Monday, February 27, 2017

Hyundai and Kia Now Have As Many Hybrids As Toyota

This year the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group will be selling as many hybrids and plug-in hybrids in the U.S. as king-of-hybrids Toyota, and what this might lead to remains to be seen.
Hyundai and Kia have said their goal is to become no less than the world’s second-biggest seller of electrified vehicles by 2020, with the assumption that Toyota will remain number one.
By the fourth quarter when the Ioniq plug-in hybrid is released, Hyundai and Kia combined will have eight hybrids and plug-in hybrids on offer – numerically matching Toyota, and excluding upscale Lexus – but sales is another matter.
2016 Prius Liftback. The other models of Toyota’s eight hybrids are: RAV4, Prime PHV, Camry, Prius c, Prius v, Avalon, Highlander. Its upscale Lexus division which normally is not cross-shopped with Hyundai/Kia has five more models.
Basically, Toyota crushes the hybrid segment, it’s also slowly branching toward plug-ins, and overall Hyundai and Kia do not hold a candle to its tremendous market advantage – but its product roster may begin to capture market share, or so Hyundai and Kia hope.
Hyundai is just now releasing its thrifty Ioniq Hybrid with the Plug-in due to follow, and Kia has also launched its hybrid Niro hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants.
Hyundai has already launched the second-generation Sonata Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid version of the Sonata, and Kia likewise has its similarly positioned Optima hybrid and plug-in hybrid.
With revision of the 42 mpg Sonata Hybrid with unique automatic transmission, Hyundai released a plug-in version as well with 27 miles EV range. Kia’s Optima borrows the powertrain from both for its hybrid an plug-in versions.
Last year in the U.S., Hyundai sold about 23,000 of the two Sonata variants, and Kia sold 11,500 of its Optima Hybrid with the plug-in version coming to market this year – respectable, but not overwhelming.
By contrast, Toyota sold almost 114,000 of its Prius Liftback alone, over 45,000 of its RAV4 Hybrid, over 22,000 Camry Hybrids, over 20,000 Prius c models, almost 15,000 Prius v models, and its Prius Prime plug-in is coming online too.
Clearly Toyota dwarfs Hyundai and Kia but they are meanwhile posturing themselves on the assumption of further growth, and on paper, they have strong contenders to help do this and reinforcements are on the way.

The Ioniqs

Hyundai’s four hybrid models are the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, Sonata Hybrid, and Sonata Plug-in Hybrid. For extra measure the Ioniq comes in a battery electric too. Kia’s four hybrids are the Niro Hybrid, Niro Plug-in Hybrid due this year, Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid. That’s eight for eight between Hyundai/Kia and Toyota.
Hyundai’s Ioniq – which also come in a battery electric version for which that Toyota does not have a corollary – was benchmarked against the Prius Liftback and Prime and beats it in a few ways. Arguably.
Hyundai has not said it will surpass Prius sales, but its 58 mpg Ioniq Blue hybrid, and 27-mile estimated range Ioniq PHEV hit Toyota in its chief bragging rights. Its Prius Liftback gets 52 or 56 mpg depending on trim, and its Prime PHV is rated 25 miles EV range.
Toyota has an enormous head start in establishing its quality, resale value, reputation for durability and reliability, so it is up to Hyundai to chip away where it can.
Styling also may help, as the Prius has caught flak for its design, whereas the Ioniqs – with conventional DCT automatic instead of CVT transmissions – are poised to win converts.


Kia has potentially as worthy a contender in its new Niro. With a plug-in version due, and available in three hybrid trims ranging from 43 mpg, 49 mpg and 50 mpg, this is excellent fuel economy with the extra added bonus of being a small crossover.
You may have heard crossovers and SUVs are trending in America and sedans are on the defensive.
Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid has rocketed to near the top of the hybrid sales chart this year.
Though only front wheel drive, and not AWD like Toyota’s second-ranked hybrid the RAV4, the Niro trounces it in fuel economy, and has good utility, styling and starts $7,000 less at $23,000.
Compared also to Toyota’s Prius c subcompact hatch and Prius v wagon which are yet to be refreshed, the Niro – and Hyundai Ioniqs mentioned – look like attractive alternatives to cross shop.

