2023.05.15 Kia

Three different opinions on the Niro Hybrid

Three auto columnists took a closer look at the Niro Hybrid, and here’s what they thought.

The Niro Hybrid is Kia’s eco-friendly SUV for our sustainable future. The elements that show the character of the Niro Hybrid are the powertrain that prioritizes efficiency, the design with an edge that maximizes aerodynamic performance, and materials inspired by nature. However, there is definitely more about the charm of Niro Hybrid. The quiet and smooth driving unique to hybrid models, various specifications that emphasize convenience, and a cabin space that considers utility in detail also support the excellent marketability of the Niro Hybrid. Three automotive columnists gathered to check out the various aspects of the Niro Hybrid. Columnists Wu-sung Jung, Hyo-jin Ahn, and Dong-hee Lee gave these comments about the Niro Hybrid:

“A nice choice for the versatile rationalist”

When choosing a car, everyone becomes greedy: they want a car that combines pretty, universal design, ample space but not too much, fuel economy, and sporty driving sensibility. If a car has these elements and is comfortable for a single driver or a group of four, there’s no doubt the model would be popular. And there’s another condition: the design shouldn’t look too boring. No one thought there would be a car that checks all the boxes - until they met the Niro Hybrid.

The Niro is by far the most sophisticated compact hybrid SUV, giving a sleek impression through daytime running lights and headlamp clusters featuring Kia’s unique design. A very thin ‘horizontal line’ between the bonnet and the headlamps provided an important clue to Kia’s style. These few factors alone set the Niro Hybrid apart from all other cars.

This impression extends to the back as well. The vertically stretched rear lamp exudes simplicity and a sense of speed. Also, its size is suitable for this model, but it looks like a very thin line from the back, which is more exquisite. It implies concise but not weak power, and has sufficient functions. These lines are the key factors that determine the impression of the exterior. On the other hand, the surface is plain. There is no exaggerated corner anywhere, and the body looks elegant overall. So, if anyone can recognize the prettiness of the Niro Hybrid, it will be someone with a similar character to this car - maintaining simple nuances throughout, but with a few lines that set it apart from everything else.

It is often said that ‘a car shows the owner’s lifestyle’. Lifestyle is a very broad concept. It also shows your tastes, your daily routine, and how you spend your weekends. Your hobbies often determine the genre or segment of car you choose. If so, the Niro Hybrid would symbolize your day as below:

The Niro Hybrid knows how to comfort its owner. Even on the busiest day, sitting in the driver’s seat of this car will put your mind at ease. Very relaxed but sometimes agile, it moves quietly like a friend who knows the value of silence. It’s nimble enough to move around in the city. So for those who like the Niro Hybrid, I think they’re the ones who fully appreciate these moments this car gives them. The Niro Hybrid is very quiet almost every time, thanks to its active drive motor. Fuel economy also easily exceeds 20km/L, making this car even more attractive for the diligent ones who commute long distances every morning.

Anyone with a family will easily picture a Niro Hybrid with a wife or husband in the passenger seat and children in the back seat; Looking at this car, it reminds us of a family starting the day by dropping off their children to school or their wife or husband to work. The interior space that transcends the segment makes the car move very quietly even in these moments. The open view from the front seats, and the ample leg and foot room even when sitting comfortably, show this. Considering that the texture of the interior materials is also excellent, it is clear that there are enough eco-friendly materials.

Of course, a car should be your companion even on weekends when you need to relax. The space on the weekend is equal to the space in the trunk. On weekend trips or light camping, how much luggage you can pack in your car will be very important. The Niro Hybrid does even this effortlessly. This space could easily be described as ‘how many golf bags’, but it is also a space for planning trips with loved ones. The Niro Hybrid is a very roomy car even in that context.

If a car can be considerate of neighbors and the environment, it will be more credible. The Niro Hybrid achieves this with Green Zone Drive Mode, which actively controls the hybrid system based on information provided by the navigation system. In the green zone drive mode, when entering a densely populated area, school, children’s zone, or large hospital, the system automatically turns off the engine and activates only the drive motor as much as possible. After recognizing about 2km before entering these sections, it activates Green Zone Drive Mode from 1km before, controlling the powertrain for quiet, emission-free travel.

