Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The 2019 Kia Niro Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and new all-electric Niro EV reject the more futuristic contours of some rivals, offering a look that’s part hatchback, part small SUV. Whichever version you choose, you’ll get a highly efficient, practical and tech-rich carryall with a fantastic warranty.
You'll Like The 2019 Kia Niro If...
If you’re shopping for a hybrid or electric vehicle that’s not too expensive or avant-garde, the 2019 Kia Niro has what you’re looking for. From its stylish exterior to its handsome and functional 5-passenger interior, the Niro is designed to please, as is its standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
You May Not Like The 2019 Kia Niro If...
Comparing the Kia Niro with the Toyota Prius, the Toyota gets better fuel economy and comes standard with driver-assist systems optional on the Kia. Unlike the RAV4 Hybrid, the Niro doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, while its all-electric cousin — the Hyundai Kona EV — has more range than the Niro EV.
The big news for the 2019 Kia Niro lineup is the introduction of the all-electric Niro EV. This battery powered vehicle, currently available in a dozen states, has an impressive range of up to 239 miles and can be recharged to 80 percent in just over an hour on a DC fast charger.
A number of years ago, Kia’s interior design went from frumpy to fantastic, and the cabin of the 2019 Kia Niro is one of the finest in its class. The design is clean and simple with an upscale feel and high-quality materials. The layout is intuitive, and all of the controls work with precision. Seat comfort is excellent, and the 6-speed automatic is controlled with a conventional shifter on the console, which is a good thing. There’s a handy open bin with USB and power ports ahead of the shifter, and the Niro’s audio and climate controls are smartly situated. There’s plenty of rear-seat headroom and legroom for 6-footers, and the 60/40-split-folding seatback adds valuable cargo/passenger flexibility.
Kia markets the new Niro as a compact-crossover SUV, and its exterior design backs up that market position. The hybrid’s black plastic wheel arches, rear skidplate and other design cues add visual height, and its rather formal roofline bears a strong resemblance to Kia’s much larger 3-row Sorento SUV. It all gives the well-proportioned Niro a more rugged appearance than the futuristic Toyota Prius and the mechanically similar Hyundai Ioniq. While every Niro gets body-color door handles and mirrors, you have to reach all the way to the top-line Niro Touring to move out of 16-inch wheel covers into 18-inch alloys. If the Niro EV looks a little taller than the standard hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, it’s not your imagination: The EV’s roof is indeed an inch higher, though ground clearance remains the same as the other models.
Kia wanted to be sure its hybrid kept pace with the company’s sporty image, so it injected the Niro with a nimble platform that feels as good in the turns as it does the open highway. Despite its 139 horsepower and 3,000-pound weight, the Niro accelerates briskly. Setting the drive mode to Sport sharpens the throttle response, improves the 6-speed automatic’s shift points and firms up the steering. We like that Kia has avoided the trend toward using a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) in its hybrid, a decision that doesn’t seem to have affected fuel economy. The 1.6-liter engine and electric motor work seamlessly together, and you’d be hard-pressed to know you’re driving a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, that is, until the electric motor goes solo. In town, the Niro feels right at home, with a tight turning radius and helpful assists such as the standard rearview camera and available rear cross-traffic alert. As an all-electric vehicle, new Kia Niro EV is remarkably quiet – remember, there’s no gasoline engine, and none of the noise and vibration that come with one. With the battery pack mounted low and between the axles, the Niro EV also feels well-planted. It’s pretty quick, too, with Kia pegging the Niro EV’s 0-60 mph time at 7.8 seconds. Electric vehicles are blessed with instant acceleration and loads of torque, and these traits are on full display in the Niro EV.
The 2019 Kia Niro lineup starts with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) around $24,430 and tops out around $33,000 for a fully loaded Niro Touring model, putting it in the same ballpark as the Toyota Prius. The Plug-in LX starts just over $29,000 and tops out around $37,000 for a fully loaded EX Premium. The Kia Niro EV, currently available in a dozen states including California, Washington, New York and Texas, begins at $39,495, including the $995 destination charge. The Niro EV is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, while the Niro Plug-in Hybrid is eligible for a $4,543 credit. While the Niro is covered by Kia’s superior 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the Prius boasts an established reputation and excellent resale value. Given the wide gap in resale, there’s a good chance a $30,000 Niro will cost you more over a full buy-own-sell ownership cycle than a $30,000 Prius. Keep in mind, however, that it’s usually worth spending a little extra to drive the car you prefer. Check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the Kia Niro.
