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Kia Carnival MPV Review

The 2023 Kia Carnival is an ark of accommodation. Its lean styling is a refreshing reset to the typical minivan’s big hips and broad beam

An exterior view of the blue Kia Carnival in front of a train station

The 2023 Kia Carnival MPV SX Prestige tester was $49,285 with three options. (Mark Maynard photos or as credited)

Table of Contents

The Last Honest Vehicle
Pricing
New for 2023
Interior Function
Back Seats and Cargo
Powertrain and Performance
Ride and Handling
Why Buy the Kia Carnival?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

I see the look in fathers’ eyes as they follow my slow cruise in the Kia Carnival MPV through the beach parking lot. It is a look of envy — with resignation that their lot in life could be so much easier with that damn M-word — minivan. But, no, their hands and their partner’s hands are struggling to untangle a stroller from a crowded trunk while they schlep armloads of a trike, scooter, and a stuffed duffel of clothes and snacks for when everybody is wet, tired, and cranky.

There is much irrational venom directed at this most-efficient mode of moving people. It is as if the minivan represents swallowed pride to make the best of a sad situation.

I count my blessings that this stage has passed in my life. But I always enjoyed testing minivans. Not for their lively drivability but for an hour or so of free time. I’d park the latest test minivan in the driveway, and the kids would want to do homework or watch a movie. It was a secure space that would give me 45 minutes of peace and quiet … for laundry or cooking.

There is comfort and security in the family minivan. It is the modern ark of accommodation. Sure, bring a friend or three. And parents can pull the seats for room to haul furniture … to usher that college kid to the college dorm.

Minivans are built for comfort and accommodation. They are part lounge and part romper room. And any minivan with a combustion engine will get better fuel economy and cost less to maintain (tires and suspension elements) than a comparably sized SUV.

Driver controls are smartly placed and ergonomically designed.

Driver controls are smartly placed and ergonomically designed.

The Last Honest Vehicle

Unlike the SUV, the minivan is the last honest vehicle made today. Minivans don’t have to be something other than what they were intended. A minivan does not need sport bucket seats with their annoying in-your-crack bottom bolsters. A minivan doesn’t need paddle shifters. They surely don’t need a tachometer, which might be the most worthless space-cluttering element in the driver’s gauge display for an automatic-transmission vehicle. And they don’t need a Sport mode to turn the gauge display red.

Manufacturers have tried to sportify the minivan to little avail. Sporty features, such as aerodynamic fairings and hot wheels, just added to the cost. Today, the minivan segment is small: the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and today’s tester, the Kia Carnival MPV.

Kia has sold a minivan in the U.S. since 2002 called Sedona. It was unremarkable at the time when compared to the competition from Honda, Chrysler, and Toyota. But it did get high marks for safety from NHTSA and IIHS.

Undeterred, Kia moved forward with a second generation in 2005 as a 2006. A third generation came along in 2014 as a 2015. And now, the fourth generation debuted in North America in Feb. 2021 as a 2022 model. The 2022 redesign included adding Kia’s global nameplate Carnival MPV, or multi-purpose vehicle.

There isn’t a beauty competition for a minivan — it just can’t be ugly. Except for the Kia Carnival, there is dowdy minivan DNA in the exterior styling of the competitors, mainly in the big hips and a broad beam. The Kia Carnival, however, looks more like a business attaché. It has lean lines without contrived curves or bulges to hint at “sport.” The Carnival’s styling is legitimate and contemporary.

The 12.3-inch-wide navigation screen

A 12.3-inch navigation screen. (Kia)

2023 Kia Carnival Pricing

All models of Carnival are front-wheel drive with no option for all-wheel drive. For that traction capability, minivan shoppers must consider the Chrysler Pacifica or Toyota Sienna.

The 2023 Kia Carnival MPV is sold in four trim levels of LX, EX, SX, and SX Prestige. Pricing starts at $34,465 for the LX, and there is an LX Seat Package model for $36,465; it adds eight-passenger seating with SynTex upholstery and second-row slide-flex seat adjustment.

The midrange EX and SX start at $39,965 and $43,165.

The SX Prestige tester starts at $47,565 and was $49,285 with three options:

  • Astra Blue paint ($495);
  • Rear seat entertainment package ($1,000);
  • Carpeted floor mats ($200, for three rows).

All MSRPs include the $1,395 freight charge from Gwangmyeong, Korea.

For current Carnival pricing and incentives, go to Kia.com

VIP lounge seating with power controls.

VIP lounge seating with power controls.

What’s New On the 2023 Kia Carnival?

With the Carnival’s debut just a year ago, updates for 2023 are a minor shuffling of features for the SX and SX Prestige models. And there were price increases of $800 for the LX and EX models and $500 for the SX; the freight charge went up by $70.

SX

  • Integrated panoramic 12.3-inch digital cluster and 12.3-inch center display are now standard;
  • Blind-Spot View Monitor is now standard;
  • Dual screen rear seat entertainment and streaming media package was added as a $1,000 option.

SX Prestige

  • 8-passenger Slide-Flex Seating with second-row center multi-function seat is now standard;
  • Dual screen rear seat entertainment system and streaming media capability is a new $1,000 option;
  • 2nd row VIP Lounge Seats is a no-cost option, replacing 2nd-row Slide-Flex Seats. The seat package is for seven-passenger seating and adds a pair of power-operated VIP lounge seats that recline with leg support and an adjustable headrest. The seats also are heated and ventilated.
The video Passenger View display.

The video Passenger View display.

Carnival Interior Function

Space is the luxurious frontier of a minivan. And while the Kia Carnival is not a luxury vehicle, its refinement of interior materials, switchgear, and touchpoints are of rewarding quality.

The Carnival cabin has big-and-tall front headroom of 40.9 inches and shoulder room (door to door) of 64.2 inches, which is 2.6 inches wider than the Kia Telluride SUV.

Sightlines for the driver are unobstructed at the side mirrors and across the hood. Of special value is the around-view camera with overhead and forward views. The camera can be switched on when inching forward in a parking slot or the garage.

There is no stress to step in and buckle up, and definitely no need for running boards, but there is still an elevated ride height for a clear view down the road.

The interior design is fresh with no old-fogey faux wood trim, just clean metallic trim elements. All controls are smartly placed and ergonomically designed.

The shift console is a functional work zone with cup holders divided by a phone slot. A charging e-bin includes a wireless pad and USB charging ports. Small storage areas are handily placed throughout, including a large armrest box.

Rather than a flip-down conversation mirror to keep an eye on children, Kia has a video passenger view and talk function. It is accessed through the main 12.3-inch wide screen and can be set up as a one-touch button on the steering wheel.

The third row seats in the Kia Carnival

Third-row legroom of 35.6 inches is up to 3 inches less than in some competitors.

Back Seats and Cargo Space

Sliding side doors are a parent’s friend — power-operated and foot activated. The openness of the doors allows a parent to get close to the child seat for buckling without hoisting a child up into an SUV seating position.

The driver has controls to open and close either side door, which is helpful for the school taxi when admitting your charges, especially when there is rain or snow.

I would prefer the standard three-position second row; it has more family function than the VIP Lounge seats that are exclusive to the SX Prestige. With the eight-seat configuration, the second-row seats can be removed, or just the center seat removed for an aisle pass-through to the third row.

Kia adds a nifty feature of slide-flex seat adjustment. Both window seats can be moved manually inward by a couple of inches. The side movement is beneficial with the VIP Lounge seats, which cannot be removed and do not have a fold-and-tumble design for third-row access. The side flex isn’t much, but it doesn’t take much for a kid to slip by and into the third row.

Lounge seats (heated and ventilated) seem like a cool idea, cruising in a La-Z-Boy style with legs supported. But the full recline position made me feel propped up and vulnerable. It might seem more special when parked and watching a movie. I felt uncomfortable (safe) with the sizeable iPad-like video screens so close on the front seatbacks.

There is adult legroom in the second row — a max of 40.5 inches if a tall person is not sitting ahead. But a tall adult might not feel comfortable in full recline of the lounge seats.

The power panel for second-row climate controls.

Electronic second-row climate controls.

Carnival’s Third Row

There is no shortage of details for those in the third row. There are charging ports, an inset for cups or juice boxes, and a phone slot.

Headroom of 38.6 inches is adequate for adults of average size. However, the max legroom of 35.6 inches is up to 3 inches less than some competitors.

The Carnival cargo area with the third row folded

Fold the third row for 5 feet in length of flat storage.

Carnival Cargo Space

Carnival earns its cargo salt with the obligatory 4-foot width, as if owners will load sheets of plywood. As with most minivans, the waaay back has multi-function.

With the third-row seats in place, there is a deep well of steamer-trunk capacity that neatly corrals a multitude of grocery bags or whatever. Fold the 60/40 seatbacks to drop flat into the cargo well and a parent could roll in bikes and trikes or strap down a large dog kennel. The interior height of 40 inches is about 31 inches or less for a midsize SUV. With the third row folded there is flat space that is 5 feet in length.

The storage well in the cargo area when the third row seats are upright

Steamer-trunk cargo capacity behind the third row.

Carnival Powertrain and Performance

No overworked turbocharged four-cylinder for this Carnival. All models have the same V-6 and eight-speed automatic powertrain. The 290-horsepower direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 has 262 foot-pounds of peak torque at 5,000 rpm.

Fuel economy ratings are 19 mpg city, 26 highway, and 22 mpg combined using the recommended 87 octane fuel. In my week of testing, the mileage around town was 19-21 mpg, and on the highway, I tooled along at 28.9 mpg, which might have gone higher had I not needed to exit.

With the generous 19-gallon fuel tank, thrifty drivers could expect a vacation-driving range of 500 miles or more.

Acceleration force is easy to modulate to maximize mileage or to put the hammer down for evasive action. There is no delay in acceleration response.

An open hood view of the 290-hp 3.5-liter V-6

The 290-hp 3.5-liter V-6. (Kia)

Carnival SX Prestige Ride and Handling

One of the most endearing aspects of minivan ownership is, generally, a forgiving ride quality. The Kia Carnival is especially adept at not tossing heads when pulling into driveways or when transitioning speed bumps.

The suspension is a well-engineered four-wheel independent setup with steel springs and gas-charged shock absorbers. The front has MacPherson struts and a multi-link at the rear.

Ride quality with the 19-inch Goodyear Assurance Finesse tires (235/55) was poised and carpet smooth — traits I did not expect from my past experiences with Goodyear Assurance tires. These tires are affordable and will cost between $220 and $250 each when replaced.

