2020 Kia Niro

By April 24, 2020

The 2020 Kia Niro hatchback is available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric EV. It’s been updated for 2020 with fresh styling and a revised instrument panel with larger infotainment screen.

Most Niros on dealer lots are the standard hybrid, which uses a 139-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-4 to send power to the front wheels through a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The Niro plug-in hybrid adds a bigger battery that gives it about 26 miles of electric-only range, after which it behaves just like the standard car.

The Niro EV uses an electric motor and a much larger battery pack good for upward of 200 horsepower, nearly 240 miles of electric range, and excellent acceleration. It gives the Chevy Bolt EV a serious run for the money, and from a practicality standpoint offers most of what the Tesla Model 3 does, at a fraction of the price.

The Niro hybrid performs adequately in around-town driving but falls short in passing. Its soft ride and pleasant handling, not to mention its sky-high economy, make it a great commuter car.

The cabin is spacious, with an updated dash this year that houses a bright digital instrument cluster and excellent infotainment software run through either a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen or an optional 10.3-inch touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard, as are Bluetooth and plenty of USB ports.

The hybrid is EPA-rated at a heady 51 mpg city, 46 highway, 49 combined. The Touring model, with bigger wheels, drops down to 46/40/43 mpg.

The plug-in hybrid is rated at 46 mpg combined and has a 26-mile estimated electric-only range.

At nearly 240 miles, the Niro EV’s range is a bit better than the Chevy Bolt EV and well over the Nissan Leaf. It’s only available in some markets.

The NHTSA hasn’t crash tested the Niro yet, however the IIHS rated the 2019 Niro a Top Safety Pick+ when fitted with the available HID headlights.

The base Niro LX lacks automatic emergency braking, although it comes on the LXS, along with active lane control.

Model Lineup

The Niro comes as LX, LXS, EX Premium, Touring, and Touring Special Edition. The LX comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, a digital instrument cluster, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, and power features.

The LXS adds automatic emergency braking with active lane control, keyless ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a few other features.

The EX Premium adds adaptive cruise control.

The Touring Special Edition heaps on synthetic leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats, a 10.3-inch touchscreen with navigation and upgraded Harman Kardon audio, and a few other features.

Exterior

The Niro is plain and simple, clean and curvy. Its wide grille is accented by the mustache-like design that’s found on other Kias. Its big wheel wells and rocker panels are adorned with unpainted trim to look rugged.

Big taillights don’t draw much attention to their design. Only the aerodynamic wheels, designed to cheat the wind rather than win beauty awards, mark the Niro as a high-mileage special.

Interior

The cabin materials in the 2020 Niro are durable but far from dressy. The seats are cloth on most models, with synthetic leather available. The hues are uninspiring, although there is a black with red accents that changes the mood. There’s more detail in the dash and door panels this year, while hard plastics (with a pleasant matte finish) cover the surfaces.

The controls are easy to sort out. The standard 8.0-inch touchscreen can be optioned away by a high-resolution 10.3-inch display, while the instrument cluster is a 7.0-inch screen.

The Niro’s crossover shape gives great space inside. Tall people will have no problems in the front, although the comfort of the driver’s seat doesn’t last for as many hours as more expensive cars with more degrees of adjustment.

Rear-seat legroom is 37.4 inches, good for a car of this size. Cargo space is also good, nearly 20 cubic feet with the rear seat up, and an impressive 54.5 cubic feet with it down. The cargo floor is fairly low, too, thanks to the fact that there are no all-wheel-drive components under the body.

Driving Impressions

The Niro is a quiet, relaxing cruiser, which is something that can’t be said about many cars of this price. But it’s not much of a performance machine. The hybrid and plug-in use a 1.6-liter inline-4 that makes just 139 horsepower, which delivers power to the front wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Most versions of the Niro can accelerate to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, according to Kia. The power builds without much eagerness, and the twin-clutch tranny sometimes pauses between shifts at low speeds. There are a couple of driving modes, Eco and Sport, but Sport seems to change only the steering resistance.

The Niro doesn’t offer any thrills on a winding road, however the ride is well tuned, and it doesn’t lean too much when it’s pushed. Narrow tires raise the fuel economy a bit.

The Niro EV is available only in some markets. It uses a permanent-magnet motor that powers the front wheels and makes 201 hp and 291 pound-feet of torque, to give it more performance than the Hybrid. The 64-kwh battery gives it a range of nearly 240 miles.

Final Word

The 2020 Kia Niro offers a lot for the money, starting with its hybrid powerplant that brings awesome fuel economy. The cabin is spacious and offers high-quality materials, especially the available 10.3-inch touchscreen and synthetic leather. Hybrids are a bargain—and so are the all-electric versions, for those who qualify for substantial state and federal tax credits.

 

—by Sam Moses, with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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