Just Getting Started

Hyundai and Kia plan 26 electrified vehicles including fuel cell varieties by 2020.
These 26 planned Hyundai and Kia vehicles will be comprised of at least a dozen hybrids, half a dozen plug-in hybrids, two EVs and two fuel cell vehicles.
As one can see, the Korean carmakers are being more adventurous in the plug-in market with four models to Toyota’s one as of 2017. Also, they even beat it to the FCV punch with its Tucson compared to Toyota’s Mirai – neither of which is selling many units at this stage.
On the global scale, even with an onslaught of competitive products, Hyundai and Kia will have their work cut out for them.
Last year Toyota sold 1.2 million hybrids worldwide. Hyundai sold 42,900 hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and Kia sold 18,735 hybrids.

Toyota’s Take

The Prius Prime now has 25 miles EV range, 54 mpg in hybrid mode, and prices start competitively midway within the Prius price range.
While Hyundai and Kia did not start selling hybrids until this decade, Toyota began in 1997 with the original Prius in Japan and just last week announced sale of its 10-millionth hybrid worldwide.
Environmental Communications Manager Jana Hartline says the carmaker has established no specific 2020 electrification goals like Hyundai and Kia have, but Toyota has “a deep commitment to vehicle electrification and to advancing drive-battery technology.”
This includes “conventional hybrid, pure electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles” – to readers who’ve poked Toyota for being reluctant to head to battery electrics, take note of its stated general intentions.
And, while not resting on its laurels, Hartline did mention laurels.
“Since the creation of hybrid synergy drive in the mid-nineties,” she said, “no one has done more for the electrification of the automobile than Toyota.”
But where will it go from here? The plan to cut CO2 emissions will be market by market based on “energy issues and infrastructure in each county/region.” Harltine says Toyota will account also for customer needs as it steadily introduces FCVs, EVs and other zero-emission vehicles in markets around the world.
The Camry Hybrid was revised in 2015 but its powertrain was developed in 2012. The 2018 Camry Hybrid promises to remedy that with Prius-like fuel economy.
“The accumulation of knowledge and experience related to hybrid technologies, will help Toyota hone its motorization (electrification) technologies,” Hartline said. “Also, on Dec. 1, 2016, TMC established the EV Business Planning Department to help further development of zero emission vehicles.”
Meanwhile Hyundai and Kia hope to rapidly accelerate, they have developed products that stand to compete well, and they have as many of them as Toyota for what that is worth at this stage.
Clearly Hyundai and Kia’s eight hybrids are more a measure of quantity over quality with regard to sales at this point, but this, says the Korean automaker, is just the beginning, so time will tell.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Unsurprisingly, the 2017 Kia Cadenza's price undercuts its competition

When we drove the 2017 Kia Cadenza, it struck us as being "fine." It doesn't stand out from the mundane crowd of near-luxury sedans, but also manages to hold its own in an unexciting-by-design segment. If the car's styling and the driving experience weren't enough to get you interested in the Cadenza, maybe the price will.

The Cadenza will be offered in three trims: Premium, Technology, and Limited. The Premium trim will start at $32,890, representing a $950 decrease from the least-expensive 2016 Cadenza model. There are two packages available on the Premium: the $3,000 Luxury package and $1,000 Panoramic Sunroof package. The Luxury Package adds a variety of features, including a Harman Kardon 12-speaker audio system, and power-folding outside mirrors, as well as a rear parking assist system. As its name implies, the panoramic sunroof package adds a massive sunroof with a power-operating shade, as well as LED interior lighting. The contents of both come standard on the upper trim levels.

The next step up is the Technology trim, which adds things like autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and high-beam assist, and has a starting price of $39,890. The range-topping Limited trim adds Nappa leather seats, a head-up display, a feature to open the trunk when you're standing nearby, and other goodies for $45,290.

And for people doing some cross-shopping, the base price of the Premium trim undercuts those of the Cadenza's competitors – the Nissan MaximaToyota Avalon, and Buick LaCrosse. So there's something to be excited about.


Monday, February 20, 2017

The 2017 Kia Niro is the most affordable hybrid SUV

Kia’s newest vehicle, the 2017 Niro, is the lowest-priced, gasoline-electric hybrid SUV on the market and is rated as high as 50 miles per gallon in combined city/highway travel.
Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $23,785 for a front-wheel drive, five-seat Niro FE with four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor and lithium ion battery pack to generate a total of 139 horsepower.
The base price includes an automatic transmission, rearview camera, keyless entry, cruise control, seven air bags, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, audio controls on the steering wheel and a 7-inch display screen in the middle of the dashboard.
Even with luxury features added, such as a Harman Kardon premium sound system, leather-trimmed seats, power sunroof, navigation system and heated steering wheel, the Niro still can be priced under $31,000. This pricing undercuts other hybrid SUVs that combine power from an onboard electric motor with a gasoline engine for optimum fuel mileage, such as the 2017 Toyota RAV4, which starts at $29,990.