Advantageous is the light weight to the steering and very compact turning circle of 38 feet. It is possible to make a U-turn on most residential streets. Steering control, though light, is entirely on track while cruising at speed.

Four-wheel-disc braking engages with uncommon smoothness and direct engagement. Front and rear rotors are 12.8 inches, with ventilated discs at the front and solid discs rear. These discs are comparable to the competition’s and seem fit to handle a 3,500-pound trailer with brakes.

19-inch Goodyear Assurance Finesse tires and black alloy wheels.

The SX Prestige tester in 19-inch Goodyear Assurance Finesse tires and black alloy wheels.

Why Buy the Kia Carnival?

Minivan marketers have told me that once the children are out of the house, many parents hold onto their weary, old minivan. It’s just too convenient for its size.

If so, the Kia Carnival SX Prestige will be their upgrade minivan. The VIP seats will be a special perk for those travel getaways with friends.

And best of all, the Kia Carnival doesn’t look like a minivan.

The Carnival EX and SX trim levels are the meat and potatoes of family fare. And the package for rear seat entertainment is worth the $1,500 option. It’s the price for 45 minutes of rest time for parents.

A rear view of the Astra Blue Carnival

The Kia Carnival has a very compact turning circle of 38 feet. (Kia)

Kia Carnival SX Prestige Specifications

Body style: large 7- to 8-passenger front-wheel-drive minivan

Engine: 290-hp, direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6; 262 lb.-ft. torque at 5,000 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 19/26/22 mpg; 87 octane

Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 19 gallons

Cargo space: 40.2 to 86.9 cubic feet

Front head/leg room: 40.9/41.1 inches

2nd-row head/leg room: 39.5/40.5 inches

3rd-row head/leg room: 38.6/35.6 inches

Length/wheelbase: 203/121.7 inches

Curb weight: 4,727 pounds

Turning circle: 38 feet

FEATURES

SX Prestige standard features, include: smart-key entry and push-button ignition, electric parking brake, surround-view monitor, 12.3-inch dual panoramic displays for driver gauges and navigation, blind-spot view monitors (side mirror image display in driver gauges); smart cruise control with stop-and-go; dual power tilt and slide sunroof; LED projection headlights and LED rear combination lights; LED interior lighting; leather-trimmed upholstery; heated and ventilated front and rear seats; Bose premium audio; heated steering wheel; auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink controls, passenger view (camera) and passenger talk.

Safety features include: 7 air bags (including driver’s knee bag), rear occupant alert with ultrasonic sensors, parking distance warning forward and reverse

Driver-assist technologies, include: forward collision-avoidance assist with cyclist and junction turning; blind-spot collision-avoidance assist; rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist; driver attention warning and high-beam assist; lane-keeping assist and lane-following assist; parking collision-avoidance assist reverse; safe exist assist; highway driving assist.

PRICING

Base price: $47,565, including $1,395 freight charge; price as tested $49,285

Options on test vehicle: Astra Blue paint $495; rear seat entertainment package $1,000; carpeted floor mats $200, for three rows.

Where assembled: Gwangmyeong, Korea

Warranties: 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain; 5-years/60,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance

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Corvette E-Ray Overview

The 2024 E-Ray is the quickest production Corvette in history, clocking a 2.5-second 0-60 mph time before passing the quarter mile in 10.5 seconds

An exterior view of the E Ray

The 2024 Corvette E-Ray goes on sale later this year with an MSRP of $104,295 for the 1LZ coupe and $111,295 for the 1LZ convertible model. (Photos courtesy of Chevrolet)

BY MARK MAYNARD

The Corvette had a second day of infamy yesterday when Chevrolet released photos and many details for its 2024 Corvette E-Ray. It will be the first electrified Corvette with all-wheel drive and a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain using the 6.2-liter V-8.

For Corvette enthusiasts, the E-Ray reveal on Jan. 17 is exactly 70 years after the 1953 Corvette debuted at Motorama in New York City.

“In 1953, the enthusiastic reaction to the Chevrolet Corvette concept kicked off seven decades of passion, performance and American ingenuity,” Mark Reuss, General Motors president, said in a statement. “E-Ray, as the first electrified, all-wheel-drive Corvette, takes it a step further and expands the promise of what Corvette can deliver.”

The 2024 E-Ray — available as a removable roof coupe or hardtop convertible — pairs two separate propulsion systems. The gasoline-electric hybrid system provides naturally aspirated V-8 power with a permanent magnet electric drive motor and a 1.9 kWh lithium-ion battery pack between the seats.

“The electrification technology enhances the feeling of control in all conditions, adding an unexpected degree of composure,” said Tadge Juechter, chief executive engineer, Corvette.

E Ray driver area with bright blue leather interior.

E-Ray’s interior choices include 2 carbon fiber trim packages, 3 seat choices, and 7 interior colors.

E-Ray Performance

The E-Ray is the quickest production Corvette in history, Chevrolet says. The E-Ray will accelerate to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds (a tenth of a second faster than the track-ready Corvette Z06) and complete the quarter-mile in 10.5 seconds.

Achieving such quickness and top speed is notable for the Corvette. According to Chevrolet, the E-Ray has a base dry weight of 3,774 pounds for the coupe and 3,856 pounds for the convertible. That is around 400 pounds heavier than the Stingray and about 300 pounds more than the Z06 equipped with carbon fiber wheels and the Z06 Performance package. The curb weight, with fuel, etc., will be higher.

Chevrolet is developing a fully battery-powered Corvette, but officials have not said when that model might arrive.

Driver side 3/4 view of 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray 3LZ convertible with Natural Tan Interior.

A 2024 E-Ray 3LZ convertible with Natural Tan Interior.

2024 Corvette E-Ray Pricing

The 2024 Corvette E-Ray goes on sale later this year with an MSRP of $104,295 for the 1LZ coupe and $111,295 for the 1LZ convertible model.

A base 2023 Corvette Stingray coupe starts at about $66,000 or $74,000 for the Stingray convertible. The Corvette Z06 starts at $110,00 for the coupe and about $117,000 for the convertible.

Z06 pricing includes $2,600 for the gas-guzzler tax. Will the E-Ray avoid the GGT?

E-Ray production will be at GM’s Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky.

More information and specifications will be released closer to the on-sale date. Follow E-Ray developments at Chevrolet.com.

Close up view of gauges layout on E-Ray Performance App

The E-Ray Performance App on the infotainment screen.

E-Ray Hybrid Powertrain

The 6.2-liter LT2 small-block V-8 is paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automated-manual transmission. The gas engine puts 470 foot pounds of torque at 5,150 rpm to the rear axle. The permanent magnet electric drive motor puts another 160-hp and 125 lb.-ft. of torque through the front wheels.

In total, E-Ray produces a combined 655 horsepower from the electric motor and V-8.

The engine’s Active Fuel Management system uses the electric motor to run on four cylinders, such as when coasting at highway speeds.

The amount of electric assist varies for the Corvette E-Ray’s six driver-selectable modes: Tour, Sport, Track, Weather, My Mode, and Z-Mode. Drivers can also select the Charge+ feature to maximize the battery’s state of charge.

Chevrolet says it has created a “visceral sound experience” for the combined powertrain. And to keep peace with neighbors, a Stealth Mode allows all-electric driving at start-up. The quiet mode will hold until the engine fires at 45 mph for everyday driving.

E Ray gloss black wheel finish

The E-Ray has 15.7-inch brake discs at the front and 15.4-inch discs rear.

Intelligent eAWD

E-Ray’s eAWD system continually learns the road surface, Chevrolet says. The so-called intelligent system seamlessly adapts to traction conditions and driver input. During enthusiastic driving and in low traction road conditions, E-Ray’s eAWD system enhances vehicle stability by directing additional power to the front wheels.

E-Ray Features and Technologies

  • New lightweight lithium-ion 12-volt battery for stop/start functionality
    of the gas engine;
  • Standard Brembo Carbon Ceramic brake system;
  • Standard Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 with three suspension settings;
  • Staggered 20- and 21-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport all-season tires. (Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires are available with an optional performance
    package.)

The E-Ray Performance App on the infotainment system provides the driver with technical insights into how the propulsion system is operating. There are three primary display layouts:

  • Gauges (displays dynamic power output from electric motor and V-8 engine);
  • Dyno (provides a graph of power/torque across selectable time intervals) ;
  • Data (showcases electrical system performance and efficiency).
Overhead view of the Silver Flare with Electric Blue stripe package.

The Silver Flare with Electric Blue stripe package.

E-Ray Exterior Design

The E-Ray is built from the wide-body Corvette Z06. The wider body accommodates wide staggered-width wheels to help manage the increased torque. The lightweight alloy wheels have a twisted five-spoke star design exclusive to E-Ray.

The Corvette E-Ray’s compact electric motor over the front axle preserves space in the front trunk.

Rear 7/8 view of an E-Ray coupe in Seawolf Gray parked in a parking garage.

The E-Ray’s low, wide stance is 3.6 inches wider overall than the standard Stingray model.

Corvette E-Ray Design Highlights

  • 4 aluminum wheel finishes;
  • 14 exterior color choices — including new for 2024 Riptide Blue, Seawolf Gray, and Cacti;
  • E-Ray-exclusive body-length stripe package in Electric Blue;
  • Standard carbon flash badging;
  • Available black exhaust tips and bright badging;
  • Available carbon fiber ground effects;
  • Optional carbon fiber wheels in carbon flash, visible carbon fiber finish or visible carbon fiber with a red stripe;
  • New  Artemis Dipped interior, available on 2024 Corvettes. The treatment features deep green tones throughout the cabin. Other options for interior design include two carbon fiber trim packages, three seat choices, seven interior colors, and more.
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Toyota Tundra Capstone Hybrid Pickup Review

Tripping the white fantastic in the 2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone with its two-tone white-and-black leather cabin

The 2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone has an exclusive white-and-black leather interior. Capstone pricing starts at $77,040. (Photos courtesy of Toyota)

The 2023 Toyota Tundra Capstone has an exclusive white-and-black leather interior. Capstone pricing starts at $77,040. (Photos courtesy of Toyota)

Table of Contents

Tundra Redesign Challenge
Tailgate Tricks
2023 Toyota Tundra Pricing
Hybrid-Related Warranties
iForce Powertrains and Fuel Economy
Interior Function
Ride and Handling
Intimidation Factor
Why Buy the Toyota Tundra Capstone?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

The Toyota Tundra pickup has long been dogging the tailgates of the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ram 1500. Though the Tundra has always been capable, its presentation seemed dumbed down to fit an outdated perception of the American pickup. Even its exterior styling was a mashup of “Fordamrolet.”

