Like many times before, I was wrong. Darn first impressions!
So, what Kia came up with here is an exquisitely functional vehicle that’s fun to drive and capable of carrying much more than you might guess at first glance.
I should know.
I drove my Niro from
California’s Wine Country to loaded down
with suitcases, boxes, food, suburban supplies and enough wine to make the
neighbors question my commitment to sobriety. Sacramento
The Niro not only took on what I could load into it, the increased weight did little to slow it down.
The 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine matched with a 43-horsepower electric motor cruised well in dicey interstate traffic and did not seem weighed down with the floor-to-ceiling interior packed with humans and cargo.
Combined horsepower with the gasoline engine is 139, and the torque rating is a surprisingly robust 195 foot-pounds. A Kia-touted six-speed dual-clutch transmission earned its praises with seamless shifts across the full range of revs.
Granted, this is not a road burner of a vehicle. If you want that, that’s a whole different shopping trip.
What the Niro does offer is good road manners, utility and versatility for an affordable price -- $30,545 on the tester. That price included everything, including a full boat of safety features, a long list of comfort/convenience features (leather seat trim and heated/ventilated front seats among them) and a few upper-end exterior touches, such as LED daytime running lights.
Another bonus: 46 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. A regenerative braking system chips in when it can.
And yes, it’s kind of sporty-looking machine riding on those 18-inch alloy wheels and the wide-and-low stance of a pro football linebacker.
I enjoyed my week in the Niro enough to mentally ask: Where were you years ago when I had a young family and a correspondingly tight budget?
No answer came to me.
That’s OK. I enjoyed my time in the present with the Niro, a comparatively small machine with surprisingly large appeal at the curb and on the road.