However, Toyota’s 2017 Prius c small hatchback remains the lowest-priced hybrid car in the United States with a starting MSRP plus destination charge of $21,035.
While affordability is the Niro’s most attractive trait, this small SUV also appeals with its comfortable seating positions, pleasant driving traits, decent passenger space and flexible, SUV-like cargo room.
Similar in size to the 2017 Honda HR-V and Buick Encore small SUVs, the five-door Niro slots below the Sportage as Kia’s smallest SUV.
The Niro is sold only as a hybrid, so the onboard electric motor and lithium ion battery pack supplement the rather meager power — 104 horsepower and 109 foot-pounds of torque — of the 1.6-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection, four-cylinder engine.
Maximum horsepower totals 139, while torque can peak quickly at 195 foot-pounds to move the Niro in plucky, but not overtly sporty, fashion.
There’s no droning or stressing of a continuously variable transmission in the Niro during acceleration as there are in most other gas-electric hybrids.
Kia uses a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission in the Niro for more natural-feeling gearing and responsiveness. It worked well most of the time in the test Niro Touring model. But occasionally, the transition between power sources felt less than seamless.
Regenerative braking and the engine help replenish the battery pack, but a plug-in Niro is due later in 2017.
The top fuel mileage of 52 mpg in city driving and 49 mpg on highways is for the base, Niro FE model, which weighs the least. City mileage is rated higher than highway mileage because the electric power is able to assist more often in city travel.
The test Niro Touring, which is the heaviest of all Niros at well over 3,200 pounds, was rated at 46/40 mpg by the U.S. government and averaged 38.8 mpg during the test drive with some aggressive driving. This real world mileage translated to an impressive 462 miles on a single tank of fuel.
The Niro, which is wider than the HR-V and Encore, felt stable and roomy and had an unexpectedly quiet interior.
Back-seat passengers have 37.4 inches of legroom, while there’s nearly 42 inches for front-seat riders. Headroom all around is more than 39 inches.
The luxury features in the Touring model included heated and ventilated front seats, memory driver seat, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, turn signals in the outside mirrors, front and rear park assist, leather, sunroof, 18-inch wheels, and premium audio.
Outside styling is mainstream and not particularly memorable, but everything was easy to understand and well organized inside the Niro.
Rear seatbacks fold down flat to expand cargo space. The cargo floor sits up at bumper level, so there’s no lifting heavy objects up and out.
All-wheel drive is not offered on the Niro, and towing capacity is limited.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Kia Niro proves comfortable, quiet midsize hybrid

Mike Torpey was doodling while talking on the phone.
More precisely, the chief exterior designer for the new Kia Niro was making yet another sketch of what that hybrid compact crossover might look like.
He felt a certain freedom as he drew.
“It was a clean slate, no baggage,” he recalled. “We were reimagining a hybrid from the ground up.”
Torpey knew what he wanted — and what he didn’t want. Primarily, he didn’t want to “over-celebrate technology” as was the case with some early hybrids.
“Those first cars wanted to make damn sure people knew what you were driving,” he said.
Clearly, “a Cracker Jack toy that says look at me” was not what Torpey had in mind. Neither was a car that asked: “What is this? Darth Vader’s bathroom?”
What he did want was what market research suggested the customer now wants in a hybrid: something as handsome as it is economical and efficient.
When he finished the Niro doodle, he was a happy man.

