrid and not the EV model that has a single-speed controller instead of a transmission. Photo: KIA

The Niro might be a high-tech machine, but the designers clearly wanted to give the impression of a normal vehicle with familiar features and shapes. It might seem odd that there’s an actual shift lever, but this is the hybrid and not the EV model that has a single-speed controller instead of a transmission. Photo: KIA

Just Posted

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew

Logging company applies for injunction to remove blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

(Pixabay photo)
New program to provide recovery beds for at-risk Greater Victoria youth

It will aim to meet ‘health and social’ needs of wide range of youth

(Black Press Media file photo)
Aggressive bus passenger arrested in Saanich for uttering threats

Suspect had outstanding warrant for assault at bus stop, two assaults on BC Transit buses

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

Needles are seen on the ground in Oppenheimer park in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on March 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s chief coroner says increased drug toxicity responsible for record overdose deaths in January

165 people – the largest number of lives lost due to illicit drugs in the first month of a calendar year

LETTER: Anti-semitism definition lacking

Re: We must identify anti-Semitism and combat it (Online, Feb. 26) I… Continue reading

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read