2023 Kia Niro Hybrid SX

Efficiency is where the Niro really shines.
Efficiency is where the Niro really shines.

by Zack Zeraldo | April 27, 2023

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As electric power begins its apparent takeover of the automotive landscape, the various manufacturers are all in very different places in terms of their readiness and adaptation of the new technology. Kia has emerged as quiet leader in the space; they offer a broad range of hybrid and electric options. Perhaps the most interesting in their offering is the Niro, which has been totally redesigned for 2023 and is available as a traditional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and as a full EV. We spent a week with the most affordable of the lot, the traditional hybrid, this 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid SX.

While the previous Niro was absolutely forgettable styling wise, Kia has made an effort to counter that with a much edgier looking style this time around. The Niro, while sitting relatively tall, is still what I would consider a five-door hatchback, rather than a compact crossover, which is a good thing as it offers a much more car-like driving experience. Body lines are crisp, clean and flow well, with gloss black accents providing a bit of European flare. Our tester came finished in beautiful Cityscape Green, and I am personally very excited to see green making a bit of a comeback on cars.

The interior of the Niro is standard Kia; practicality and space efficiency is strong, but there’s nothing inside the Niro that stands out as premium. Kia has made some efforts to build the space utilizing recycled materials, aligned with the mission of the car, but this does lead to fairly bland and uninspiring plastics. Space utilization is a strong point, with a very well designed center console incorporating plenty of storage for your daily carry items, a wireless phone charging pad, and a real gear selector. I did find the driving position a little awkward and found myself constantly adjusting the seat all week without ever really finding my perfect spot.

The seats in the SX are synthetic leather, which is a small step up from vinyl, but they are heated and cooled, a nice treat this time of year. Rear passenger space is more than adequate with plenty of leg and headroom for adults, as well as decent cargo room behind the seats for your typical grocery run. The 60/40 split rear bench does fold, not nearly flat, but doing so provides a very flexible cargo space that I suspect would handle the needs of most urban couples or families quite well.

The dash is dominated by the optional 10.25-inch infotainment screen. An eight-inch version is standard in the base EX, which runs Kia’s latest UVO system and includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Below the infotainment screen is a touch-operated control strip that takes some getting used to; it defaults to controlling audio, but you can touch a button to toggle it to climate. So, adjustments to the climate controls require an extra touch before you can adjust anything and can take a bit of getting used to.

This does make for a cleaner, less cluttered, looking center stack. There is plenty of LED ambient lighting, which makes the space feel a little futuristic at night, and by day the tall greenhouse and sunroof equipped in the SX make for a very airy feeling cabin. The single spoke steering wheel adds to the futuristic vibe, but also looks a little clunky and awkward and reminds me of some big old domestic sedan from the 1970s.

As the traditional hybrid option, our tester offers up 139 horsepower from its 1.6-liter four-cylinder and electric motor combo. A snappy six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is the only transmission option, and power flows to the front wheels exclusively. Acceleration is modest at best, but the torque of the electric motor does help the Niro feel more peppy in the city than it really is, and it makes no sweat of cruising at highway speeds either. Passing on the highway, or heavier acceleration, does work the little four-cylinder pretty hard, and it lets you know with grunt being heard in the cabin. The plug-in-hybrid model addresses this with more combined horsepower.

Kia has made efforts to improve the overall NVH with strategically placed sound deadening and acoustic glass, which means noise in the cabin is well controlled, especially at cruising speeds when the engine is not under a big load. The crux to that however, is that fact that the ride quality does remain harsh which ends up transferring road noise and harshness from the road into the cabin to distract from what would be an otherwise refined experience.

Efficiency is where the Niro really shines, and if it’s affordable efficiency and space that you’re after, the Niro HEV does deliver. Kia says it will do 4.4L/100km in mixed driving conditions. My experience was closer to 6.0L/100km, but in fairness this was in a bitter cold March and Toronto traffic doesn’t help efficiency either. Of course, the Niro is happy on regular grade 87 octane.

Pricing for the Kia Niro HEV starts at $29,995 for a base LX, and represents a really decent value if you’re looking to maximize space and efficiency for under the $30,000 mark. Stepping up to the EX with the larger 10.25-inch screen, wireless charging, Kia Connect and more will run an additional $2,000. The EX Premium adds a power liftgate and sunroof, ringing in at $34,695. Finally, the top of the line SX with its Harman Kardon seven-speaker sound system and heads-up display represents our as tested price at $38,695.

As a practical thinker and father of a young family I can appreciate the 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid SX’s merits whole heartedly. This is an easy to drive, park and maneuver, family friendly vehicle that delivers a lot of the latest safety and comfort technology, along with the efficiency of an advanced hybrid system. Plus, despite the inflationary pressure everyone is facing, there’s still some value here. Getting your foot in the door with a hybrid for under $30,000 is a rare opportunity these days, and even in fully loaded guise the sub-$40,000 price tag is much more palatable than what we’re seeing from some of the more market dominant options.

See Also:

First Drive: 2023 Kia Niro

2023 Kia Niro EV Limited

2022 Toyota Prius Prime

Vehicle Specs
Segment
Compact Hybrid Crossover
Engine Size
1.6L four-cylinder hybrid
Horsepower (at RPM)
139 at 5,700
Torque (lb-ft.)
195 at 4,000
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
4.5/4.4/4.4
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
6.0
Cargo Capacity (in L)
651
Base Price (CAD)
$29,995
As-Tested Price (CAD)
$34,695
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About Zack Zeraldo

Staff Writer

Despite his relatively young age, Zack has owned more cars than most people will own in their lifetimes. From F-Bodies to pickups and Corvettes, he is a GM enthusiast through and through. When not writing about cars, Zack can be found in his garage messing with one of his eight vehicles.

Current Toys: ’11 XKR, ’85 Trans Am, ’07 DTS Luxury, ’84 Camaro, ’01 Sonoma, ’06 Escalade, ’96 Firebird, ’78 MGB

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