With a thorough redesign for 2022, Toyota has elevated the Tundra with style and technologies — for better and worse.

A few years ago, at a big four-wheelers desert run, I watched a Tundra throwing rooster tails of synchronized sand art as it swept up a steep dune. It was a dealership truck (by the license plate) and optioned with the TRD package. The truck’s ability was remarkable because this stock Tundra always made it to the top of the big dune, while caged buggies and fat-tired crawlers failed. It seemed insulting to the modified rigs. And a prime selling opportunity.

Toyota learns and evolves quickly. The 2023 Toyota Tundra lineup has seven trim levels, from basic work trucks to high luxury. But more than the basic trucks, luxury models have been added steadily.

Now in its third generation, the new Tundra was introduced for 2022. It was designed in the U.S. and built in Texas at Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMMTX) in San Antonio.

At long last, the restyled Tundra breaks loose from most comparisons to the Big 3 pickups and plows through the air with a mug that won’t be confused as a Fordamrolet.

But just as it is challenging to master a foreign language, there is something uniquely American about a pickup. And not all foreign makers can master the lingo. Toyota is catching up.

Front headroom is almost 10-gallon tall at 39.3 inches with Capstone’s standard panoramic moonroof.

Front headroom is almost 10-gallon tall with Capstone’s standard panoramic moonroof.

Tundra Redesign Challenge

“Technical muscle” was the Tundra design mantra for the 2022 makeover.

Inside the Tundra Capstone, the design group applied premium materials in high-contact areas, including wrapped armrests and pads across the dash and doors.

Toyota says that high-strength steel throughout the chassis increased rigidity considerably over the previous generation Tundra. Aluminum is used in critical areas to reduce weight. Frame cross members are more than doubled in size for reinforcement and additional rigidity. For the Limited model and above, the cab mounts to the frame with hydraulic mounts for a quieter ride.

Tundra’s bed of sheet-molded compound (SMC) is lightweight and extremely strong, backed by aluminum reinforcing cross members, Toyota says. An SMC bed is resistant to denting, impact dings, and rust corrosion.

Tundra Tailgate Tricks

There has been a small revolution in pickup tailgates. Some now offer a step-and-grab bar that folds away. Others have drop panels that form steps or accommodate a fifth-wheel trailer hitch. Some have a wider section for a work-site bench or even a connection for a Bluetooth audio system. Some have a tailgate measurement strip and indents for a cup or can.

Toyota’s innovation is the power tailgate release in the left-rear taillight. Just give it an elbow bump when walking up with an armload of gear, or release the tailgate from the key fob. And there is a power bed step at the driver-side left corner; the step lowers with the tailgate.

Toyota says that the Tundra tailgate benefits from light-weighting construction and is 20 percent lighter than the previous generation.

7 Tundra Trim Levels

As before, the new-gen Tundra is sold in two four-door body styles: Double Cab and CrewMax.

Double Cab models have bed-length choices of 6.5 feet or 8.1 feet. CrewMax models can have a 5.5-foot bed or the new 6.5-foot bed.

The 2023 Tundra lineup has seven choices: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, 1794 grades, TRD Pro, and Capstone. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with optional four-wheel drive.

At its introduction years ago, the Toyota Tundra Limited might have been the most luxurious choice. But as $70,000 has become the new $50,000 pickup, Toyota added a Platinum model and then the slightly more expensive 1794 with some Old West influences. The Tundra TRD, $9,000 more than the 1794, is the off-road package, but it’s pricey, starting at $70,000. And now the Tundra Capstone wears the luxury boots, and it is priced as such.

The Capstone is the halo choice with standard four-wheel drive, a CrewMax cab, 5.5-foot bed, and exclusive white-and-black leather cabin. Pricing starts at $77,000 or $79,000 with the one big factory option package. A wide range of accessories — including ball-hitch mounts, bed extenders, a dash camera, console safe, tie downs, racks, spray-on bedliner, or a hard tonneau cover — can nudge the price beyond $80,000.

High-luxury pickups don’t make practical sense, but they are impressive at the marina launch and equestrian events. Most Tundra sales are for midrange models, of course, but Toyota has to keep up with the Fordamrolets. And these country coaches are rich with options, including pearlescent paint, hand-tooled semi-aniline leather, and the most advanced technologies. If a passenger car can be so equipped, so can a pickup.

The 14-inch screen provides big-screen camera views.

The 14-inch screen provides big-screen camera views.

2023 Toyota Tundra Pricing

Tundra starting prices range from $38,760 for the entry rear-wheel-drive SR to $77,040 for the top-line Capstone iFORCE MAX with standard 4WD. Pricing includes the $1,795 freight charge from San Antonio.

The SR model is the basic work truck. Moving up to the SR5, $44,265, creates a more functional tow vehicle with a Class IV towing hitch and seven-pin wiring harness. Also included are tow-haul and tow-plus driving modes, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a power vertical or horizontal rear window.

The TRD Pro, $70,315, is factory primed for off-road capability. Its features include:

  •  Multi-terrain select with crawl control;
  •  A 1.1-inch lift with Fox shock absorbers;
  • Electronically controlled locking differential.

Special TRD Pro features include a heritage-like “Toyota” grille with LED light bar and marker lights, 18-inch matte-black forged-aluminum BBS wheels, and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.

The Capstone iFORCE MAX tester was $79,174 with these options:

  • Adaptive variable suspension with load-leveling rear height control air suspension $1,045;
  • Wind Chill Pearl paint $425;
  • Ball mount $65;
  • Non-skid spray-on bedliner $579.

Find current Tundra pricing and offers here.

Tundra Hybrid-Related Warranties

Toyota’s basic 36-month/36,000-mile new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and corrosion with no mileage limitation.

Hybrid-related components, including the battery control module, hybrid control module, and inverter with converter, are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

The hybrid battery has coverage of 10 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first.

ToyotaCare covers regular factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.

iForce Powertrains and Fuel Economy

Tundra has two 3.5-liter, twin-turbo iFORCE V-6 powertrains, both with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The transmission has a sequential shift mode, uphill-downhill shift logic, and tow/haul driving modes.

The sophisticated engine design uses Toyota’s D-4ST direct injection and port injection.

The entry V-6 for the SR trim has 348 horsepower and 405 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 p.m. The uplevel engine for the rest of the models has 389 hp and 479 lb.-ft. torque at 2,400 rpm.

The i-FORCE MAX hybrid twin-turbo V-6 is available only in the TRD Pro and Capstone trim levels. The hybrid powertrain has 437 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, and 583 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,400 rpm.

Hybridization combines the V-6 and motor generator with a clutch in the bell housing between the engine and transmission. A 288-volt sealed nickel-metal hydride battery is under the rear passenger seats.

The motor generator adds power through the transmission. But parallel hybrid components function during engine start-up, EV driving, electric assist, and energy regeneration.

The electric motor does most of the work at speeds below 18 mph. Then the gasoline engine engages for power in the mid- and high-speed range. When using tow/haul mode, the engine is in full internal-combustion control.

a view of the i-FORCE MAX hybrid twin-turbo V-6 437 horsepower and 583 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,400 rpm.

The i-FORCE MAX hybrid twin-turbo V-6 437 horsepower and 583 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,400 rpm. (Mark Maynard photo)

i-FORCE MAX Performance

The torque is particularly well-suited for transporting livestock, boats, and travel trailers. The roll-on of acceleration is not abrupt and does not launch the truck with tire-spinning force. Instead, the power progressively moves out, preserving whatever is in or on the trailer and, perhaps, a bit of fuel.

Fuel-Economy Ratings

Though more powerful, the hybrid iFORCE MAX engine has the best EPA-mileage ratings of the Tundra line: 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and 22 MPG combined.

That mileage compares to the standard iFORCE V-6, with mileage ratings of 18/24/20 mpg for the SR trim and 18/23/20 mpg for the upper trims.

In my week of driving the hybrid iFORCE MAX, I worked up to a combined city-highway mileage rating of 15.6 mpg, with much highway cruising. With careful acceleration, the 32.2-gallon tank could stretch range to almost 500 miles.

A photo of the Captone's 22 inch alloy wheels and tires

The Capstone gets the largest Tundra wheel size of 22 inches.

Interior Function

Americans like big pickups because there is plenty of room in the cabin. The lowly passenger sedan has been mercilessly downsized to meet fuel economy and emissions standards.

With Capstone’s standard panoramic moonroof, Tundra’s front headroom is almost 10-gallon tall at 39.3 inches. There is room for large adults to spread out and plenty of storage and stash places.

Standard Capstone equipment is in the specs box at the end of this story. Among its luxury features are 10-way power seats, heated and ventilated. Power running boards are a welcome feature for a leg up to the front or rear seats.

A huge help in parking is the panoramic view monitor, which includes an overhead side-panel view panel of the truck. The color graphics are excellent on the 14-inch audio multimedia screen.

Back seat headroom is also tall (36.9 inches), and legroom is adult comfortable at 41.6 inches, even if there is a tall driver ahead.

The Tundra back seat

Back-seat legroom of 41.6 inches is adult comfortable, even if there is a tall driver ahead.

Ride and Handling

Tundra had been a hold-out for rear leaf springs, but a new multi-link suspension has replaced the old. The change to a more carlike suspension provides a smoother ride, especially when the bed has no weight.

The multilink suspension has not hurt towing or payload. The maximum towing capacity for Tundra increases 17.6 percent over the previous generation, to 12,000 pounds. Toyota says the maximum payload increases to 1,940 pounds, an improvement of more than 11 percent.

For the first time, a rear air suspension system is available with automatic and manual leveling functions. Another first for Tundra is the available Adaptive Variable Suspension system. Toyota says that AVS improves ride quality and handling by continually adjusting damping force based on road conditions.

You might mistake the semi-aniline leather for Lexus upholstery, but the ride quality is still pickup truck. The multilink suspension, and particularly the adaptive suspension, eliminates the empty-bed chatter on the highway, but without cargo, in the bed, you’ll know this truck has working-class roots.
Braking

To put the binders on a six-ton towing capacity (6,095 pounds at the curb) requires hefty brakes. The Tundra has power-assisted and ventilated four-wheel discs. The large, 13.9-inch front discs have opposed dual-piston calipers. The rear 13.6-inch discs use single-piston calipers.

