2023 Kia Niro preview

Reviews

What kind of vehicle is the 2023 Kia Niro? What does it compare to?

The redesigned 2023 Kia Niro is a hatchback marketed as a small crossover that seats five in a pinch. Sold as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery electric vehicle, the Niro offers an efficient powertrain for customers all along the green spectrum. The related Hyundai Ioniq no longer comes as a BEV, and Toyota has hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Prius and RAV4, but not a full electric version. 

Is the 2023 Kia Niro a good SUV?

Review continues below

The second-generation Niro seems to have improved on most things that weighed down its predecessor’s TCC Rating of 5.7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) Specifically, it’s stronger for U.S. crash tests, it’s larger inside and out, it’s finished less like a budget car and more like a mainstream car, all three models are available nationwide, the EV has a 253-mile range, and automatic emergency braking, as well as many other driver-assist features, finally come standard. 

What’s new for the 2023 Kia Niro?

Just about everything improves on the next iteration of the Kia Niro, which first launched in the U.S. for the 2017 model year. A lot has changed in automotive technology in the past six years, and the Niro embraces the latest and greatest, from improved range and greater efficiency, to the latest tech, convenience, and safety features. The most noticeable change arrives with its daring new design.

Kia swaps out its conventional if not common small crossover body for a more distinctive style, from its jagged light signature to its larger available 18-inch wheels and unique, bulging D-pillar. Taking inspiration from Kia’s 2019 HabaNiro concept, which earns praise on its dad pun alone, the body above the rear wheels flexes out in a K-shape without the straight line. The taillights wrap around the kink into the integrated rear roof spoiler, and the rear doors appear to be slightly recessed into the kink. Depending on the model, the bulge can blend in as the same color as the rest of the body, or it stands out even more in two-tone options. Thick black rocker panels on the lower doors bridge the design to the front and rear bumpers. It’s unlike any other car, which is praiseworthy, yet it can be muted with one color to look more like a confident if not cutting-edge crossover. Kia says it aids air flow, and we all know it’s all about the flow these days, hair, air, or otherwise. 

The interior flows even more, borrowing upscale touches from the premium EV6 electric crossover. The arcing dash stretches horizontally to make it feel wider and roomier inside, and a large available 10.3-inch touchscreen blends into an equally large digital instrument cluster under one pane of glass that curves toward the driver. A thin line of vents and climate control buttons underscore the width, and a spokeless steering wheel further exaggerates the wide and low vibe. 

The vibe remains efficient on the 2023 Niro and its three electrified powertrains, which all boast efficiency gains in their front-wheel-drive setups. The Niro HEV hybrid pairs a 1.6-liter inline-4 with a 32-kw electric motor to produce 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Don’t expect much gusto, but expect to go far with a targeted EPA rating of 53 mpg combined, which is at least 3 mpg better than the outgoing model.

The Niro PHEV one-ups the hybrid with the same engine paired to a 62-kw motor that’s juiced by an 11.1-kwh lithium-ion polymer battery. Output increases to 180 hp and 195 lb-ft, and the electric range increases from 26 miles in the outgoing model to 33 miles when the 2023 Niro is fitted with 16-inch wheels. 

Both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid use a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. 

The 2023 Niro EV also improves, from a 239-mile EPA range to an estimated 253 miles. The 64.8-kwh battery connects to a 150-kw motor that drives the front wheels and makes 201 hp. On DC fast-charging at a max rate of 85 kw, it can recharge from 10 to 80% in 45 minutes; on a Level 2 240-volt charger it takes about seven hours, Kia said. Surely there are more powerful EVs, but the Niro promises to be efficient. A heat pump is optional, but regen braking comes standard. 

The efficiency gains appear more impressive with the 2023 Niro’s larger proportions. At 174 inches long, it’s 2.5 inches longer than its predecessor and its wheelbase is an inch longer. Kia didn’t disclose full specs, but it promises to be roomier in front and back, and the cargo volume behind the rear seats increases from 19.4 cubic feet to 22.8. Kia says the interior is finished in sustainable materials such as recycled wallpaper for the headliner and seat upholstery made from eucalyptus leaves.

One thing holding back the old Niro was a four-star safety rating from the NHTSA and a lack of standard driver-assist features. Crash-test results are pending, but Kia equips the 2023 Niro with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, a safe-exit monitor so you don’t open the door into a cyclist or vehicle, and a rear occupant alert system. Optional driver-assist features include adaptive cruise control, among others. 

How much does the 2023 Kia Niro cost?

Kia did not disclose pricing or standard features on the new Niro, except that wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and USB ports are set conveniently in the front seat sides. Options include heated and cooled front seats, power-folding side mirrors, wireless phone charging, a head-up display, ambient lighting, Harman Kardon sound, and a digital key for remote access to the car through a smartphone. 

Where is the 2023 Kia Niro made?

In South Korea.

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