Caraganza First Drive Review 2022 Kia Niro: There’s always the first time

2022 Niro PHEV


Rare is the week when I get to drive something I have never driven before. That’s just the nature of the life of a car reviewer, I guess. After a few years of cycling through vehicles you start to get the same ones, different year, then a different year, and so on, and so forth.

But, for a recent week Kia sent me something I had never spent time with, a Niro. Odd name I thought. In Persian it means “Gift of God” which to me is more like a Hellcat (sorry Jesus) or Stingray. In slang to ‘niro’ is to chant someone’s name over and over as loud as you can.

Oh well. The Niro has been around since 2017, and yet despite everything Kia has sent me in the past, I’ve never had a week with the oddly named vehicle.

My first impression was just another subcompact crossover buried in a sea of subcompact crossovers. It’s slotted somewhere between the Soul and Sportage and billed as Kia’s smallest SUV. ‘Yawn’, I thought.

But there’s a difference.

Since its introduction in 2017, the Niro has only been hybrid powered.

Okay, so there’s that.

The model I got for my week was the 2022 plug-in hybrid. So yeah, the Niro is only hybrid, plug in, or now all-electric.

The Niro is a hatchback that has five levels: LX, LXS, LXS Special Edition, Touring Special Edition and EX Premium. Above the most basic trim the LXS has 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, LED daytime running lights, keyless entry/start, remote start, cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control (with an energy-saving driver-only AC function), leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a 120-volt charging cable.

Tech includes an infotainment system controlled by an 8-inch touchscreen. There’s also wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, and a USB port. Standard safety features include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rear seat alert, and automatic high beams.

2022 Niro PHEV

The EX trim adds fog lights, heated side mirrors, heated front seats, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, cloth/leather upholstery, wireless charging, paddle shifters for the transmission, cyclist detection, and adaptive cruise control with a stop/go feature.

The top-of-the-line EX Premium trim adds a powered tilt/slide sunroof, heated/ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, simulated leather seating surfaces, driver’s-side memory settings for seat and side mirror positions, self-dimming rearview mirror, 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, and a Harman Kardon surround-sound system. However, this upgraded system means using a cable for smartphone integration.

My EX Premium tester for the week had the optional Highway Driving Assist, navigation-based smart cruise control and rear parking sensors.

Under the hood, the Niro uses a four-cylinder hybrid electric powertrain with 139 horsepower. That power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The plug-in-hybrid version uses the same basic powertrain as the standard model, albeit with a larger battery pack for increased EV range. That battery adds up to 26 miles of EV operation, according to the EPA. An odd fact: In 2016 the Niro was officially recognized with a Guinness World Records title for the lowest fuel consumption by a hybrid vehicle, after it traveled from Los Angeles to New York City with a fuel consumption record of 76.6 mpg

If this were just a small crossover, I probably wouldn’t have been too impressed. Like most of the small crossovers I’ve had, it’s a bit underpowered and plain. Not very inspiring. What did impress me however was the bottom line.

In my opinion the world of hybrids, plug in hybrids, and electrics, are full of overpriced vehicles. That’s one of the biggest issues I’ve had with the whole Save Mother Movement. It seemed like not long ago auto manufacturers built hybrids and priced them higher simply because they were, well hybrids. Then Hollywood stars bought them and along with the hippies tried to make the rest of us feel guilty whenever we fired up our purely gasoline powered engines.

And it seemed that some of the hybrids were simply versions of their gasoline powered siblings meaning interior and cargo space was sacrificed for battery room.

The Niro is a bit different for a couple of reasons: Since it was designed to be a hybrid there is plenty of space inside: and being a Kia is reasonably priced. The MSRP on my top tier EX Premium was $38,025. Okay, I could live with that. And with a fuel economy rating of 46 MPG pure gas, 105 MPGe and full electric of 26 miles, it doesn’t cost much to help keep the hippies happy.

At a decent price, with all the features the Niro has and the fact it is helping to save the planet, it’s fine for what it is. Put a little more power under the hood, and it’d be almost perfect.

Now, about that name.


The 2022 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium
MSRP: $36,490
MSRP (as tested): $38,025
Engine: Gas/Electric 1.6 liter I-4, 139 horsepower @5700 rpm, 195 ft.-lb. torque @2400 rpm
Transmission: 6- speed Auto-Shift Manual w/OD
Fuel Mileage: 46 MPG gas only, 105 MPGe, 26 miles all electric

Exterior Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase: 106.3
Length: 171.5
Width, without mirrors: 71.1
Height: 60.4
Front Track Width: 61.6
Rear Track Width: 62.2
Minimum Ground Clearance: 6.3

Interior Dimensions
Passenger / Seating Capacity: 5
Total Passenger Volume (cubic feet): 100.9
Front Head Room (inches): 40.1
Front Leg Room (inches): 41.7
Front Shoulder Room (inches): 56
Front Hip Room (inches): 53.7
Second Row Head Room (inches): 39.1
Second Row Leg Room (inches): 37.4
Second Row Shoulder Room (inches): 55.2
Second Row Hip Room (inches): 48.3
Cargo Space/Area Behind Front Row (cubic feet): 54.5
Cargo Space/Area Behind Second Row (cubic feet): 19.4
Cargo Space/Area Behind Third Row (cubic feet): 19.4

Warranty – Basic (mths/miles) 60/60,000
Warrranty – Powertrain (mths/miles) 120/100,000
Warranty – Corrosion perforation (mths/miles) 60/100,000
Warranty – Roadside assistance (mths/miles) 60/60,000