The Kia Niro is the quiet ecocar. All you get is terrific mileage, pleasing style, and capability, in three affordable flavors: a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and soon, a full EV version.
The Niro sandwiches a 32-kilowatt (43-horsepower) electric motor between a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and a nifty dual-clutch, six-speed transmission. Combine those gas and electric sources and you’ve got a peak power of 104 kW (139 hp) and the thrust of 264 newton meters (195 foot-pounds) of peak torque.
The Niro joins the Ioniq as the world’s first production cars with no 12-volt lead-acid battery. The Kia packages a 12-V, 30-ampere-hour lithium-ion starter battery below its back seat, sharing a housing with the 240-V hybrid battery.
The EPA credits the Niro with up to 4.7 liters per 100 kilometers (49 miles per gallon) in combined city and highway driving, but I saw 61 mpg on one highway run in upstate New York. Over a week, the Niro returned 53 mpg, including mileage-sapping crawls through Manhattan.
For 2018, the Niro adds a plug-in model whose larger, 8.9-kilowatt-hour battery pack (versus 1.6 kWh) allows 26 miles of all-electric range at 105 mpge (2.2 L/100 km), the electric equivalent of a gasoline mileage rating. That plug-in Niro starts at US $28,840, versus $24,280 for the standard hybrid.
In January, Kia showed a Niro concept with a 64-kWh battery, a 150-kW (201-hp) motor, and a 383-km (238-mile) range, precisely matching the power output and range of the Bolt. This silent EV even broadcasts spoken alerts of its presence. Perhaps they’ll come from some Ratso Rizzo, in reverse: “I’m drivin’ here!”