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Entry price: $23,340
Price as tested: $32,940
Likes: Hybrid powertrain, safety, looks, dual-clutch automatic.
Dislikes: High tech safety unavailable on entry FE, no AWD model.
This week, we’re reviewing the 2018 Kia Niro Touring Hybrid, a small wagon that the Korean manufacturer debuted in ’17. Niro comes in a nice-looking five-door hatch design with room for five adults, although the middle rear seat passenger will be a bit tight. Niro is larger than sibling Kia Sportage by 1.2-inches in the wheelbase, making for a more comfortable ride and extra room for passengers and cargo.
The Niro starts at $23,340 for the entry FE, then graduates to the LX at $23,650, EX at $26,150 and top class Touring that starts at $32,000 and is near fully loaded. Regardless of choice, consumers receive the exact same drivetrain hybrid system in each and every model.
Niro’s hybrid system utilizes an electric motor, Lithium Ion Polymer battery and an internal combustion engine for motivation, much like the other popular hybrids on the market. This combination delivers a net horsepower of 139 with a most impressive 195 lb. ft. of torque.
All Niros rely on a 104-horse 1.6-liter Atkinson four-cylinder that works in tandem with a 43-horsepower electric motor and a battery that mounts under the rear seat. Kia calls its hybrid system “Full Parallel” that delivers smooth, reliable performance and terrific hybrid efficiency. (Don’t add the horsepower of the engine and electric motor together as neither ever works in unison at 100-percent capacity. The 139-horse total is correct).
A modern design six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission delivers the power to 16-inch tires on alloy wheels on the entry and mid-level models. Upper class Niro Touring comes with 18-inch tires and a host of other high end amenity features. The result is a Niro that is heavier and thus impacts the MPG numbers lower, with 46 city and 40 highway the EPA estimates versus the 52 city and 49 highway the lower priced models.
The front drive Niro handles well as all suspension components are made of strong yet lightweight components. Notable is that the current Niro is not available in an all-wheel-drive (AWD) format, which is puzzling since every other competitor today offers both two and four-wheel drive models on cars/wagons/crossovers like this.
All Kia Niro models feature a UVO infotainment stereo system that highlights eServices technology and numerous functions via your smartphone. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility is standard, as is SiriusXM radio. The FE, LX and EX touch-screens are a seven-inch design with six-speaker stereo, while the Touring versions receive eight-inch screens and enhanced Harmon Kardon stereos with navigation and eight-speakers.
Another feature notable is a blind-spot detection system with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert that is standard on the EX and Touring models. All expected modern day safety items are included on every Niro built, from four-wheel ABS disc brakes to all the airbags.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media.
Could autonomous technology spell the end of colorful cars?
Today’s cars come in every possible color. You can get them in bright oranges and reds, mild-mannered blues, or good old black, which once was the only choice. Enjoy all that color while you can because autonomous cars have trouble with some colors. The best color choice is white, so it could be a boring automotive future.
The challenge is that lidar (light detection and ranging) systems see highly-reflective colors like white better than other colors, so white is a safer choice. If you knew painting your car a certain color would make it safer, wouldn’t you forgo that lime green and go with the safer option?
According to Detroit Free Press, lidar has a hard time seeing dark colors and less-reflective paints. This isn’t a big deal while we still have human drivers at the wheel, but as autonomous technology takes over it will become a pressing problem.
Our driving world is designed for us to see with our human eyes, not a lidar system in an autonomous car. Our eyes adjust, but lidar always has a tough time seeing dark colors that absorb light. If you’re imagining bright white cars with ridiculously reflective paints, that’s not the solution either. Lidar can be blinded by the reflection the same way sun glinting off a car can blind our eyes.
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Did You Know
If you’re trying to save on car costs, buy a used vehicle. Depreciation is the single largest expense for vehicle owners, according to AAA.