“It was the first doodle that made sense,” he said. “It had a real nice stance, and didn’t look like an appliance. … It looked aggressive, but not scary.”
He also joyfully concluded that it didn’t look like a hybrid.
Ultimately, the Niro isn’t a startling style departure. But it is a handsome, engaging design that belongs in Crossoverville’s prettiest neighborhood.
I don’t know, however, that the Niro’s name is as successful as its design. Niro, named for a Kia concept car, sounds like Nero, a Roman emperor who didn’t achieve role-model status.
Nero executed his mother and poisoned his stepbrother. He dipped Christians in oil and then ignited them to provide lighting for his garden. It is believed that he set Rome on fire to clear land for a palace.
Safe to say that Kia will not be embroidering the emperor’s visage on the Niro’s headrests.
After you get past the Niro’s name, its story is rather uplifting. Now making its debut in the showrooms, this comely compact crossover proves affordable, predictably fuel efficient, quite roomy, and endowed with reasonable comfort and performance.
The Niro starts at $22,890, which gets you the base FE model. The LX is $23,200, the EX is $25,700, and the Touring is $29,650.
There is a marked difference in fuel economy between the two cars I tested: the base FE and the top-of-the-line Touring. The FE has EPA mileage ratings of 52 city and 49 highway. The Touring is an appreciably lower 46 and 40. The reason for that, according Orth Hedrick, Kia’s vice president for product planning, is tire size. He said the 18-inch tires on the Touring “dramatically increase” the friction created by the smaller 16s on the FE.
Those wider, lower-aspect 18-inch tires on the Touring, intended to improve cornering, also result in a somewhat firmer ride. Hedrick told me he is lobbying to make the Touring available with both the 18s and the better-riding 16s. Personally, I didn’t find the Touring ride objectionable, or the FE’s much softer.
The one possible sales deterrent for the front-drive Niro in the Philadelphia area is the fact that it isn’t also offered with all-wheel drive.
“This was mainly a packaging issue,” Hedrick said. “We wanted to maximize interior space.”
The Niro’s interior volume, 116 cubic feet, is considerable for a compact. The midsize Kia Optima is only four cubic feet more.
The Niro proved a nice driver. It was comfortable and quiet, with competent handling and reasonable power. The latter is provided by a 1.6-liter gas engine and an electric motor that produce a total of 139 horsepower and a goodly 195 pounds of torque.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Finally – a sub-compact hybrid that’s fun to drive


    • What’s Best: Great fuel mileage, large passenger and cargo volume and the latest hybrid technology.
    • What’s Worst: Plug-in hybrid should be part of the Niro mix, but I understand Kia is working on it.
    • What’s Interesting: Sub-compact hybrids are usually about maximizing fuel economy, usually at the expense of driving enjoyment, but not the Niro.

SAN ANTONIO, TX: It wasn’t so much the impressive 40.2 mpg I achieved driving the 2017 Kia Niro hybrid, but the fun I had doing it.
Fun and hybrid sounds like an oxymoron and this was not a $60K Euro hybrid sports sedan, but a sub-compact, five-door crossover with a starting price of $24,995.
Get in the cabin and the sense of bigger than sub-compact is immediately noticeable with, for example, rear head and knee room at 993 mm and 950 mm respectively.
Then behind the second row seat there is 634 litres of cargo space and 1,789 litres when folded.
The layout of the instrument panel is very clean in its execution, with a Kia presenter at the press launch noting the large knobs are just right for winter HVAC controls.
On the topline model I was driving, there was a cubbie with two 12-volt power points, auxiliary in, USB port and wireless charging for a cellphone.
The Niro is a front driver with a newly designed six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission which is standard.
Power comes from a 1.6-litre direct injection inline four-cylinder using the Atkinson Cycle producing 104 hp and 108.5 lb/ft of torque mated to a 43 hp electric motor for a combined 139 hp and 195 lb/ft of torque.
The 1.56 kWh polymer lithium-ion battery can be shaped and fits neatly under the rear seat thus maximizing cargo volume.
What my co-driver and I noticed right off the bat was the quietness of the cabin with the engine running at highway speeds.
This is partly due to the use of specially engineered engine mounts, equal-length halfshafts and a damper found inside the steering wheel hub that quells road vibration.
To this is added extensive sound insulation, optimized suspension bushing stiffness, tight body sealing followed up by the use of expanding foam inside the A- and B-pillars that all mitigate road and tire noise from entering the cabin. Lastly, acoustic windshield glass and aero-shaped side mirrors help mitigate wind noise.
And the Niro is probably the most aerodynamic sub-compact five-door on the market with a drag co-efficient of just 0.29. This is accomplished by a number of design elements such as the upper rear spoiler that reduces drag, improved underbody and engine air flow with an active air flap built into the front bumper grills and a rear muffler spoiler.
Because it operates so quietly, Niro is equipped with a Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS) that generates the sound of an engine so pedestrians can hear it coming at slow speeds.
But what my co-driver and I were aiming at was what kind of mileage could we expect in everyday driving conditions without resorting to the endless coasting and braking to gain recuperative electricity.
Now a crew of professional Niro drivers recently set a Guinness World Record (US) of 76.6 mpg from Los Angeles to New York City (3,714.5 miles) on just 4.1 tanks of gas.
We knew we couldn’t come close, but didn’t want to. We drove normally, relying on the Hybrid System Gauge on the upper left of the main instrument cluster which showed when the battery was being charged by regeneration, Eco mode when driving in an eco-friendly manner and Power when exceeding eco-friendly parameters.
Just below this is the battery State Of Charge (SOC) gauge that shows how much juice is in the battery. On the centre touchscreen here is a depiction of energy flow routes, 11 of them no less.
The result after a morning and afternoon of driving mostly north and east of San Antonio was (US) 40.2 mpg and we were not trying that hard. With a little around-town coasting/braking (US) 45-46 mpg is attainable.
According to Kia, the base L model does 4.5/4.8/4.7L/100 km city/highway/combined. The mid-trim EX, because of more content, does 4.6/5.1/4.8L/100 km, while the topline SX —which I was driving with even more content — recorded 5.1/5.8/5.4L/100 km.
There will be four trim levels with the base L at $24,999. At this writing pricing for the EX, EX-Premium and SX were still being worked out.
During the press briefing, the subject of where the name Niro came from came up and we were told it was a kind of mix of “Near Zero” and “Hero” which is nifty in an era when carmakers are increasingly going for anything alphanumeric.
But when you can get the kind of average mileage which roughly equates to 5.8L/100 km, you’re doing darn good.
So when it comes to fuel efficiency, Niro is definitely a hero.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