In addition, if you register your home address in the ‘My House’ menu of the navigation system, the area around your house is recognized as a green zone. That means when you finally get home from a day’s work, the Niro Hybrid will be the first to greet you. As such, the Niro Hybrid turns off the engine and quietly prepares for a rest after returning home with only the electric motor. The same goes for the next morning. It slides out of town without turning on the engine. You can avoid disturbing your neighbor’s sound sleep early in the morning.

The Niro Hybrid also considers the environment and our neighbors. In addition, it is an efficient means of transportation that helps you live a reliable and sincere daily life, and a friend who plans a relaxing weekend together. Having a car actually serves several purposes; It is the beginning of the process of adapting a car to your lifestyle, and an opportunity to open your eyes to a new lifestyle by making full use of the car’s features. In an era where prices are facing roller coaster rides, it might be natural to think that the versatile yet affordable Niro Hybrid is an attractive choice.

Written by Wu-sung Jung (Lifestyle columnist / CEO of The Park)

“How should I say… Niro is doing great.”

A chapter in 〈How Should I Say〉, a book by Dr. Eunyoung Oh, who is known as the goddess of parenting, reads, “Today is always the first day to talk to your child.” Knowing that parents are afraid of how their actions and words will affect their children, the doctor tells them to just live each day, putting aside their worries and insecurities. For each automaker that launches countless new cars, today is always the first day to unveil their new model. And I am sure that cars are growing in the right direction, just like children, and also that automakers are working hard for this.

From that perspective, the Niro Hybrid takes his parents’ advice well and continues to grow upright as they initially intended. Above all, it has grown into a ‘valedictorian’ enough to be called ‘the king of fuel economy’ and ‘a car with no particular flaw’ and at the same time awarded the ‘Best Hybrid SUV’ by the US media, this must have made Kia proud. I spent three days with the Niro Hybrid as a journalist whose job it is to judge and talk about the ‘children’ carefully crafted by automakers, as well as an actual working mom raising an actual child.

If a family with kids needs to buy a new car, an SUV might be the answer. In addition, if the main driver of the car is a woman, and the use of the car is to pick up children from the city center to and from school, pick up from academy, and occasionally go out on weekends, there is no better answer than a hybrid. EVs are popular these days, but sometimes it’s hard to even charge them because moms with kids are so preoccupied that they even forget to charge their own phones.

Mornings for working moms are hectic. Not only do we start our mornings screaming, but we spend most of our mornings with anger. It should take only 10 minutes for me to the front gate of the school by car, but it always takes more than twice to go down from the house to the parking lot. I always barely get my kid into the car and start the engine. If the car standing in the parking lot is a Niro Hybrid, however, I can catch a breath. The silent EV mode would be good for managing my anger.

Both children and moms can calm down in a quiet car where the only sound is classical music coming from the parking lot. As the car approached the school, the system activated the green zone drive mode, turned off the engine by itself, and started operating the drive motor with the power remaining in the battery. Even if a child in the back seat tries to open the door, you can rest assured thanks to Safe Exit Assist. This feature warns occupants when they open the door to get out of the car, if it detects another car approaching from the rear. While the child heads for the school gate, I floor the accelerator. But this only makes the car’s quietness stand out even more, especially compared to its predecessors.

While the car is stopped at a red light, I take out cosmetics from the storage space inside the armrest and start to color on my face. Looking at the mirror on the sun visor, it feels like I use this more often than the one on the makeup table in my own bedroom - and this probably would be true. The ample storage space holds everything - sunscreen, BB cream and even perfume. After getting ready for work in the car, I slowly go up to the office.

Getting out of a car wearing a skirt in the parking lot of an old downtown building is a very uncomfortable. There is good news, though. Remote Smart Parking Assist allows the driver to get off when there is plenty of space first, then park the car remotely. In particular, this feature is more attractive when working with children. On a day when there are a lot of children to monitor and loads to carry, you can park the car after unloading the child and luggage first.

