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2023 Kia Niro First Drive review: A small SUV, three electrified flavors


ENCINITAS, California – The timing couldn’t be better for an all-new, next-generation 2023 Kia Niro. The formula remains the same as before: one intersection SUVs are offered with a hybrid option, Dip into the mixture or an all-electric drive system. However, the market environment has changed dramatically. Demand for electric SUVs, including those made by Kia, has been boosted by a surge gas price, improve environmental awareness and better products. At the same time, the demand for hybrid vehicles has diminished, opening the door further to what was once an oddball in the segment.

In fact, the previous-generation Niro had the best sales last year despite its age and shabby look compared to the rest of Kia’s sleek SUV fleet. The new styling alone is enough to keep those fortunes afloat. PHEVs and HEVs are a bit different from EVs (note that like the front end, central charging door), but the general combination of narrow upper grille slot, LED light clusters and large bottom grille than creating a cool, streamlined look. There is a more elegant LED lighting system at the rear, including a new high-mounted taillight that makes up the most remarkable styling element of the Niro: Aero Blade. It will be available in glossy black or body color color in PHEV and HEV, while the Niro EV comes in a choice of Steel Gray (pictured) or black. The extension of the lower bezel is usually glossy black, with the exception of EVs that qualify for the silver trim as shown in the photos below. Kia has not announced the exact combination of exterior paint colors, colors and trim levels at the time of this writing.

Thankfully, the rest of the Niro’s updated specs are available for study. It’s slightly larger, for one, with a 2.5-inch increase in overall length and a nearly one-inch increase in wheelbase. That means the Niro is essentially the same length as the Kia Seltos, but has a rear seat that really closely resembles the newly enlarged 2023 Sportage which distorts the definition of “compact”. In theory, the Niro now has a larger rear seat than the Kia EV6 – that’s hard to believe, but at least a 6-foot-3 passenger can get behind his own driver’s seat. It’s definitely atmospheric, and visibility is generally outstanding.

Cargo space is expanded by 4 cubic feet, but still less than all of the Kia SUVs above. The Niro EV and HEV offer up to 22.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats when using the lower cargo floor position, while the PHEV only has 19.4 cubic feet due to the combination of the large battery and the discarded fuel tank. lower cargo floor position.

The hybrid powertrain of Kia Niro 2023 is basically carried over from before. Again, it’s a combination of a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter inline-four (unlike the Sportage’s turbo) and a 43-hp electric motor integrated with a manual transmission. six-speed dual. All Niro’s are front-wheel drive. The system’s total output is 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque as before, though the lower curb weight could have contributed to the drop in 0-62 mph time from 11.5 seconds. frozen to 10.4 like a snail. The battery also has more power, and most importantly, the more efficient 2023 Niro hybrid. Estimates energy saving is 53 mpg in the city, 54 mpg on the highway and 53 mpg combined with the LX, EX and SX, and 53/45/49 with the EX Touring and SX Touring. The old Niro comes out on top with 50 pieces combined or 43 on the more decorated cars. If you’re wondering, most versions of the Prius return 52 combinations.

Like other Kia/Hyundai hybrids, this car benefits from a transmission that’s far more natural to drive than any hybrid like Toyota’s CVT. It will even maintain a lower gear for a long time when you pull the paddle shifter. The electric motor is always present when you hit the gas, providing smooth electric torque and minimizing the amount of noise you can hear the 4th engine moving.

The Niro PHEV has that basic powertrain setup, but adds a more powerful engine – 83hp, which is not only more than the HEV but 23hp more than the previous generation PHEV. This eliminates a few more ticks during that 0-62 period (9.6 or 9.8 seconds depending on trim level) despite the larger, heavier battery. It is packed with 11.1 kWh of juice compared to the HEV’s 1.56 kWh and the previous generation PHEV’s 8.9 kWh. A full charge delivers an estimated EPA of 33 miles (compared to 26 last year), which can be replenished in less than 3 hours using a 240-volt outlet.

We only know a little about the PHEV, and due to the logistics involved in the first driving events (we doubt you’re interested), it’s not possible to report how it drives in all-electric mode. With zero electric range, it’s not surprising that it drives like a hybrid. With the remaining range, the gasoline engine will still work if you press the gas as in Sorento Plug-in Hybrid. However, it will work most of the time as an EV, meaning the Niro PHEV is a good choice for those with short commutes and no means of replacing a second car for longer. road trips (although the smaller cargo capacity puts a damper on it).

Currently, the 2023 Kia Niro EV has an estimated range of 253 miles, which exceeds many more expensive EVs. It’s 6 miles better than its closest competitor, Chevrolet Bolt EUVand much better than the 232-mile Standard Range EV6. It’s 50 miles less than the Long Range RWD EV6, but the bigger problem is that the Niro lacks the modern charging capabilities of the EV6. It peaks at a maximum charge of 85 kW, possibly better than the Bolt’s 68 kWh, but falls short of the EV6 Standard Range at 180 kW and the Long Range at 240 kW. For perspective, the fastest you can recharge the Niro from 10-80% is 45 minutes. That’s better than before, but the EV6 can finish it in 18. Admittedly that’s with a rare 350 kW charging station, but you’ll still have to leave that Walmart parking lot sooner with a the EV6 than you are in a Niro EV.

