2019 Kia Niro Introduction

The Kia Niro is the brand’s electrified hatchback. With front-wheel drive, the Niro comes as either a regular hybrid or plug-in hybrid.

The Niro has a low and wide stance, a five-door body, and a rear liftgate for cargo utility. It drives nicely and handles well, thanks to light weight and a low center of gravity. The cabin is quiet, and there’s good room for passengers and cargo.

Both the plug-in hybrid and regular hybrid use a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with direct injection, tuned for the highly efficient Atkinson cycle. It makes 104 horsepower, with an electric motor squeezed between the engine and the 6-speed direct-shift automatic transmission, bringing the combined horsepower to a functional 139, with a strong 195 pound-feet of torque.

The regular hybrid uses a 32-kw (43-hp) motor, with a battery rated at 1.56 kwh. The plug-in hybrid has a more powerful electric motor, at 45 kilowatts (60 hp), while its battery is rated at 8.9 kwh; it can go 26 miles on electric power without using the gas engine. Kia says charging the Niro PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) on a typical Level 2 home charger takes less than three hours.

The Plug-In Hybrid also costs at least $4,200 more than the regular hybrid, almost all of which can be recouped as a federal tax rebate, coupled to other various state incentives.

There’s also the Kia Niro EV, which runs on battery power alone. It’s covered separately.

Not surprisingly, the fuel economy in the hybrid Niro duo is outstanding. The best EPA rating for the regular hybrid is the stripped-down FE model, at 52/49/50 mpg; other models with more equipment and larger wheels drop the mileage down to the fully loaded Touring at 46/40/43 mpg. Those figures are in Eco mode.

The Plug-in Hybrid rates 46 mpg combined when used as a hybrid, but when its 26 miles of all-electric range are considered, that mileage increases. Kia says that on a full battery and full tank of gas, the PHEV can go 550 miles.

The IIHS rates the 2019 Niro as a Top Safety Pick+, with its top “Good” scores on all crash tests—including both front- and passenger-side small overlap crashes. They rate the Niro hybrid’s optional automatic emergency braking system “Superior.” The system is an option on mid-range models, and standard on the Touring.

As for the Plug-in Hybrid, it gets that active safety system standard on all models for 2019. It also gets new headlights on EX and EX Premium models.

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