Like other carmakers, Kia is continuing to build up its fleet of electrified vehicles and the hybrid Niro EX Premium underscores the commitment to using battery power.
But the hybrid Niro also is a compact vehicle with features found on more expensive vehicles and ample power for the kind of everyday driving challenges that most Americans while out on road for a trip to work or to school or on ordinary errands.
Overview: The Niro EX is roomy enough for comfort but small e
nough to get into tight spaces in city driving or crowded suburban areas. It’s also designed and equipped to keep the driver and passengers safe and connected and, by today’s standards, it is also surprising affordable. It also delivers amazing fuel economy that even when the price of gasoline is relatively low is a nice feature.
(Kia reshapes brand, teases 7 new BEVs, and new line of what it calls PBVs.)
Exterior: The 2020 Niro EX Premium has a confident stance and handsome appearance that is fortified by the distinctive front face with its own unique version of the Shark nose grille set off by the headlamps and fog lights and Kia insignia.
The Niro EX silhouette is also set off by the roof line that slopes to the rear while nicely styled doors and sheet metal that add to the overall character of the vehicle that rides on what was once a passenger-car platform that has been converted for use as a crossover vehicle that has become of one the most common and most popular shapes on the road today.
The design of the rear liftgate is workmanlike. It also is lightweight, making it easy to raise and lower. The 16-inch wheels and roof rails complete the vehicles exterior look.
Interior: Designers of the 2020 Niro EX faced two challenges: make it roomy and make it look smart, even when they do not have a big working budget. Fortunately, Kia has a design philosophy that stretches in interior space and the Niro EX is roomy in the driver’s seat and in the second-row seats for extra passengers.
Even the area under the rear hatch is roomy enough for packages and sports gear. The quality of the materials used throughout the interior while not exactly luxurious are solid and neatly combined to produce a handsome interior.
The controls in the instrument cluster, which show of the workings of the battery and regenerative braking system, are easy to read — even when driving at night. The driver’s seat offers plenty of visibility. There also is a power sunroof, steering wheel controls and a heated steering wheel and seats.
(Kia readying first dedicated battery-electric vehicle.)
Powertrain: The powertrain of the Niro EX is built around 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, which is coupled with a 43-horsepower electric motor through driven by 1.56-Kilowatt lithium-ion polymer battery. The shifts are handled by an automatic 6-speed quick shift dual clutch transmission with a sport mode.
There is also a regenerative braking system that recharges the battery in short spurts and an integrated stop-and-start system that comes into play when the vehicle’s idling. The fuel economy delivered by the Niro EX is impressive, coming in with a combined EPA rating of 49 miles per gallon and 51 mpg in city driving and 46 mpg on the highway.
Technology and Safety: For an affordable vehicle selling for just above $35,000, the Niro EX Premium comes with log list of safety and technological features among the Bluetooth, Sirius XM radio, 7-inch color instrument cluster, 10.25-inch entertainment and navigation screen, wireless phone charger and USB multimedia port and Harmon/Kardon Premium auto.
Driver assistance and safety features include enhanced forward collision alert with cyclist detection, smart cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection, parking assist and rear camera with dynamic lines to help guide the driver is backing up. The Niro also is equipped with Kia’s UVO connectivity subscription system.
Driving Impressions: The nice thing about the Niro EX Premium is if you were not checking the power draw on the battery in the instrument cluster, there was little to remind you were driving a hybrid. The Niro was quick and responsive and the shifts smooth regardless of the situation.
In addition, the Niro’s driving dynamics were very good. It is not a highly tuned sports sedan, but the ride and handling were quite good and helped, I suspect, by the extra weight from the lithium-ion batteries. The brakes are particularly good, helped by the regenerative braking system. The extra weight also helped the Niro handle well on variety of wet or slick surfaces. Basically, it was a vehicle that was pleasant to drive and could go anywhere on pavement.
(Kia will replace the old Sedona minivan with the new Carnival.)
Wrap Up: I suspect there are certain buyers for whom the Niro EX offers a “Goldilocks” experience of sorts. It is not too big but has room for children as well as being versatile enough to carry lots of packages and luggage.
It also gets impressive fuel economy and comes with a lot of the technology that today’s buyers crave as well as the driving assistance features, they should desire in a compact vehicle. It is also nimble enough to use on errands in urban areas or crowded suburbs. In other words, it is probably a good fit for a lot of singles or small families looking for compact vehicle that looks good and can handle a variety of conditions and situations.