While lesser trim levels have a max towing rating of 12,000 pounds, the Capstone is rated for 10,340 pounds.

A side view of the Capstone

The Tundra Capstone has a tow rating of 10,340 pounds and a max payload of 1,485 pounds.

The Intimidation Factor

The full-size pickup today is designed to be intimidating. These are the broad-shoulder linemen in the scrimmage for recognition. The bigger, the better, which works well in the open plains, mountain terrain, and desert regions. Not so much in the city.

With the intimidation factor, however, comes too much mass in the design solely to impress the competition. Depending on the cab size, whether extended or full and the bed length, a typical full-size pickup turning circle ranges from about 40 to 52 feet and more.

The wheelbase of the Tundra Capstone CrewMax is 145.7 inches (a tick over 12 feet), and this rig is 80.2 inches wide, not including the large side mirrors. Its width is comparable to the competition, and so is its length of 233.6 inches or 19.5 feet with its 5.5-foot bed. The Capstone’s turning circle isn’t terrible at 48.6 feet. But these packers are not nimble when navigating city streets. Parking is a consideration when heading out on errands.

The Capstone was like steering a stormtrooper in its Wind Chill Pearl (white) paint ($425) and two-tone white and black interior. The height of the hood opening is 4 feet from the ground and another half foot taller with the (unnecessary) hood bulge.

Sightlines across the wide hood and blunt front end are challenged. It takes time to become comfortable navigating city streets. The iForce Max hood scoops are like epaulets on a commander’s uniform — ornamental, but they show who has the big swinging sword. The pair of scoops flanking the hood are nonfunctional except to complicate sightlines at the fenders.

A close up of the nonfunctional hood scoops for the iMax hybrid engine.

The iForce Max hood scoops are ornamental.

Light Duty vs. Heavy Duty

The Big 3 competing pickups, however, also offer heavy-duty versions. These have higher tow ratings, spring rates, and payload capacity. The H-D models are typically a half-inch to an inch wider, a few inches taller, and about 10 to 18 inches longer. Toyota appears to split the difference by offering a one size Tundra with dimensions landing between half-ton and three-quarter-ton ratings, or light vs. heavy duty.

And that’s why the Tundra feels bigger than it needs to be. Driving the Capstone in town was like steering a stormtrooper in its Wind Chill Pearl (white) paint ($425) and two-tone white and black interior. The height of the hood opening is 4 feet from the ground and another half foot taller with the (unnecessary) hood bulge.

The iForce Max adds to the sightline complexity with a pair of non-functional “scoops” flanking the rear of the hood. They are ornamental — like epaulets on a commander’s uniform — but they show the troops who has the big swinging sword.

Sightlines across the wide hood, side mirrors and blunt front end are challenged, made more complex with the faux iForce Max scoops. It takes time to become comfortable navigating city streets.

Why Buy the Toyota Tundra Capstone?

All new full-size pickups on sale today offer pretty much the same thing. It just depends upon the church in which you believe. The brands copy each other and then make a modification to offer something unique. And then boast that their way is the truth and the light.

The Tundra will appeal to those disciples of Toyota. And in my experience, Toyota puts a little more effort into more precise engineering to do it right the first time.

The Tundra Capstone, with its white leather interior, isn’t a work truck or for the construction, boss pulling into muddy work sites. It’s not for the off-road adventurer. It’s not especially suited for the homeowner loading up at the building supply center. It can fill all those roles, but the Tundra Capstone will be most at home when hitched to a horse trailer for prestigious shows or riding events. You’ll also find the Capstone at the marina, steering a big boat down the ramp. In those venues, the Tundra Capstone will make a stunning statement — and vigorous use won’t cause undue harm to the pristine interior.

A studio shot of a rear three quarter view of the white Tundra

Hydraulic frame mounts provide a quieter ride on Tundra Limited and higher trims.

Toyota Tundra Capstone Specifications

Body style: full-size, 5-seat pickup with 5.5-foot bed

Engine: 437-hp, 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged iForce Max V-6 Hybrid with water intercoolers and electric motor-generator; 583 lb.-ft. torque at 2,400 rpm

Hybrid components: Parallel hybrid system with permanent magnet electric motor-generator located between engine and transmission;

Electric motor output: 48 hp and 184 lb.-ft. torque

Hybrid battery: 288-volt nickel-metal hydride with 240 cells; 1.87 kWh capacity

Transmission: 10-speed sequential shift mode automatic, with uphill-downhill shift logic and tow-haul driving modes; 4WDemand part-time 4WD with electronically controlled two-speed transfer case (high/low range)

Fuel economy: 19/22/20 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane or higher

Towing capacity: 10,340 pounds

Max payload: 1,485 pounds

Max tongue weight: 1,117 pounds

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 32.2 gallons

Front head/leg room: 39.3*/41.2 inches *w/moonroof

Rear head/leg room: 36.9/41.6 inches

Shoulder room, front and rear: 65/ 62.4 inches

Length/wheelbase: 233.6/145.7 inches

Width/height: 80.2/78 inches

Curb weight: 6,095 pounds

Turning circle: 48.6 feet

FEATURES

Standard Capstone equipment includes: power tilt-slide sunroof, semi-aniline upholstery, 12-inch digital gauge display; 10-inch head-up windshield display, 10-way power adjustable (heated and ventilated) front seats with 4-way lumbar, heated and ventilated rear seats, 14-inch audio multimedia screen with 12-speaker JBL audio system with subwoofer, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, 22-inch dark chrome alloy wheels, aluminum reinforced composite bed with 120-volt AC power outlet and LED lighting, auto-leveling LED headlights, power running boards and bed step;

Safety features and technologies include: 8 air bags, precollision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic cruise control, lane-departure with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, road sign assist, blind-spot monitor, trailer backup guide with straight path.

PRICING

Base 2023 Capstone price: $77,040, including $1,795 freight charge; price as tested $79,174

Options on test vehicle: Adaptive variable suspension with load-leveling rear height control air suspension $1,045; Wind Chill Pearl paint $425; ball mount $65; non-skid spray-on bedliner $579

Where assembled: San Antonio, Texas

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Kia Telluride: What’s New for 2023

1,000-mile round-trip road trip in a 2023 Kia Telluride in near-luxury and complete comfort

An exterior view of a 2023 Kia Telluride sport utility vehicle in wolf gray

The 2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line tester was $53,825 with options for Wolf Gray paint ($495) and carpeted floor mats ($210). Pricing includes the $1,335 freight charge from West Point, Ga. (Photos by Mark Maynard)

Table of Contents

Road-Trip Ready Telluride
2023 Telluride Pricing
Interior Function
Back Seats and Cargo Space
V-6 Performance
Ride and Handling
Safety Technologies
What’s New for 2023?
Why Buy the Kia Telluride?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

I had just unpacked from a 1,000-mile round-trip road trip in a 2023 Kia Telluride and wasn’t ready for the drive to end. It was a holiday getaway with the girlfriend-wife and her sister and brother-in-law to spend Christmas with the sisters’ brother and wife in Santa Cruz. It was the quintessential getaway of four retirement-age friends rolling along in near luxury and complete comfort.

With its 291-horsepower V-6, there was plenty of power for secure acceleration — with all of us, our gear, and the Telluride’s all-wheel-drive curb weight of 4,482 pounds. Hefting such poundage still returned a combined fuel economy of 21.2 mpg to a max of 25.6 — on the recommended 87 octane.

To call the Telluride an SUV is almost disrespectful. The clumsy term with negative impact has endured from the early truck-based “sport utility” vehicles. And most of these were seldom sporty or provided much utility.

A view through the windshield from the driver's seat on a rainy day.

Sightlines are unobstructed over the fenders and over the shoulder.

Road-Trip Ready Telluride

The test vehicle was an upper trim level Telluride SX-Prestige V-6 with all-wheel drive and the new-for-2023 X-Line treatment. The new X-Line and X-Pro trim levels have some off-roading traits. X-Line and X-Pro trims have a slightly raised ride height (about a third of an inch), 20-inch black wheels, a unique black grille, trailering tow mode, and upgraded traction control for better control on gravel and sand.

Somebody could forgive such a blunt front end for some interior wind noise, but the Telluride is better soundproofed than some luxury SUVs I’ve tested. Conversations do not wash out in a wall of white noise or road harshness, thank you very much in part to the Michelin tires.

With three rows, the Telluride has seats for seven with the second-row captains’ chairs or eight seats with a second-row bench. The three-position third row is kid class in legroom, but it folds flat into the floor, making it ideal for lots of luggage. We could stow all the suitcases, the cooler of homemade foods and goodies for holiday meals, and the presents. It all fit below the rear window line, but if cargo must be stacked to the headliner, the Telluride has a digital rearview camera that gives a wide-open rearward view. (It is a welcome feature when pulling a trailer.)

There is no need for running boards to climb aboard (even with the X-Line lift). And all four of us had captain’s chairs, heated and ventilated, with rear side sunshades. The front seats are power-adjustable, including lumbar, with seat-bottom thigh extension for the driver.

Dual pane sunroofs in the Telluride SX create a light and pleasurable space for passengers.

Dual pane sunroofs in the Telluride SX Prestige.

2023 Kia Telluride Pricing

Telluride is sold in 10 trim levels: LX, S, EX, EX-X-Line, SX, SX-X-Line, SX-X-Pro, SX Prestige, SX Prestige X-Line, SX Prestige X-Pro. Entry-level LX, S, EX trims are front-wheel drive; AWD is optional ($2,000) and includes Michelin tires. Trims of SX and above have standard, active on-demand AWD.

The powertrain for all trims is a 291-horsepower, Atkinson cycle 3.8-liter, direct-injected V-6, and eight-speed automatic transmission. The tow rating is 5,000 pounds or 5,500 for the SX X-Pro.

Starting prices range from $37,025 for the LX to $54,120 for the top-line SX Prestige X-Pro. Today’s SX-Prestige X-Line tester starts at $53,120, and with options for Wolf Gray paint ($495) and carpeted floor mats ($210), the sticker price was $53,825. All manufacturers’ retail pricing includes the $1,335 freight charge from West Point, Ga.

