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2022 Kia Niro

The 2022 Kia Niro is a small hybrid with SUV-ish looks and a spacious cabin. It doesn’t come with all-wheel drive, but the tradeoff to that is fantastic fuel economy plus an available all-electric version.

This year, Kia swaps out the design of its badge, but otherwise leaves the Niro alone. The Niro is offered in a host of trim levels with a choice between a conventional gasoline-electric hybrid, a plug-in hybrid that offers up to 26 miles of range before the gas engine kicks on, and an all-electric version with a decent 239-mile range on a full charge.

Niro and Niro PHEV models use a 1.6-liter inline-4 linked to a dual-clutch automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. PHEV versions use a larger electric motor and battery pack to achieve their emissions-free driving.

The Niro is one of the most frugal new vehicles, besting some hybrids with far more dramatic styling. For drivers who want to make less of a statement while still ignoring gas stations, the Niro offers fuel economy between 43 mpg and 50 mpg combined, depending on the trim level. The Niro PHEV is rated at 46 mpg combined regardless of variant.

Crash-test ratings could be better, however. The NHTSA scores the Niro at four stars overall, though the IIHS gives it mostly “Good” ratings. Automatic emergency braking is standard on all but the base trim level.

Model Lineup

With the standard hybrid powertrain, the Niro comes in LX, LXS, LXS Special Edition, Touring Special Edition, and EX Premium trim levels. The PHEV is offered in mostly similar LXS, EX, and EX Premium trims, while the full EV comes in EX and EX Premium trims.

That’s a lot to take in, so first consider the powertrain you want.

Base LX models cost $25,905 to start and have alloy wheels, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The LXS includes collision-avoidance tech including automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control, plus nicer interior materials and keyless start for $1,400 more, or $30,805 as a PHEV.

Next up, the LXS Special Edition for the standard model only upgrades the upholstery and adds power adjustment for the driver’s seat. Touring Special Editions swap in a 10.3-inch touchscreen and leather upholstery.

The Niro PHEV and EV versions offer an EX trim level that more or less splits the difference between LXS Special Edition and Touring Special Edition versions.

On all, the EX Premium trim is top-of-the-line, with leather trim, cooled front seats, and a moonroof. It costs $33,205 in hybrid guise, $37,705 as a PHEV, and $45,865 as an EV – though those latter two may qualify for tax credits in your area.

Exterior

The Niro looks at first glance like a low-slung SUV thanks to its rugged-style unpainted fender flares and lower trim. On closer inspection, you’ll find soft lines and little ground clearance. It’s an eco-friendly model for drivers who don’t need to shout about their intentions.

PHEV models look just like the standard Niro, aside from a charging port on the left-front fender. The Niro EV has a blocked-out grille and some light blue touches that set it apart. Wheel designs aside, there’s not a huge differentiation between trim levels regardless of what’s underhood.

Interior

Inside, the Niro is clean and fairly high-tech thanks to a relatively large standard touchscreen and an even bigger one on the options list.

Rear-seat riders have decent leg room, but the big draw here is a cargo area that can haul 20 cubic feet of luggage with row two upright and almost 55 cubes with its backrest flopped down.

Driving Impressions

With 139 hp on tap from its 1.6-liter inline-4, its electric motor, and its lithium-ion battery pack, the Niro isn’t a stoplight-racing machine. It does deliver perfectly adequate power in town, and it works well enough with the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic that fires off rapid shifts and mostly works in the background.

The larger battery in Niro PHEV versions endows it with enough electric-only range for many commutes. It’s a quiet, smooth operator with similar performance in EV mode.

The same holds for the Niro EV, though it can be downright peppy when called upon. It’s a near-silent operator, too, since there’s no internal combustion engine thrumming underhood.

Niro models aren’t meant for off-road use, but on pavement they deliver good handling and a comfort-oriented ride.

Final Word

The 2022 Kia Niro is an ultra-frugal choice with a dose of practicality, minus the hybrid stigma. Just don’t look for all-wheel drive.

 

—by Andrew Ganz, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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