Our editorial team at The Car Connection wouldn’t call ourselves cheap, but we value a good value. It’s one of the key considerations in deciding on our Best Car To Buy 2023 award, and a key reason why the redesigned 2023 Kia Niro is one of five finalists whittled down from dozens of contenders.
The second-generation Kia Niro grows from its hatchback origins into a small crossover size, though it still only comes with front-wheel drive. It’s larger, roomier, edgier, and more efficient in all three of its powertrain choices, and the only model covering the green spectrum on the powertrain rainbow, with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or full battery electric versions all wearing the same nameplate. With prices ranging from $28,000 for the Kia Niro Hybrid to $40,000 for the Kia Niro EV, there’s a Niro for every powertrain preference and for every budget.
All three are slow, but all three are efficient. And all three have standout styling unlike any other small crossover. A black or silver panel covers the rear end bending from the roof to the rear wheel well, like a boomerang. Also like a boomerang, it was designed with aerodynamics in mind. Kia calls it an air blade and it’s meant to direct air around the tailgate. It’s framed by vertical taillights, but otherwise the Niro has the blocky ends and pronounced rockers of other small crossovers pretending to be larger.
That pretension become reality inside with a wide, open cargo hold totaling 22.8 cubic feet (the plug-in hybrid has 19.4 cubic feet) and with nearly 40 inches of rear legroom. It’s no problem fitting four adults or four collegians and all their dirty laundry for the holiday road trip home. Heated front seats with a power driver seat come in all but the base model, and Kia offers sustainable materials such as recycled wallpaper for the headliner and seat upholstery made from eucalyptus leaves. But Kia should recycle all the gloss black plastic that dominates the cabin.
The real magic sits under the hood or under the cabin floor. The Niro HEV hybrid pairs a 1.6-liter inline-4 with a 32-kw electric motor to produce 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. It won’t go fast but it goes far with an EPA rating of 53 mpg combined, and the power delivery is so smooth between the single motor and the engine as to be unnoticeable.
The Niro PHEV one-ups the hybrid with the same engine paired to a 62-kw motor that’s juiced by an 11.1-kwh lithium-ion polymer battery. Output increases to 180 hp and 195 lb-ft, and the electric range extends to 33 miles when the 2023 Niro is fitted with 16-inch wheels. Both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid use a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The quickest of the bunch, the less glacially slow 2023 Niro EV uses a 64.8-kwh battery pack and a 148-kw (201-hp) motor rated at 188 lb-ft of torque. It’s the quietest, quickest, cleanest, and most efficient of the triplets, and has a range of 253 miles.
Kia also corrects one of the biggest wrongs from the first-gen Niro by equipping all models with driver-assist features that include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, a safe-exit monitor so you don’t open the door into a cyclist or vehicle, and a rear occupant alert system.
The brand’s excellent 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty plus standard features such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make it a great value, but we’d step up to the Niro Hybrid EX to get leather trim, a 10-way power driver seat, heated front seats, and a 10.3-inch touchscreen with wired smartphone compatibility as well as a wireless smartphone charger, all for about $30,000.
With a lower and lowest cost of ownership over the long haul, the Niro PHEV and BEV also entice. All three iterations make the 2023 Kia Niro a strong contender as our best-of-year debate continues.
We’ll announce the winner of our Best Car To Buy 2023 award on Jan. 4, 2023, when we also crown the champs at Motor Authority and Green Car Reports.
- Honda CR-V Hybrid: The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2023 finalist
- Ford F-150 Lightning: The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2023 finalist
- IIHS: Most small crossovers fail to protect rear passengers
- Acura Integra: The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2023 finalist
- Subaru recalls 2019-2022 Ascent SUVs for increased fire risk