BODY STYLE: Sub-compact, five-door hybrid
DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, front-wheel-drive, six-speed dual clutch transmission
ENGINE: 1.6-litre inline Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder (104 hp, 108.5 lb/ft of torque; electric motor (43 hp) for a combined 139 hp, 195 lb/ft of torque.
CARGO: 634 litres back seat up, 1,789 litres folded
TOWING: Not recommended
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) L, 4.5/4.8/4.7L/100 km city/highway/combined; EX/EX Premium, 4.6/5.1/4.8L/100 km; SX, 5.1/5.8/5.4L/100 km
PRICE: L, $24,995; EX/EX Premium/SX TBA


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Soul And Sorento Named Best Cars for the Money From U.S. News & World Report

IRVINE, Calif.Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The 2017 Soul and Sorento have received 2017 Best Cars for the Money awards from U.S. News and World Report.  U.S. News recognized vehicles across 20 categories that provide consumers with the best combination of quality and value, naming Soul Best Compact Car for the Money and Sorento the Best 3-Row SUV for the Money.
"We're honored that U.S. News named the Soul and Sorento winners within their respective categories for 2017," said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning KMA. "The entire Kia model line – including our iconic urban passenger vehicle and three-row SUV – offers a winning blend of sophisticated design and user-friendly technology with a consistent emphasis on value."

The U.S. News & World Report rankings compare cars on the basis of safety, reliability and a consensus of industry experts' opinions, along with value – which is measured by a combination of a vehicle's five-year total cost of ownership and the average price paid for the vehicle at the time the awards are published.
"The Kia Soul and Kia Sorento were both named as winners in our Best Cars for the Money Awards because both present excellent long-term value in their respective classes. The Soul stands out among compact cars for its abundance of cargo and passenger space and modern interior design, all for an excellent price," said Colin Aylesworth, U.S. News Senior Editor. "Like the Soul, the Sorento presents a great value to shoppers in the midsize SUV class. In addition to a great starting price, the Sorento offers user-friendly tech features, great fuel economy with its base engine, and available third-row seating."
For 2017, the Soul Exclaim gains a 201-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged engine for more fun than ever. Though the 1.6-liter turbo engine adds 40 horsepower, fuel economy is 28 miles-per-gallon, city and highway combined — slightly better than the combined mileage of the 2.0-liter normally-aspirated 161-hp engine in the Soul Plus and in the Soul Base 1.6-liter, which produces 130 horsepower. Performance in the turbocharged Exclaim is further enhanced by the addition of a new 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), which contributes to a more engaging driving experience. Other new options for the 2017 model year are convenience systems such as Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Detection. The 2017 Exclaim also gets standard UVO3 with e-Services with integrated Android Auto™3 and Apple CarPlay.
The 2017 Sorento offers a host of previously unavailable driver assistance features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking and Dynamic Bending Lights. When equipped with optional front-crash prevention, the Sorento is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick Plus (TSP+).

