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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