OK, enough with the technique.

Niro EV doesn’t have that acceleration flick off you get with more powerful EVs, but still have enough low- and mid-range punch for those “goodbye” moments on the highway on a ramp or when passing a slingshot away from heavy traffic. It feels like a speedy car even if its 7.8-second 0-60 time shouldn’t surprise anyone (the single-engine EV6 Wind, by the way, only goes well for 7.2 second). Engineers appear to have limited the amount of torque available immediately when the vehicle is stopped, which helps prevent torque deflection, but turning the throttle at a mid-angle will still cause the wheels to jerk. a little.

The Niro EV also feels noticeably smaller and more agile than the EV6, which looks sporty, but ends up feeling like a big, heavy cruiser. Enabling the Niro in Sport mode makes throttle response more responsive and grips the steering wheel, just enough to put a smile on your face. The rest of the time, it’s the kind of smooth ride you’d expect from a commuter EV, though the amount of noise inside is definitely more suited to the Bolt than the EV6, Ioniq 5 or Mach-E.

The Niro hybrid is unsurprisingly the most enjoyable of the bunch as it’s the lightest, and you can certainly feel like you could lure some overdrivers away from it if you feel uncomfortable. None of the Niros has steering that’s worth writing home about and could certainly use more feedback, but it’s reassuring enough at the center. No issues found in ride quality, no doubt helped by the fact that every Niro rides on 16, 17 or 18 inch wheels depending on powertrain and trim level. mind. Yay side.

The electrified powertrain isn’t the only earth-friendly thing about the Niro as the interior boasts plenty of new eco-friendly materials. The header is made of recycled wallpaper (bottom right), which contains 56% recycled polyester fibers. That’s good to hear, because it sounds a little cheaper and even cheaper. The door panels are coated with a paint that is free of benzene, toluene and xylene isomers (without BTX), which helps to minimize environmental impact and waste. The seat is covered with bio-polyurethane and Tencel made from eucalyptus leaves. Hopefully a koala doesn’t starve to make it. The resulting upholstery looks like a mix of fabric and leather, but is in fact 100% vinyl… or whatever. In the end, it looks and feels better than a lot of faux leather out there.

The rest of the cabin benefits from different controls and interfaces that drip from elsewhere in the Kia lineup. Indeed, the resulting overall look is best described as a simpler, more affordable EV6 cabin version. All we’ve said about the great, user-friendly 10.25-inch touchscreen in the EV6 and Sport Also applies when found in the upper Niro trim levels. The included 10.25-inch digital instrument panel comes in different design options – the PHEV and Hybrid seem to share their very digital design with the Sorento PHEV, while the Niro EV shares the meter selection. Sportage Hybrid analog gauge. All of Kia’s latest driver assistance technology is also available, including world-leading highway driving assist technology II, including partially automatic lane change. Just touch the turn signal, keep a finger on the wheel and the car will do the rest. Of course, Bolt EUV is available with Super Cruise, but the difference is not that Great.

It’s almost certainly impossible to talk about pricing, and while we don’t have figures for all versions, it certainly looks problematic. The outward direction The Kia Niro EV ’22 starts at $41,285, including destination, while the 2023 Bolt EUV starts at $28,195. The new Niro EV certainly sounds like a better, more engaging car, but it’s not that much if the price stays the same. Oh, and the Inflation Reduction Act applies (currently) a fantastic $7,500 sale off to the Bolt while taking it out of Niro. A conspiracy theorist could say that Kia is waiting to see if diplomatic and industrial pressure can change the implementation of the new rules, because apparently a price for the 2023 Niro EV has not been offered. in the first driving event. If the discounts disappear and the Niro EV will be more expensive than ever new car is fit to do, then it is a difficult choice to justify a Bolt. There’s also the issue of how close it comes to the larger, more advanced EV6, which starts at $42,115 (Standard Battery) or $48,215 (Long Range RWD).

It will obviously be more than the PHEV, which starts in the EX level at $35,035, or $4,750 more than the base Sportage PHEV trim level, the X-Line. The loaded Niro PHEV SX Touring has an MSRP of $40,785, or $3,500 more than the flagship Sportage plug-in. That feels right, but not so hybrid. Its pricing is a real baffling thing. The base LX hybrid starts at $27,785, including destination, just $800 less than the base Sportage Hybrid LX. Our loaded SX Prestige test machine sold for $36,435, just $1,500 less than a loaded Sportage Hybrid. Maybe we’re just looking at Kia’s actual pricing of the Niro based on seller mark on Sportage, but still. There was no way the distance between the two could be so narrow.

So the price could be a big iceberg or an equally big question mark, and in a way it lingers on what on the other hand is an attractive small car perfectly suited to tastes. and trends today. We wish we could attest to it, but there’s just too much in the air.

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