The 2019 Kia Niro lineup begins with the FE trim, but Kia doesn’t plan to sell many of them and you shouldn’t plan to buy one (you get one extra mpg, but it’s not worth the equipment trade-off). So let’s focus on the standard-equipment roster of the Niro LX, which is priced just a few hundred dollars higher than the FE. Highlights include keyless entry and push-button start, UVO3 infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, AM/FM/SiriusXM audio, a 7-inch touch screen, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and dual-zone automatic climate control, to name a few.
A fully loaded 2019 Kia Niro Touring stickers around $33,000 with destination. In addition to 18-inch aluminum wheels and power-folding heated outside mirrors with integrated turn indicators, a loaded Touring model features upgrades like a moonroof and heated and ventilated leather front seats. The touch screen is upgraded to eight inches, sound is upgraded to an 8-speaker Harman Kardon system, and there’s a wireless charger for compatible phones. Then there’s a long list of driver-assist technologies that includes blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control, plus front and rear parking sensors.
REAR CROSS TRAFFIC ALERTThis available option should be offered across the line, but for now is offered only on upper level trims. Using sensors in the rear bumper to scan behind the car, the system can alert the driver of vehicles approaching from the side out of the driver’s line of sight. SPORT MODEWhen penny-pinching fuel economy isn’t your first priority, the Kia Niro’s Sport mode lets you improve acceleration and handling by improving throttle response, firming up the steering and quickening the transmission’s shift points. The system also keeps the engine engaged longer than when in hybrid mode, allowing for instantaneous bursts of power as needed.
Under the Hood
The Kia Niro employs a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with a 43-horsepower tractive motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission. Together, the two units produce a combined 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. A quick-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch automatic improves performance without sacrificing fuel economy. Fuel economy on the FE, LX and EX exceeds 50 mpg in the city, although the slightly heavier and less aerodynamic Touring grades see about a 5-mile-per-gallon drop-off. The Niro Plug-in Hybrid gets a larger battery pack and separate electric motor, allowing an all-electric range of 26 miles and combined fuel-economy rating of 46 mpg/105 MPGe. The Kia Niro electric vehicle has a big, 64-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor that makes 201 horsepower and a robust 291 lb-ft of torque. While you can technically charge it on a 120-volt wall outlet, you probably won’t want to regularly as it takes an estimated 59 hours. A Level 2, 220-volt charger cuts that time to about 9.5 hours. At its best, a DC fast charger can juice the Niro EV to 80 percent in 1 hour and 15 minutes. 2019 Kia Niro Hybrid1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine + 1.56-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery139 horsepower (gas/electric combined)195 lb-ft of torque (gas/electric combined)EPA city/highway fuel economy: 52/49 mpg (FE), 51/46 mpg (EX, LX), 46/40 mpg (Touring) 2019 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid1.6-liter Atkinson cycle inline-4104 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm109 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm44.5-kW Interior-Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor60 horsepower, 125 lb-ft of torqueTotal system output: N/AEPA city/highway fuel economy: 48 mpg/44 mpg/105 MPGe 2019 Kia Niro EVPermanent magnet synchronous motor64-kWh lithium-ion battery pack201 horsepower combined291 lb-ft torque combinedEPA city/highway fuel economy: 123/102 MPGeRange on a full electric charge: 239 miles
The 2019 Kia Niro Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and the new all-electric EV are as family-friendly as they are eco-friendly. The attractive 4-door-hatchback design rejects the more futuristic contours of some rivals, offering a look that’s part hatch, part small SUV. Competing head-on with the more fuel-efficient Toyota Prius, the now-discontinued Chevrolet Volt, and its own cousin the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro faces stiff competition, but is up to the task of ferrying individuals and families who prioritize efficiency. The standard Kia Niro Hybrid attains over 50 mpg, the plug-in variant can travel up to 26 miles on battery power alone, and the Niro EV has an impressive range of 239 miles. The Niro family also benefits from an excellent warranty, a wide range of trims, and a strong roster of safety and tech features.