Kia’s new vehicle warranty coverage is 5 years or 60,000 miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance. The powertrain has coverage of 10 years or 100,000 miles.

Find current pricing and incentives here.

Second row legroom in the Telluride is very long at 42.4 inches.

Second-row legroom is grand at 42.4 inches.

Telluride Interior Function

Because the cabin has door-to-door shoulder room of 61.6 inches, interior roominess is maximized.

The contemporary cabin design is open with contemporary with design elements of brushed metal trim and light gray wood in the tester. The plastics have an appealing texture, with attentive assembly to all panels. The headliner, roof pillars, and visors are wrapped in soft microsuede. Large sliding sun visors have large, covered mirrors.

There are 39.5 inches of front headroom and long legroom of 44.1 inches. Sightlines are open and further empowered by the around-view camera. (The Telluride is a big vehicle, but the camera system with an overhead side view is empowering when parking and backing out of the space.)

The shift console is efficiently designed with a large charging bin with a wireless pad, 12-volt plug and two USBs. The drive-mode controller (comfort, sport, smart, eco, etc.) takes up just a small square of space, with the nearby electric parking brake switch.

A heated steering wheel.

A heated steering wheel.

Sturdy grab rails flank each side of the console, and there is yet another USB in the dual-level armrest box.

There is no confusion when reaching for climate controls or to access the navigation system, radio or other media choices. But the navi system was a struggle to use, so we used the Waze smartphone app.

Telluride has almost as many USB ports as cup holders (12). There are up to six USB chargers, five of which are the more modern C-Type. But there is one “old-style” A-Type USB in the e-bin.

Back Seats and Cargo Space

The second-row captain’s chairs are road-trip ready. They recline and, in the SX, are heated and ventilated. Legroom is grand at 42.4 inches maximum. With no step rail, placing a child in a car seat is much easier.

The back side of the front armrest console has a pair of cup holders; down low is a 12-volt plug and a 115-volt, 150-watt household outlet. Plus, there is a charging USB notched into the front seatback sides, with a bag hook in each seatback.

An electronic AC controller in the headliner allows control of fan speed, vent flow, and temperature; the controller panel also packages a pair of large reading lights. The moonroof is a welcome skylight, but it would be nice to have a separate sunshade control switch, not just the main controller up front.

Entry to the third row is via a one-touch button to tilt and slide the captain’s seats, with a nearby grab handle for leverage. The three-seat bench, with legroom of 31.4 inches, is snug for adults but fun for youngsters. The seats recline, and the area is stocked with reading lights, cup or box holders, and two more charging USBs.

The cargo area is 4 feet wide and square with up to 7 feet in length with both rows folded, but the captain’s chairs prevent a contiguous floor, such as for sleeping. Behind the third row is 21 cubic feet of grocery capacity. And below the floor is some usable basement space, with storage for the roller shade.

The second-row seats tip and slide for third-row access.

The second-row seats tip and slide for third-row access.

Telluride’s V-6 Performance

I’ve long believed in electric and electrified vehicles, so a V-6 combustion engine might seem indulgent. But it is an asset for a vehicle of this size. The Telluride’s combustion V-6 uses the Atkinson cycle design for fuel efficiency. Together with auto stop-start at idle, the direct-injected engine can be considered a mild hybrid. With 262 foot-pounds of torque at 5,200 rpm, the power response is unhesitating in Sport mode and guarded in Eco mode.

In this round-trip road trip of almost 1,000 miles, my average fuel economy ranged from 21.2 mpg to a high of 25.6. The sweet spot for interstate cruising with cruise control was a consistent 22.8 mpg. With that mileage, the 18.8-gallon tank could provide a cruising range of around 425 miles.

I couldn’t complain about the fuel economy with a cabin of four adults, tooling along between 70 and 80 mph. The Telluride SX curb weight is 4,524 pounds, plus another 700 pounds or so with people and luggage.

I drove the entire trip in Eco mode, thinking that would stretch the mileage. But I also was surprised to find that Eco mode was capable of stiff acceleration when needed, but it wasn’t all that quick to respond to an urgent demand for get-going power.

The transmission also has modes for Smart, Sport, and Comfort. Each mode applies different calibrations for the engine, transmission, and steering effort.

When I’m creeping along in commuter traffic, I dial up Sport mode. There is enough added kick to guard my line against impatient drivers who have to try to cut in front.

The V-6 Telluride engine.

291 hp and thrifty fuel economy of 18 mpg city, 24 highway and 21 mpg combined.

Telluride AWD Ride and Handling

In Eco mode, the steering weight is comfortable and appreciated when hands are on the wheel for 8 hours. The wheel has an easy roll in tight parking situations but was never vague at speed. And the suspension and Michelin tires help the Telluride track steady at high speeds without wandering. Driving the Telluride SX X-Line — with self-leveling rear suspension — never felt heavy, nor was there body lean in cornering. For my passengers, there was no mention of queasiness — and that’s high praise for a road-trip vehicle or for parents with children prone to motion sickness.

Four-wheel disc brakes are reassuring with 13.4-inch vented rotors front and solid 12-inch rotors rear.

The wide navigation and camera screen in the dashboard

Dual 12.3-inch-wide display screens for driver info and navigation and camera system.

Telluride Safety Technologies

The multi-tasking shift console with e-bin and wireless charging pad.

The multi-tasking shift console with e-bin and charging pad.

Kia’s advanced driver assist systems contribute to a much more relaxed driving experience.

Highway Driving Assist 2 (standard on upper trim levels) is a semi-autonomous system that requires both hands on the wheel. But the vast network of safety technologies functions as an array of eyes to keep the Telluride on course. The system gives accurate lane centering, and not once did the Telluride drift wide in cornering or cross the highway lines or Botts dots.

Among the safety features are seven air bags, navigation-based smart cruise control, and Intelligent Speed Limit Assist. The list of driver-assist technologies is highlighted below in ADAS Technologies.

Active On-Demand AWD

Kia’s active on-demand all-wheel-drive system distributes torque between the front and rear wheels. Depending on road conditions and driver action, the system continually redistributes the amount of power transferred fore and aft.

In everyday driving, Eco and Comfort modes can direct 20 to 35 percent of the power to the rear wheels. Sport, Smart, and Snow modes can deliver up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels. AWD Lock”sends power evenly to all four wheels.

A gloss-black front wheel and Michelin tire on the Telluride with X-Line treatment

The Telluride X-Line gets 20-inch Michelin Primacy 245/50 tires and gloss-black wheels.

What’s New for 2023?

The Kia Telluride was a smash success when it debuted in the spring of 2019 as a 2020 model. It had the right look and the right stance — substantial and engaging. And 2023 brings a range of updates for Telluride.

The 2023 Kia Telluride has some freshened exterior styling, mainly for a more rugged yet refined look, Kia says. Among the tweaks are the following:

  • Revised vertical headlamp design with optional LED headlights and fog lights;
  • New front fascia and grille;
  • Revised taillights and new rear fascia and trim;
  • New wheel designs for every trim;
  • Three new exterior colors: Midnight Lake Blue, Dawning Red, Jungle Green;
  • X-Line trim replaces the former Telluride Nightfall Edition;
  • Downhill Brake Control, which helps keep a controlled descent on steep roads.
The Telluride X-Line has a unique, black grille treatment.

The Telluride X-Line has a unique grille treatment.

New 2023 Convenience Technologies

  • Standard upgraded 12.3-inch navigation screen (increased from 10.3 inches);
  • Optional full display mirror with HomeLink;
  • Optional Smart Power Liftgate with “Auto Close” function;
  • Kia Connect services for embedded connectivity:
  • Available Digital Key: Allows compatible iPhone, Apple Watch, and Samsung Galaxy smart devices to be used as a virtual vehicle key to lock, unlock and drive. Digital keys can be shared with friends and family over text messages on available devices;
  • In-vehicle Wi-Fi Hotspot connects up to five devices to 4G LTE-based internet;
  • Automatic over-the-air updates for maps and infotainment;
  • Kia Access App for Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy smartwatch to access such features as remote climate control and door lock/unlock;
  • Stolen vehicle tracking and immobilization capability;
  • Connected Routing: The server-based system will calculate the optimal route using real-time and predicted traffic information. The cloud system uses past driving information to learn the driver’s preferred route;
  • Smart Speaker Integration: Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant can remotely control some functions, such as remote start.
There is rewarding quality to the stitching and precise alignment of interior panes.

There is rewarding quality to the stitching and precise alignment of interior panes.

Expanded ADAS Technologies

The 2023 Advanced Driver Assist Systems add several new technologies:

Intelligent Speed Limit Assist — ISLA: Can detect a road’s maximum speed limit in some cases, provide alerts to the driver and even limit the speed of the car depending on the settings (standard);

Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control – Curve — NSCC-C: In certain circumstances, the smart cruise control can lower the vehicle’s speed proactively before upcoming curves in the road (available);

Highway Driving Assist 2 — HDA 2: A driving convenience system that helps to maintain a predetermined distance from the vehicle detected in front, keep the vehicle within detected lane markers on certain highways, and assist in lane changes under certain conditions (optional; HDA 1.5 is standard);

Forward Collision Avoidance – Junction Turning — FCA-JT: Detects oncoming vehicles while turning left at an intersection (junction). If the system detects that a collision might be likely, the system may apply the brakes to help slow or stop the car (standard);

Forward Collision Avoidance – Junction Crossing — FCA-JC: Is designed to detect crossing vehicles while passing through an intersection. If the system detects that a collision might be likely, the system may apply the brakes to help slow or stop the car (available);

Forward Collision Avoidance – Lane Change Oncoming — FCA-LO: Designed to give steering input to help prevent collisions if the system detects oncoming vehicles while passing other vehicles (available);

Forward Collision Avoidance – Lane Change Side — FCA-LS: Provides steering input to help prevent collisions if the system detects cycles or vehicles in front of the car while changing lanes (available);

Forward Collision Avoidance – Evasive Steering Assist — FCA-ESA: Gives steering input to help prevent collisions if the system detects obstacles, pedestrians, or vehicles in front of the car while driving straight (available).

Looking through the open driver-side door at the front seats.

Front headroom is tall at 39.5 inches, and the driver seat is 8-way power adjustable.

Why Buy the Kia Telluride?

The Telluride is big but efficient, even nimble for a vehicle that is 16.4 feet long. After 12 hours in the saddle, the seats began to feel like leather saddles. But only seat massagers would have prevented that. Still, I stepped out at fuel stops without stiffness or back pain. And I was always eager to climb aboard and continue the adventure.

