After its debut at the 2021 Seoul Mobility Show, Kia has prepped the second-generation Niro crossover for the New York International Auto Show and indicated that the model will retain its extra-bold styling for the U.S. market.
Directly inspired by the 2019 HabaNiro concept, Kia’s compact crossover features a fat C-pillar in a contrasting color. The low-hanging headlamps have also been pushed out to the side, giving off some faint Telluride vibes. Aspects of the Soul are also present, though that’s likely down to the model sharing some of its aesthetics with the HabaNiro. Kia seems the most pleased with its upgraded powertrain roster, however.
Scheduled to arrive on dealer lots this summer, every version of the 2023 Kia Niro comes with some form of electrification. Base models are equipped with a 1.6-liter Smartsream GDi engine mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic and 32kW permanent magnet synchronous electric motor. Kia says the package is good for 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque yielding 53 mpg (city/highway combined) and an estimated 588-mile range.
Above that is the plug-in hybrid, which adds a more-powerful 44-kW electric motor and an 11.1-kWh battery back. As with the base model, it’s front-wheel drive only. However, customers do get the option to run it on all-electric propulsion for 33 miles between charges. Since the pack is quite small, the manufacturer said it takes under three hours to recharge the unit using a Level 2 charger (the same one you use for your dryer).
Then there’s the 150-kW (201 horsepower) all-electric model. With a range of 253 miles, the model takes a competitive position for the segment. But it’s not a dazzling figure when compared to more expensive EVs that are already on the market. Kia believes it’s sufficient for most people, however, adding that the can go from 10 to 80 percent of its full charge in less than 45 minutes — provided it’s hooked up to a Level 3 fast charger. Home charging on a 240-volt outlet is decidedly longer, taking a smidgen under seven hours.
The wheelbase has been stretched a bit over the previous generation, now measuring measuring 107 inches with a total vehicle length of 174 inches. Kia said this has created more cargo room behind the rear seats (22.8 cubic feet total) while adding roughly eight cubic feet of space for passengers.
Speaking of the interior, it’s been completely modernized and gives off a minimalist impression that’s not unfamiliar to what we’ve seen from from other manufacturers. It doesn’t look bad, there’s just not as much to be done when you swap to a touchscreen-focused cabin. To offset this, the manufacturer makes mention of how it uses sustainable, animal-free materials — including recycled wallpaper, bio polyurethane, and pulp from eucalyptus leaves. Some of the paint was also said to be BTX-free. But this again can be a double-edged sword, as eco-friendly materials sometimes feel extremely cheap.
All of the above will need to be experienced in person before any valid assessments can be made. However, there is an aspect of the 2023 Kia Niro that pretty much ensures I’ll never recommended one — regardless of how well testing goes — and that’s the company’s decision to outfit the vehicle with a new “Green Zone” driving mode.
The system automatically switches the hybrids into all-electric propulsion whenever they’re in residential areas, near a hospital, rolling through a school zone, and any other geo-locked areas based on its GPS positioning and the car’s previously recorded driving history. While the feature currently has to be selected as an alternative to Eco or Sport modes, it’s something manufacturers have been toying with for years to prepare for governments that want to ban gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in certain areas. It’s another example of modern automobiles taking control away from the driver and frankly something I hope never catches on.
Everything else is pretty standard for a modern compact crossover, including driving aids like pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring (all with more warning alarms than before). There’s also more to be had for those interested in laying down a bigger portion of their paycheck. Unsatisfied shoppers can upgrade to dual 10.25-inch screens for the instrument cluster/infotainment system or scoop up the optional eight-speaker Harman/Kardon premium sound system. Kia is also selling heated/ventilated front seats with memory settings, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with some semi-autonomous driving features.
Pricing is TBD. But Kia likely won’t keep us waiting for long since deliveries are just a few months away.
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