The Kia Niro is one of those cars that just continues to impress us. It’s now in its second generation, with slightly bolder—definitely more angular—styling but still the same highly efficient powertrain options. There’s a fully electric version, and a plug-in hybrid, too, but today’s review is of the parallel hybrid variant. Ars spent an hour or two driving one last October, but we’ve now had a week of living with a 2023 Niro at home, and if anything, our respect for this solid little hybrid has only grown.
Kia calls the Niro a crossover but parked next to a neighbor’s Volvo XC40, it’s obvious how much lower the Niro rides. For all intents and purposes, you can think of it as a family hatchback, the kind of car that conquered Europe in the ’80s but always struggled here in the US. Kia’s design team opted for more straight lines for their second take on the Niro, but it’s not a design that looks or feels threatening, unlike so much of the metal that comes from Detroit these days.
There are some interesting design details that kept catching my eye. The headlight cluster has some rather intricate detailing, as does the turn signal embedded in the end of either side mirror. Our test car came with a contrasting color on the bodywork behind the rear doors—more than just cladding, this also houses a functional aeroblade that sends air through it to clean up the flow at the rear of the car. I’ve started seeing Niros around town with body-colored aeroblades now, so you always have that option if you’re not into two-tone cars.
The Niro’s shape generates a drag coefficient of 0.29. A decade ago this would be considered quite impressive, but the onslaught of ever-more aero-efficient EVs over the last few years has really redefined what it means to be low drag, particularly for a production car.
Being able to slip more easily through the air helps more than just fuel efficiency, it also has some benefit for what they call aeroacoustics. That’s probably more important in the Niro EV, since that has no internal combustion engine to drown out any wind noise, but even this version turns off its engine as often as it can (unless you’re in sport mode), and the relatively quiet cabin is appreciated.