The 2018 Kia Niro subcompact crossover SUV has a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 1.6-liter inline-4 engine and an electric motor. The setup has a total output of 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. It can go up to 26 miles when running in full electric mode. The powertrain is mated with a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive is standard. The hybrid setup of the Touring trim got the vehicle going in reasonable time but the underpowered engine struggled during overtaking on the highway. It took almost ten seconds to reach 60 mph, which was among the slowest vehicles in its class. Fortunately, there were no problems in the transmission changing gears at the right time. The handling resembled more of a car than a SUV and body roll was well-controlled. There was enough grip to stay within the lane and the steering allowed for an immediate change in direction. When switching to the Sport mode, there was an appropriate increase in steering effort but feedback from the pavement was minimal. The regenerative braking transitioned smoothly to the mechanical brakes. The brakes had a linear stopping force but it wasn’t the strongest. It required 129 feet to suddenly stop from 60 mph, which was below average in its class. The pedal felt firm enough to control the brakes easily.
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The base FE trim comes standard with automatic headlights, automatic climate control, selectable driving modes, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Kia’s Uvo eServices, and an infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen and a four-speaker sounds system. The LX trim also includes LED taillights, keyless entry and ignition, and additional interior appointments. The Advanced Technology Package adds front foglights, LED daytime running lights, and several advanced safety and driver aids. The EX trim adds power-folding and heated side mirrors, heated front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, an additional USB port, and more advanced safety and driver aids. The Advanced Technology package has the same contents as the LX trim and now includes a power-adjustable driver seat. The Premium package adds xenon headlights, ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory settings, a heated steering wheel, navigation, LED map lights, a wireless charging pad, a 110V power outlet, a bigger 8-inch touchscreen, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and additional advanced safety and driver aids. The Touring Graphite Edition is similar to the EX trim and adds a power-adjustable driver seat, a bigger 8-inch touchscreen, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and unique exterior appointments. However, the package options of the EX trim are not available for this trim. The top-of-the-line Touring trim comes with all the features available from preceding trims.
The 2018 Niro was tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and it scored “Good” in all crashworthiness tests, “Superior” in front crash prevention, and “Good” in headlights. Overall, it received the 2018 Top Safety Pick+ recommendation from the IIHS. The only advanced safety and driver aid that comes standard with the base trim is a rearview camera. More features are only available for higher trim levels, which include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors.
The 2018 Niro has a length of 171.5 inches, a width of 71.1 inches, a height of 60.4 inches, and a wheelbase of 106.3 inches. The silhouette of a modern crossover combined with its smaller size makes it look like a bigger hatchback. However, the front fascia and the hood, which slopes down past the front fenders, make it look cartoonish when viewed from the front. The FE, LX, and EX trims come with 16-inch wheels but only the Touring Graphite Edition and the Touring trims come with 18-inch wheels. Roof rails is an option starting with the LX trim and a sunroof is an option starting with the EX trim. The Touring Graphite Edition trim has a dark paint scheme with its graphite paint and black exterior trim and wheels.
Boarding the vehicle was easy because the doors opened wide and the ground clearance was low. The seat height feels more like a car rather than an SUV. Inside, there are two rows that can accommodate five people and they offered enough allowance for movement. However, passengers beyond six feet in height will feel tight in both rows. The seats were comfortable even when sitting for a long time and were also supportive with the adjustable lumbar support. The heating for the front seats provides enough warmth during the cold weather. Unlike its bigger siblings in Kia’s SUV lineup, the interior looked plain and felt appropriate at this price point. The capable handling still gave way to a ride quality that is comfortable for everyday driving. It had a planted feeling yet the impact from road imperfections were still dampened. Road noise was perceptible but wind noise was only noticeable when leaning your head on the window nearest to the side mirrors.
There is 19.4 cu-ft of space behind the second row of seats, and folding those seats down opens up 54.5 cu-ft of space available for cargo.