After our trip, it was a sad wave goodbye to the Telluride. If it had fit easily in my garage, it would have been a keeper.

A rear three quarter view of the wolf gray Telluride with gloss black alloy wheels.

The Kia Telluride X-Line package adds such features as raised, bridge-type roof rails, body-color door handles, and exclusive 20-inch wheels.

2023 Kia Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line V6 AWD Specifications

Body style: large 7-seat, 5-door SUV

Engine: 291-hp, direct-injected 3.8-liter V-6; 262 lb.-ft. torque at 5,200 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with active on-demand AWD

Fuel economy: 18/24/21 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane recommended

BY THE NUMBERS

Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds

Fuel tank: 18.8 gallons

Cargo space: 21 to 46 cubic feet

Front head/leg room: 39.5/41.4 inches

2nd-row head/leg room: 38.8/42.4 inches

3rd-row head/leg room: 37.8/31.4 inches

Length/wheelbase: 196.9/114.2 inches

Width/height: 78.3/ 70.5 (with roof rails) inches

Curb weight: 4,524 pounds

Turning circle: 38.8 feet

FEATURES

Telluride SX-Prestige Standard equipment includes: smart key entry with push-button ignition and remote start, digital key (for smartphone app use), digital rearview mirror, Nappa-leather trimmed seat upholstery, 10-way power front seats with driver-seat memory, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, dual panoramic 12.3-inch panoramic displays with navigation, wireless phone charging pad, surround view monitor and blind-spot view monitor, head-up display, Kia Connect with free 1-year trial, Harman-Kardon audio system;

SX-Prestige exterior features include: 20-inch alloy wheel, dual sunroofs (2nd row fixed), LED headlights, smart power liftgate, power-folding side mirrors with turn signals, roof rails, and rear privacy glass.

Standard safety features and technologies include: 7 air bags, Forward Collision Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian & Cyclist Detection, high beam assist, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot collision warning, driver attention warning, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, parking distance warning – reverse, lane following assist, safe exit assist;

Kia Drive Wise Driver-Assist Technologies: Forward collision avoidance (cyclist and junction turning), blind spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, safe exit assist, highway driving assist 2, parking distance warning forward and reverse, smart cruise control with stop-and-go, parking collision avoidance assist, reverse.

PRICING

Telluride SX-Prestige X-Line base price: $53,120, including $1,335 freight charge; price as tested $53,825

Options on test vehicle: Wolf Gray paint $495; carpeted floor mats $210

Where assembled: West Point, Ga.

Warranties: 5-years/60,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance; 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain

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2023 Toyota Prius First Drive

Sexy new 2023 Toyota Prius wrapped in PDA — Proactive Driving Assist to help save drivers from that “Oops” moment

A silver Prius parked along the ocean at north coastal San Diego

Designed in Japan, the new Prius offers a coupe-like exterior for a more athletic look, Toyota says. (Photos courtesy of Toyota)

Table of Contents

Overview
Pricing
Warranties
Safety Features
Powertrain and Performance
Fuel Economy
Drive Impressions
Why Buy the 2023 Toyota Prius?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

The redesigned and re-engineered 2023 Toyota Prius is a stunning improvement in almost every way over the previous model. Its sex-jet styling is a pronounced shift in attitude. But this gasoline-electric hybrid hatchback is also more powerful with better fuel economy than before. And its new body is smoother rolling, and the handling is as responsive as its sleek shape implies. The cabin is much quieter and interior materials and plastics are much improved and pleasing to the eye and touch.

Not sanitized in the redesign, however, is some Prius weirdness — its mild personality disorder that has helped make this small car a big icon.

The new Prius has a 2-inch lower roofline, and the body is 1 inch wider and lower. The wheelbase is 1.9 inches longer, now at 108.3 inches. The new length of 181.1 inches is about an inch longer than before.

Looking for a back-to-work commuter? The entry 2023 Prius LE has fuel economy ratings of 56 mpg on the highway and 57 mpg combined city and highway. Its pricing starts at a reasonable $28,545 for front-wheel drive, or add $1,400 for on-demand all-wheel drive (available on all trim levels).

The new Prius is expected to arrive at Toyota dealerships in January 2023.

A side view of the new Prius showing the 2 inch lower roofline

The roofline of the 2023 Prius is 2 inches lower.

Prius Media Drive in San Diego

Toyota brought its national media drive to Del Mar, Calif., just up the coast from downtown San Diego. Select journalists from the U.S. and Canada were given a deep dive into the 2023 Prius, its technologies and design.

There were test drives of XLE and Limited trim levels, in front- and all-wheel drive. I shared seat time with another journalist for about a 40-mile run into the area around Rancho Santa Fe and on the interstate.

The drive gave good input, but I was not able to test such features as the new and enhanced Advanced Park (a Toyota first) that helps drivers steer into a selected parking space. The system works for parallel parking or backing into a perpendicular slot. I also didn’t sample Proactive Driving Assist (details below) or how comfortable the seats would be for an extended commute.

The awkward function of the steering column and driver display screen.

The steering column is among the weird features of the new Prius.

2023 Toyota Prius Overview

Its nameplate needs no introduction — “Prius” is as representative of what it is as “Corvette,” “Mustang,” or “McDonald’s.” But its reputation is founded in its legacy as the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid car. It also is notoriously vilified for its many passionate drivers who feel it is their environmental responsibility to drive 63 mph in the fast lane of the interstate.

The Toyota Prius debuted in Japan in 1997 and was then exported to the U.S. and North America in 2000. But it was a sales dud in the States. It was too small and too weak to handle the interstate hustle. And its center-position driver display and controls in the dashboard were just weird. Cars sat on used lots until the first energy crisis hit in the early 2000s, followed by the Great Recession in 2008. But by 2004, Toyota had launched the second-generation design. This new styling was more palatable but still odd; however, it was a complete design study in aerodynamics, resulting in a very low 0.24 coefficient of drag. That Cd has only recently been surpassed by some new electric cars. And even the new Prius is not as slippery now, compromising Cd for style.

A color image of Satoki Oya, Toyota chief engineer for Prius.

Satoki Oya, Toyota chief engineer for Prius.

Prius Trim Levels and Pricing

The 2023 Prius will be sold in three trim levels: LE, XLE, and Limited. Gone is the L Eco model, which had been the city-mileage champ at 58 mpg.

The XLE is the sweet spot of features to price. The Limited fills in useful details, such as an interior liftback release button.

There are six paint colors, including the new Cutting Edge silver and Guardian Gray. Other choices include Wind Chill Pearl white, Midnight Black Metallic, Supersonic Red, or Reservoir Blue.

The 2023 pricing is about $2,300 more than the previous model. Here are some thumbnail details on the trim levels:

Prius LE, $28,545: standard dark gray 17-inch alloy wheels with wheel covers, an 8-inch audio multimedia touchscreen, six-way adjustable fabric front seats in black or gray, six USB type C charging ports, electric parking brake, SofTex steering wheel, and blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.

Optional features include front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.

Prius XLE, $31,990: adds 19-inch alloy wheels and eight-way adjustable heated power driver’s SofTex seat in black or gray. Also standard are rain-sensing wipers, smart key locking with push-button ignition, wireless charger, and front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.

Options include a 12.3-inch high-resolution touchscreen display ($735), fixed glass roof ($1,000), and Digital Key ($275), which works with a smartphone app.

Prius Limited, $35,560: adds a standard 12.3-inch JBL Premium Audio touchscreen display, fixed glass roof, SofTex heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, power liftback, and Digital Key.

Available options include a digital rearview mirror ($200), heated rear seats ($350), and Advanced Park ($1,085, includes panoramic view monitor).

The manufacturer’s Suggested Retail pricing includes the $1,095 freight charge from Japan.

The driver the driver display screen is at the top of the instrument panel, not in the instrument panel.

The placement of the driver display screen is a little far from the driver’s seat.

Prius Warranties

Basic warranty coverage is for 3 years or 36,000 miles and 5 years or 60,000 miles for the powertrain. ToyotaCare provides free scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles, with 24/7 roadside assistance for 3 years (while other Toyota models receive 2 years) and unlimited mileage.

The lithium-ion hybrid battery is covered for 10 years from the date of first use or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first. And Hybrid-related components, including the battery control module, hybrid control module, and inverter with converter, have coverage of 8 years or 100,000 miles.

The Limited’s standard 12.3-inch JBL Premium Audio touchscreen display

The Limited’s standard 12.3-inch JBL Premium Audio touchscreen display.

Safety Features and Technologies

The 2023 Prius has eight air bags and the latest Toyota Safety Sense generation, TSS 3.0. This suite of active safety systems includes everything on the prior generation Prius, plus several driver-assist technologies. The Level 2 semi-autonomous driver-assist function still requires both hands on the wheel.

Among the added technologies are:

  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection;
  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist;
  • Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control;
  • Lane Tracing Assist;
  • Road Sign Assist;
  • Automatic High Beams;
  • Proactive Driving Assist.

Proactive Driving Assist is interesting because it is an “Oops” monitor for everyday situations. Toyota said that the system functions without cruise control, but it is not a substitute for the Pre-Collision System.

PDA uses the vehicle’s camera and radar to provide gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and steering. The system helps with distance control between a preceding vehicle, pedestrian, or bicyclist.

A view of the gasoline-electric engine

Net hybrid-system horsepower is 194 hp for front-wheel drive and 196 hp with AWD.

Prius Powertrain

The 2023 Prius marks the fifth generation. And with it, Toyota hopes to overcome the car’s reputation as dowdy to drive and quirky. Prius chief engineer Satoki Oya made sure of it. And it was his approval of the fast styling that inspired a way to tuck the new hybrid system beneath the skin. And there were compromises.

Engineer Oya had the suspension and steering tuned for sporty driving, and he gave the powertrain 60 percent more horsepower. Indeed, the internal combustion engine is now a 2.0-liter, replacing the previous 1.8-liter four-cylinder. A newly developed lithium-ion battery has 14 percent more output.

The Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine accounts for 150 horsepower and 139 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. Net hybrid-system horsepower is 194 hp for front-wheel drive and 196 hp with AWD.

The transmission continues as an e-CVT, an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic. All-wheel-drive models have a rear motor that adds 40 hp and 62 lb.-ft. of torque. The transmission has drive modes of Normal, Eco, and Sport.

