Kia Niro CUV looks conventional, stocks hybrid powertrain

2017, KIA, Niro

The shapely 2017 Niro crossover utility vehicle from Kia of South Korea with its beautiful yet conventional package styling lands in North America configured solely with a front-wheel-drive gas-electric hybrid powertrain.

There is no souped-up gasoline-only engine alternative, nor an optional all-wheel-drive traction device for bumping along an off-pavement trail.

It seems that Kia's new CUV stakes out an unusual market position as a shapely and comfy car-based crossover which delivers high fuel-burn scores through its easy-to-operate hybrid powertrain. That's the pitch: Niro looks conventional but earns unconventional fuel numbers.

With a roof rising only five feet high and the body barely stretching over 14 feet long, little Niro functions as a cargo-hauling 5-door hatchback wagon.

The exterior package reveals an aggressive low-swooping prow with swept-back LED headlamp clusters and Kia's narrow signature tiger-nose grille ringed in chrome. Flanks support bulging shoulders, defined wheel arches, rocker-panel cladding and roof rails, while the tail treatment includes a spoiler lip atop the liftback door, horizontal LED taillamps and a skid plate integrated with the back bumper.

Niro's wheelbase -- measuring the distance between front and rear axles -- stretches to 106.3 inches. The overall length from prow to trunk measures up to 171.5 inches and the body width expands to 71.19 inches. These linear dimensions combine to forge a surprisingly spacious passenger compartment containing approximately 97 cubic feet with cargo space of 19.4 cubic feet with rear seatbacks raised or 54.5 cubic feet with rear seatbacks down.

The layout of the cabin shows a pair of bucket seats up front and a bench in back with two articulated seat positions but room for three in a pinch. Headroom amounts to 40.1 inches up front and 39.1 inches in back, with front-seat legroom stretching to 41.7 inches.

The suspension design is compact to carve out more space for the passenger compartment and forge a flat floor for easy entry. Suspension components include independent MacPherson struts in front and a rear multi-link. Kia's engineers tuned the suspension to deliver sporty handling characteristics.

Standard active safety systems aboard every Niro include a disc brake at every wheel with electronic linkage to a 4-channel ABS (anti-lock brake system) with EBD (electronic brake force distribution), BAS (brake assist system), ESC (electronic stability control) and HAC (hill-start assist control). Also, a VSM (vehicle stability management) device integrates control of the ESC and MDPS (motor-driven power steering) systems.

The 2017 Niro operates as a conventional hybrid electric vehicle stocking a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine that sips gasoline plus a synchronous electric traction motor of permanent-magnet design, a lithium-ion battery pack and a 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission with Sports Mode.

The powertrain for Niro includes:

* Gasoline-fired 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with DOHC (dual overhead cams) and GDI (gasoline direct injection) plus modifications for fuel-efficient combustion under the Atkinson-cycle concept, with an output of 104 hp and 109 lb-ft of torque.

* AC synchronous electric motor/generator at 240 volts producing 43 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque.

* Lithium-ion battery pack (1.56 kW).

* 6-speed automatic DCT (dual clutch transmission).

The combined output of the power system is estimated to be 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. And the EPA-estimated fuel consumption scores climb to 52/49 mpg city/highway.

Kia constructs the 2017 Niro in the trim grades of FE, LX, EX and Touring.

All versions provide substantial standard equipment, such as 16-inch alloy wheels and LED headlamps and dual-zone automatic climate system. A steering wheel with audio control tabs, driver's seat with 6-way manual controls, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a rearview camera, two 12-Volt power outlets plus USB jack and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

We estimate the MSRPs for Kia's 2017 Niro line extend from $22,890 to $29,650.

By Bob Plunkett

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Images of the 2017, KIA Niro

2017 Kia Niro front view
2017 Kia Niro front view
2017 Kia Niro front row cockpit view
2017 Kia Niro front row cockpit view
2017 Kia Niro cargo view
2017 Kia Niro cargo view
2017 Kia Niro rear view
2017 Kia Niro rear view