Monday, February 6, 2017

Kia wins USA TODAY's Ad Meter behind Melissa McCarthy's 'Hero's Journey'

No one had a better night than Tom Brady, but Melissa McCarthy and Kia came close.
Her slapstick shtick for Kia won the 29th annual USA TODAY Ad Meter competition in a crazy commercial where she gets bounced out of a boat by a rampaging whale, among other ecological calamities.
The 60-second spot, called “Hero’s Journey,” is about an eco-warrior called on to save the whales — and the trees and the polar ice caps. Each time she strives heroically but ends up with the sort of cartoonish comeuppance more commonly associated with Wile E. Coyote. (Except that he chased the Roadrunner, while she gets chased by rhinos.)
The ad’s save-the-planet theme dovetails with the 2017 Kia Niro, which the company ballyhoos as a smarter kind of crossover. The spot was created by the David & Goliath agency, which is based in El Segundo, Calif.

Car humor won the day last year, too, when Hyundai took the prize for an ad starring Kevin Hart. This makes two years in a row for automakers after Anheuser-Busch InBev won it the three previous years.
Car companies drove off with Ad Meter’s second and third places too. Honda scored for a 60-second spot called “Yearbooks.” Real photos of nine celebrities in their youth come to life and talk about the power of dreams. They are (in alphabetical order) Amy Adams, Steve CarellViola DavisMissy ElliottTina FeyMagic JohnsonJimmy KimmelStan Lee and Robert Redford.
Audi offered “Daughter,” a powerful 60-second spot that shows a father watching his daughter weave her way down the course in a cart race. Her father worries about her place in the world as she drives to first place in the race. The ad fades to black as these words appear: “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work. Progress is for everyone.”
“Born the Hard Way,” an ad telling the immigrant story of Budweiser co-founder Adolphus Busch, finished fourth. And “#BradshawStain” — Terry Bradshaw’s meta spot for Tide about a spot on his shirt — finished fifth.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: Kia Niro lights a fire with looks, performance

It's rare that we come across a new car that hits all the right notes.
So it's hard to restrain our enthusiasm for the new Kia Niro, a small hybrid crossover.

If you live in a city, it's just the right size to squeeze into those annoyingly tight "compact" parking spaces. Yet inside, there is enough room to handle cargo and people, including a 6-foot-2 bloke like myself who admired the headroom both front and back.
The car is a joy to drive, especially when it comes to its tight turning radius.
The Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that puts out 139 horsepower in tandem with its batteries and electric motor. Doesn't sound like much, but it was plenty for urban scooting. The powertrain, including the six-speed transmission, was well behaved and quiet.
That performance alone would be fine, but consider the gas mileage: At 52 miles per gallon in the city, 49 mpg in the city and 50 mpg overall, the new Niro's numbers come close to the hybrid leader, Toyota's indefatigable Prius sedan, and exceed the Prius V crossover.
Then, there's the styling, which is impressive from outside since small boxy cars generally lack the stature to look bold, modern and inviting. We were even more captivated by the inside, with a dashboard so clean and thoroughly European that, had we not known better, we would have thought we were in a Volkswagen or Volvo.
The new Niro is priced to start at $22,890, plus $895 in destination charges. The price sandwiches it between the slightly smaller, non-hybrid Honda HR-V at $19,465 and the slightly larger, non-crossover Prius sedan at $24,465.
For all the things it does well, Niro arrives in an era of cheap gas when motorists may not pay heed to hybrids. We wonder if Kia will create a non-hybrid version with an even cheaper pricetag. But there's no reason not consider this one if you're in the market for small SUV.

What stands out

Looks: Sharp inside and out
Size: Just right for the city
Price: Affordable for a hybrid crossover

2017 Kia Niro

What? A small five-passenger hybrid SUV
When? In showrooms "in next few weeks"
Where? Made in South Korea
How big? 14.3 feet long
What makes it go? A 1.6-liter four cylinder gas engine and electric motor
How thirsty? 52 miles per gallon in the city, 49 mpg on the highway, 50 mpg overall
How much? Starts at $22,890, plus $895 in destination charges
Overall? Good in so many ways