The redesigned model, however, has a 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd), which compares to 0.24 Cd for the previous generations. Blame that shapely peak at the rear of the roofline, according to Oya. It was a sacrifice to maintain the design.

Aerodynamic features include front grille shutters to optimize the inflow of air, which also aids engine cooling. Underbody panels help reduce drag and road noise.

The XLE and Limited trim levels have new aero-tuned alloy wheels rather than steel wheels with aero wheel covers.

SofTex upholstery in black or gray for the XLE and Limited.

SofTex upholstery in black or gray for the XLE and Limited.

Prius Performance

Acceleration from a stop is quicker and less noisy when pressed hard. Toyota says the battery provides a subtle power boost to put less strain on the engine. It also eliminates the “rubber band” acceleration effect experienced with some CVTs.

Also new is an EV mode. Battery power can be used for short distances, such as when in parking lots or indoor parking garages. (This feature had long been available on Japanese market Prii.) When in EV mode, pedestrians will hear the whirring sound of the “Vehicle Proximity Notification.”

Four-wheel-disc brakes have one-inch larger rotors. Front-drive models have ventilated 11.1-inch rotors, and 12-inch rotors for AWD. The rear discs are solid 11-inch rotors, front- or all-wheel drive.

The fixed dual-pane sunroof in the Limited.

The fixed sunroof in the Limited.

2023 Prius Fuel Economy Ratings

Despite the bigger engine, fuel economy increased.

The entry, front-wheel-drive Prius LE gets the highest estimated fuel economy ratings of 57 mpg city, 56 highway and 57 mpg combined. Toyota says that careful driving (Eco mode) can push the mileage to 60 mpg. The other trim levels have ratings of:

  • 52/52/52 mpg, XLE and Limited FWD;
  • 53/54/54 mpg, LE AWD;
  • 49/50/49, XLE/Limited AWD.

Toyota recommends 87 octane fuel, but also says that using premium fuel will help achieve more power and (slightly) higher mileage ratings.

The fuel tank of 11.3 gallons should allow a cruising range of almost 600 miles, but careful driving can easily extend the range.

Though slightly larger, the 2023 Prius weighs about the same as its predecessor. Curb weights range from 3,097 pounds to 3,284 pounds for the top-line Limited AWD trim level; the Limited AWD is about 84 pounds heavier than before.

Maximizing shift-console space is the slot for wireless smartphone charging

Maximizing shift-console space is the slot for wireless smartphone charging.

 Prius Drive Impressions

From the first 500 feet driving the new Prius, there is exceptional feel to the solid body and fluid roll of the steering. The taut suspension is a welcome transition from comfy and soft of the previous design.

The tighter body, with reinforcements at the windshield pillars, midroof, and rear glass pillars, encourages enthusiastic driving. And the cabin is far more soundproofed now, but there is some tire harshness on the interstate.

The turning circle is still subcompact at 34.4 feet with 17-inch wheels or 35.4 feet with 19-inch wheels.

The low-slung design lowers the hip point by about an inch, making for no-struggle entry and exit. But veteran Prii owners might lament the open feel of the previous cabin architecture.

Headroom of 38 inches will suit a 6-foot-6-tall adult without leaning the seatback to an uncomfortable position. But that driver fills the seat area. Legroom is very long at 43.2 inches.

Sightlines over the fenders and hood are good, benefiting from small corner glass in the side windows. But the new driver display screen of speedometer and other gauge readouts is behind the steering wheel atop the instrument panel. In my orientation drive, the black display nagged as a visual obstacle to a clear view. In time, I might adjust. And tall drivers might have to adjust the wheel higher, which will crop the bottom quarter of the display.

Back Seat and Cargo Space

At least there is no more split rear window from the previous kammback body style. However, the new rear window is a slim ellipse, so rear views will be familiar to veteran Prius drivers.

Back seat dimensions are tight. Headroom of 36.4 inches and legroom of 34.8 inches will be adequate for the grade-schoolers carpool. But the space will be too cramped for ride-share use.

Cargo space is luggage capable at 20.3 cubic feet in the XLE and Limited, and 23.8 cu.ft. with the bilevel floor in the LE. Fold the back seat for about 5 feet in length.

The back seat is short on legroom room

Back seat head- and legroom will limit use as a ride-share vehicle.

Why Buy the 2023 Toyota Prius?

The Toyota Prius is weird. It’s always been weird. And the 2023 Prius is weird, too. But its weirdness has been an asset to distinguish this stalwart fuel miser.

The new model will sell easily for those ready for its 50s mpg ratings. It’s still just a gasoline-electric hybrid, with no charging needed, but the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid will go on sale next spring.

Toyota expects the new Prius to sell well, but it also cites a modest annual output of 35,000 cars. With what might be a shortage of new Prii, Toyota dealers will have the opportunity to charge “market pricing.”

Toyota now has 13 electrified models, and by 2025 the carmaker says 40 percent of its lineup with be electrified. That provides many choices for a hybrid Toyota, including the upcoming Crown hybrid sedan.

The Toyota Crown could become what the Prius had been; it is a more powerful hybrid and more expensive but with a 30-mpg combined city/highway fuel economy rating.

Will the Prius lose its crown?

Cargo space is luggage capable and the back seat folds for about 5 feet in length.

Cargo space is luggage capable and the back seat folds for about 5 feet in length.

2023 Toyota Prius Specifications

Body style: compact, 5-seat, 5-door liftback in front- or all-wheel drive

Engine: 150-hp 2.0-Liter 4-cylinder aluminum block and head, double overhead cam 16-valve VVT-I; 139 lb.-ft torque at 4,400 rpm

Hybrid System Net Horsepower: 194 hp FWD; 196 hp AWD

Motor generator: Drives front wheels, regeneration during braking

Motor: Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motor; max voltage DC 600-volts

Electric motor power output: 111 hp/83 kW

Torque: 152 lb.-ft.

Hybrid battery: Lithium ion, 222 volts, 4.8 Ah (ampere hour)

Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT); AWD, Rear Motor Interior Permanent Magnet (40hp, 62 lb.-ft.)

EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings:

  • 57/56/57 (LE FWD);
  • 52/52/52 (XLE/Limited FWD)
  • 53/54/54 (LE AWD)
  • 49/50/49 (XLE/Limited AWD)

0-60 mph acceleration: 7 seconds, AWD, estimated

Coefficient of drag: 0.27 (Cd) with 17-inch wheels

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 11.3 gallons

Cargo space: 23.8 cubic feet LE; 20.3 cu.ft. (XLE and Limited grades)

Front head/leg room: 38/43.2 inches

Rear head/leg room: 36.4/34.8 inches

Length/wheelbase: 181.1/108.3 inches

Curb weights by trim level:

  • 3,097 pounds, LE
  • 3,164 pounds XLE;
  • 3,219 pounds Limited;
  • 3,230 pounds LE AWD;
  • 3,285 pounds XLE AWD;
  • 3,340 pounds Limited AWD

Turning circle: 34.4 feet w/17-inch wheels; 35.4 feet w/19-inch wheels

Tires: Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 Plus 215/45 17-inches; Limited,
Toyo Extensa A/S 195/50 19 inches

FEATURES

Safety features include: 8 air bags, enhanced vehicle stability and traction controls, brake-force distribution, brake assist, smarts stop technology, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, hill start assist;

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 includes: a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, road sign assist, automatic high beams, proactive driving assist (PDA)

Where assembled: Japan

Warranties: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain;

Hybrid battery warranty: 10 years from date of first use or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first;

Hybrid-related components: The battery control module, hybrid control module, and inverter with converter are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

ToyotaCare: Free scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles; 24/7 roadside assistance for 3 years (other Toyota models receive 2 years) and unlimited mileage.

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Kia Niro PHEV Review

The second-generation 2023 Kia Niro is sold with electrified powertrains of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric

A new Niro with the broad aero blade at the rear fender

The redesigned 2023 Kia Niro is incrementally larger but still in the compact class. How do you like the black aero blade? (Photos courtesy of Kia America or as credited)

Table of Contents

What’s New for the 2023 Kia Niro?
2023 Kia Niro Pricing
Safety Features
Powertrain and Performance
Ride and Handling
Interior Function
Back Seats and Cargo
Why Buy the 2023 Kia Niro PHEV ?
Specifications

 BY MARK MAYNARD

The second-generation 2023 Kia Niro has been restyled, resized, and revitalized as a compact, small crossover vehicle. The new Kia Niro continues to be available in electrified powertrains of gasoline-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric. All models have been refined for efficiency and electrified driving range. And as before, Niro is a front-wheel-drive platform with no option for all-wheel drive.

The first-generation Niro was introduced in 2016, based on the same platform as the Hyundai Ioniq. Kia then added plug-in-hybrid and battery-electric models in 2018.

Of Kia’s 13 nameplates, including electrified models, the Niro is a solid midrange player accounting for around 3,000 sales a month. That should satisfy Kia, with Niro price points ranging from $28,000 to about $41,000.

Still, the Kia Niro is an affordable electrified vehicle, whether it be a gasoline-electric hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, or full battery-electric.

Compact-class hybrid and electric vehicles include the Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV, Hyundai Ioniq and Hyundai Kona Electric, Jeep Wrangler 4xe, Nissan Leaf, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Toyota Prius and Toyota Prius Prime.

The front seat area of the redesigned Kia Niro

Interior design is electro-contemporary.

What’s New for the 2023 Kia Niro?

The redesigned exterior styling of the 2023 Niro is a total improvement, giving it a more solid stance and less pinched appearance. And Kia took the bold step to offer an option for a broad black aero blade at the rear fender. The add-on blade at the rear D-pillars is just $195 and creates sort of a two-tone appearance. But the blade design is functional. It has a slim inlet to channel airflow along the body sides and past the tailgate to trim aerodynamic drag.

With other aero treatments, the 2023 Niro has a low drag coefficient of 0.29. For aero comparisons, the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq have drag coefficients of 0.24. The battery-electric Mercedes-Benz EQS 500 4Matic has a Cd of 0.20. And a Ram 1500 pickup has a blunt Cd of 0.36. The lower the drag coefficient, the smoother the vehicle drives through the air, which benefits fuel efficiency.

Dimensionally, the 2023 Niro is still in the compact class, but the five-seater is incrementally larger than the vehicle it replaces. The wheelbase was stretched by 0.8 of an inch to 107.1 inches. Overall length increases by 2.5 inches to 174 inches. The added length benefited cabin openness and cargo space, now 22.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats.

