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The 2023 Kia Niro proves why you stick with a winning formula

The 2023 Kia Niro proves why you stick with a winning formula
Magnify / In green, Kia Niro hybrid; in white, Kia Niro EV. (Kia Niro PHEV not pictured)

Jonathan Gitlin

LEUCADIA, Calif. – The Kia Niro is no flashy car. It does not have a strange origin story like its stablemate, the “pig with a rucksack”[ads1];. There are no sporty pretensions or design to explore Moab off the grid. Instead, it’s just been an affordable family crossover, quietly going about its way as efficiently as possible, with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicle versions.

The Niro fills the lower end of Kia’s electrified lineup in the US, and for the 2023 model year, a new second-generation Niro is on sale. As before, there are hybrid, plug-in hybrid and BEV versions available, and they’ve actually even gotten a bit cheaper, at least when you factor in four years of inflation.

Kia’s design team always give their work interesting names, and the Niro’s design philosophy is called “Joy for Reason”. But if you didn’t find the first Niro Offensive, you probably won’t with the new one. Perhaps the most notable feature is the contrasting section that runs behind the rear door along the D-pillar. It’s not just for looks – there’s a functional aero blade that controls airflow at the rear of the car to minimize drag and increase efficiency, and it can be body colored if you prefer.

The black stripe is a functional aeroblade.
Magnify / The black stripe is a functional aeroblade.

Jonathan Gitlin

Inevitably, Niro has grown a little. But not much – about two and a half inches longer at 174 inches (4,420 mm) from nose to tail and about half an inch wider at 71.8 inches (1,824 mm). The wheelbase has also been stretched slightly to 107.1 inches (2720 mm). The crossover’s height is unchanged at 60.8 inches (1544 mm).

Niro Hybrid

The cheapest Niro is the one with the smallest battery – the “regular” hybrid version. This starts at $26,490 for the Niro LX, but you can spend as much as $34,790 on a Niro SX Touring with all the bells and whistles.

The Niro Hybrid is powered by a 1.6 L four-cylinder direct injection gasoline engine that generates 104 hp (77 kW) and 106 lb-ft (144 Nm), working in conjunction with a 43 hp (32 kW), 125 lb-ft (170 Nm) permanent magnet electric motor, which is fed by a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion polymer traction battery. Together, they give the Niro hybrid a total of 139 hp (104 kW) and 195 lb-ft (265 Nm) on the road, via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission driving the front wheels.

The Niro hybrid interior is solid and uncomplicated, but outfitted in piano black.
Magnify / The Niro hybrid interior is solid and uncomplicated, but outfitted in piano black.

Jonathan Gitlin

When fitted with the smallest wheels – in this case, 16-inch items – the Niro hybrid is at its most efficient, achieving an EPA rating of 53 mpg (4.44 l/100 km), making it the one of the most efficient non-plug-in cars from any car manufacturer. Opt for the Touring Package, which increases the wheel size to 18 inches, and that drops to 49 mpg (4.8 L/100 km), a simple demonstration of the effect larger wheels have on drag and efficiency.

It’s even able to detect the presence of things like residential areas, school zones and hospitals (via GPS data) and will switch to EV mode at low speed to minimize the amount of air pollution it emits around potentially vulnerable people.


The Niro PHEV qualifies for California's carpool lanes.
Magnify / The Niro PHEV qualifies for California’s carpool lanes.

Jonathan Gitlin

Kia has simplified its plug-in hybrid Niro offerings for 2023, dropping the more minimalist LX, giving you a choice of either the Niro PHEV EX ($33,740) or the Niro PHEV SX Touring ($39,490). The most notable specification change to the new Niro PHEV is a slightly larger traction battery capacity – now up 2.2kWh to 11.1kWh. That corresponds to an all-electric range of 53 km, a bump of 25 percent on the old car.

Under the hood of the Niro PHEV is the same 1.6 L GDI engine and six-speed transmission as the hybrid, but the electric motor is nearly twice as powerful, bringing 84 hp (62 kW) and 150 lb-ft (203 Nm) to the lineup , giving a total output of 180 hp (134 kW) – the total torque remains the same as in the Niro hybrid.

Charging time for the 11.1 kWh battery is about three hours on a Level 2 charger, and Kia claims 108 mpge (3.2 miles/kWh or 19.4 kWh/100 km).

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