And there were some weight reductions. The 2023 Niro PHEV SX Touring weighs 3,496 pounds, of which 111 pounds are for the hybrid battery. Overall, the new larger Niro is 46 pounds heavier than its predecessor.

The front passenger side of the Niro

The driver has an 8-way power seat, but the passenger gets only a 6-way manual seat.

2023 Kia Niro Pricing

With its trusty gasoline-electric powertrain, the Niro Hybrid has starting prices of $28,000 to $36,000, including the $1,295 freight charge from Hwaseong, South Korea. The hybrid’s estimated fuel-economy ratings are 53 mpg city, 54 highway, and 53 mpg combined, and it has a combined driving range of 588 miles; using the recommended 87 octane fuel.

The Niro EV has trim-level choices of Wind and Wave, with starting prices of $40,745 and $45,745. With its 64.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, the Niro EV has an EPA-estimated driving range of around 253 miles. And the Niro EV is now available in all 50 states.

And the Kia Niro PHEV, today’s tester, is sold in two well-equipped trim levels. The plug-in model has starting prices of $35,035 for the EX and $40,785 for the SX Touring. With its 11.1-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, the plug-in hybrid has a driving range of 31 to 33 miles.

The SX Touring tester came to $41,635. Its options included the black aero blade with Mineral Blue paint, $195; carpeted floor mats ($155); and the Cold Weather package, $500, which adds a heat pump and heated rear window seats; a heat pump uses less energy than traditional radiant heating.

Notable SX Touring features include:

  • Smart key entry with push button ignition and remote start;
  • Perforated SynTex upholstery with heated and ventilated front seats
  • Sunroof;
  • 10.25-inch touchscreen display with navigation;
  • Harmon Kardon audio system;
  • Wireless phone charging pad;
  • 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar and memory presets;
  • 6-way manual front passenger seat with height adjustment;
  • Digital Key (using the smartphone app);
  • Heated steering wheel,

Exterior features include 18-inch alloy wheels, a hands-free power tailgate, roof rails, and LED projector headlights and fog lights.

The charge power on the left front fender.

31 to 33 miles to a charge and about 3 hours to fully recharge.

Kia Warranties

Kia Niro’s warranties include 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain and hybrid battery. Bumper-to-bumper coverage is for 5 years/60,000 miles with roadside assistance.

Find current pricing and available lease or purchase offers here.

Safety and Driver Assist Technologies

The Kia Niro has Level 2 hands-on driver-assist capability. The calibrations for driver assist are consistent in tracking through corners and keeping the Niro centered in the lane. It is a trustworthy system, in my experience, but always keep both hands on the wheel.

Among its Level 2 advanced technologies are:

  • Smart cruise control with stop and Go;
  • Highway Driving Assist;
  • Enhanced auto emergency braking with junction turning detection;
  • Blind spot detection;
  • Rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist;
  • Lane keeping and following assist.
the 18-inch tires and wheels on the Kia Niro.

Run-flat Continental ProContact RX tires are noisy on the interstate. (Mark Maynard)

Niro PHEV Powertrain and Performance

The Niro PHEV pairs a 1.6-liter direct-injected four-cylinder with a 62kW electric motor. Total system output is 180 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque.

Connecting to a Level 2 charger, the Niro PHEV can refill its 11.1-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery in about three hours.

Fully charged, the all-electric range of the Niro PHEV is 31 to 33 miles with 108 MPGe combined. Kia says the mileage improved by 25 percent over the previous model. Gasoline-only mileage is 48 mpg combined city/highway using 87 octane fuel.

Kia’s plug-in hybrid system switches from battery power to engine intervention for more aggressive driving. And even with a depleted battery, the hybrid system functions as any other hybrid system, giving some short-range and low-speed acceleration, regenerative braking, and auto stop-start at idle.

The six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (DSG) hooks up quickly for forward motion. But shift points can sometimes be abrupt.

When the battery charge ends and the hybrid engine engages, there is little difference in performance. There might be quicker acceleration in EV mode as it lays down power without hesitation.

Over a week of just 64 miles of testing, my average fuel economy was 115 mpg. I barely touched the fuel supply, and each morning after a charge, I was greeted with a readout of 510 miles of driving range. Battery power can be “banked” by combining Hybrid and Sport modes.

180 horsepower from the 1.6-liter four-cylinder and 62kW electric motor.

180 horsepower from the 1.6-liter four-cylinder and 62kW electric motor. (Mark Maynard)

Niro PHEV Charging

Charging a depleted battery took almost 3 hours on my home 240-volt Level 2 charger. Kia includes an alternate charging cable for use on a 110-volt household plug. It can be handy when traveling, but it will take an overnight charge to top off the battery.

Niro PHEV Ride and Handling

Niro’s suspension work is focused on everyday comfort. Steering and braking inputs are tight and reassuring. But the handling is not sporty — nor does it have to be for its mission of fuel economy and crossover function.

Cabin noise, however, is noticeable at interstate speeds, which takes away from the pleasure of the Niro as a daily long-distance commuter. The wall of white noise I noticed is likely from the run-flat Continental ProContact RX tires.

Kia also includes a “Tire Mobility Kit” in case of a flat that might exceed run-flat capability. The kit is just a can of sealant that connects to a little air pump powered by the 12-volt plug in the dashboard. I doubt this system can inflate a flat to road-worthy air pressure, but it might get the driver out of a bind and on the road to a service station.

Back seats of the Niro

Headroom is tall at 39.5 inches, and max legroom of 39.8 inches is outstanding.

Kia Niro Interior Function

Driver sightlines are accommodating across the hood and out the back. Rear views are much improved over the narrow back glass of the previous-gen Niro.

There is newfound elbow and shoulder room in the cabin. And with 6.3 inches of ground clearance, there is a comfortable hip-point for entry and exit. The front seats are reasonably comfortable for longer drives. Mercifully, the seats are without “sporty” side bolstering to firmly hold the driver in enthusiastic driving, such as when getting the kids to school on time.

The interior design is electro-contemporary with some engaging finesse. The appearance is somewhat like the glossy black screen of a smartphone. The dashboard is an asymmetric arc that begins high on the driver’s side (for open gauge views) and to low on the passenger’s side for better sightseeing. Piano black and creative elements of metallic trim influence the modern treatment.

Small storage areas are abundant, including open trays and slots. The shift-dial console has multifunction cup holders, a wireless charging pad, a C-type charging USB, and a 12-volt plug.

But for the tester’s price of nearly $42,000, it seems cheap not to provide a power-adjustable front passenger seat. It might be a weight-saving measure, but there should be the choice of a powered seat. The front passenger seat does, however, have manual seat-height adjustment.

And where’s the audio volume knob? It’s there, in the temperature-control knob, but it takes some fiddling to figure it out. Adjusting the volume and most other cabin controls is a two-touch process to access features.

Give yourself some exploring time to learn the multimodes of electronic settings. Or pay close attention when taking delivery of your Niro.

The open area of the Niro cargo space.

Fold the seatbacks for 5 ½ to 6 feet in length.

Back Seat and Cargo Space

The back seat is simple but comfortable. Headroom is tall at 39.5 inches and the max legroom of 39.8 inches is outstanding, as long as a member of the big-and-tall club is not seated ahead. A low exhaust tunnel allows better center-seat footroom, but the space feels cluttered for anyone not on the way to grade school.

I like how Kia inserts a charging USB in the side seatbacks of the front seats.

The cargo area opening is wide at 42 inches, but floor-to-headliner height is limited at 27 inches for carting tall items. Fold the 60/40 back seat for 5 ½ to 6 feet in length.

There is no subfloor storage or dedicated place to store the alternate charge cable. It lies coiled up on the cargo floor.

Garden nursery items in the cargo area of the Niro.

The cargo entry is wide at 42 inches, but there is no dedicated space to store the alternate charging cable. (Mark Maynard)

Why Buy the 2023 Kia Niro PHEV?

I like seeing a readout of 500 miles of driving range in the morning. The larger 2023 Niro is now big enough for greater family function. And the Niro plug-in is a confidence-building step toward a total EV experience.

Most owners could drive through the workweek with just a few sips of gasoline. And even for longer trips, the Niro PHEV performance is strong with thrifty fuel economy.

The SX Touring tester is fully priced at $41,635, but its added features build a car for rewarding ownership.

2023 Kia Niro PHEV Specifications

Body style: compact, 5-passenger, 5-door front-wheel-drive crossover

Engine: 104-hp 1.6-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder; 106.3 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automated-manual with Sport and Hybrid modes

Fuel economy: 48 mpg city/hwy combined; 87 octane

Fuel economy equivalent: 108 MPGe combined city/hwy

EPA-estimated driving range: 31-32 miles (33 miles EX)

Combined driving range: 510 miles

Motor: Permanent Magnet Synchronous

Battery: 60Ah, 360-volt lithium-ion polymer

Battery Power: 83.0 kW

Battery Energy: 11.1 kWh

Top speed: 104 mph

Coefficient of drag: 0.29

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 9.7 gallons

Cargo space: 22.8/63.7 cubic feet

Front head/leg room: 40.5/41.5 inches

Rear head/leg room: 39.5/39.8 inches

Length/wheelbase: 174/107.1 inches

Curb weight: 3,496.5 pounds

Turning circle: 34.9 feet

FEATURES

Standard Niro PHEV equipment includes:

Exterior: 18-inch alloy wheels and Continental ProContact RX (225/45) tires, sunroof, smart power tailgate, roof rails, LED projector headlights and fog lights, LED interior lighting;

Interior: 10.25-inch touchscreen display with navigation, Kia Connect, and satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Harmon Kardon audio system, smart key entry with push button start and remote start, wireless phone charging pad, perforated SynTex upholstery with heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, power driver’s seat with power lumbar and memory presets, 6-way manual front passenger seat with height adjustment, Digital Key (using the smartphone app);

Safety features include: 7 air bags, front and rear parking sensors, driver attention warning with leading vehicle departure alert, high-beam assist, safe exit warning, and stability and traction controls

PRICING

Niro SX Touring base price: $40,785, including the $1,295 freight charge; price as tested $41,635

Options on test vehicle: Carpeted floor mats $155; Cold Weather package, $500; black aero blade with Mineral Blue paint, $195.

Where assembled: Hwaseong, South Korea

Warranties: 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain; 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper coverage with roadside assistance.

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