As soon as I got off work early, I hurried back to pick up my child after school. After school, she rides her bike with her friends in a nearby park before going to her math class. The cargo space of 451L, which is 15L more than the previous generation, accommodates bicycles and camping chairs. On my way home after taking a short break at the park and dropping off my kid, I got a call from my own mother telling me to pick up some kimchi from my mom’s house, 30 minutes away from mine. A highway full of cars made me sigh, but I couldn’t ignore my own mother. I gladly jumped into the middle of a road full of traffic.

If I had bought another car, I would have had to give up fuel economy long ago, but hybrids in the city are different. The Niro Hybrid boasts certified fuel efficiency of up to 20.8 km/L (based on 16-inch wheels). It is impressive that even when climbing a hill, it does not rely only on the engine, but uses the electricity charged in the battery together for smart driving. The fuel consumption of the Niro Hybrid recorded in a traffic jam, which I have never cared about, was 17.5km/L. This is one of the best cars I’ve ever experienced.

Even if you don’t care about it, it still has an excellent ability to demonstrate good fuel economy on city roads and short distance travels. Although briefly, I was able to experience the function that is more suitable for working moms than expected when I finished this close-to-real test drive in the Niro Hybrid. Now in its second generation, the Niro Hybrid is still growing - for the ‘movement that inspires’.

Written by Hyo-jin Ahn (Editor-in-chief of Motor Trend Korea)

“Lots and lots of thoughts into Niro”

The Niro started as Kia’s first eco-only model. When a brand uses the word “first,” it has no choice but to put more thought into it. In particular, when it comes to an eco-friendly car, it should play a rather heavy role by putting not only an internal combustion engine but also a battery and an electric motor in its body to increase efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And, of course, it must sell well at a reasonable price. Designing a car that can do all of this at the same time is quite a challenge. Since the Niro was unveiled in 2016, the fact that it has been a huge success not only in Korea but also in the US and Europe proves the point; this indeed is a pretty well-made car. Then, what about the second generation Niro Hybrid?

The Niro Hybrid depicts Kia’s design philosophy, Opportunity United. Opposite United, which means creative fusion of opposite concepts, includes five elements including ‘pleasant experiences with reasons’. Among the splendid exterior decorations of the Niro Hybrid, the eye-catching C-pillar air curtain hole also emphasizes this. Not only is this a nice design element, but the inner air curtain reduces air resistance, creating an important fuel economy improvement in eco-friendly cars. It’s the perfect eye candy and boosts the aerodynamics too. It must be a unique experience to see philosophy made up of concepts like this as a completed entity. The interior composition with sharp lines stretched out has a futuristic image and splendor of a hybrid. As such, the design of the Niro Hybrid is pleasing inside and out.

The package that determines the size of the interior and exterior is also excellent. Compared to the first generation, the current Niro has increased in length and width by 65mm and 20mm, respectively. Interesting thing is the change of interior space. The wheelbase has increased by 20mm, but the legroom in the second row has increased by 61mm. In other words, it means that the space was newly arranged by pushing the second-row seats back. It is highly likely that the trunk space will decrease if the second row seats are pulled back in the limited cabin space; but the truth is, the interior design has been changed, increasing the cabin space by 15L. In addition, the overall height of the car has not changed, but the headroom has increased by 10mm in the front and 12mm in the back.

Niro is the shortest in the class, so it looks slim. For this reason, those who don’t like tall SUVs prefer it, and this is also the secret to more space. This trait works to its advantage not only against its rivals, but also within Kia’s SUV lineup. Consumers can choose whether to buy a more SUV-like car or enjoy a comfortable design and space like the Niro, depending on their taste. In particular, the fact that the interior space was made more practical while changing the specifications as little as possible indicates how much thought the developers put here.

The advantage of the Niro Hybrid, which was developed exclusively for eco-friendly cars, is its excellent fuel economy. The Niro Hybrid has a government-approved combined fuel efficiency of 20.8km/L (based on a 16-inch wheel), the highest among Korean cars in its class. In fact, while traveling over 360km, the fuel economy displayed on the instrument panel also exceeded 20km/L. This is not just a number, but a realistic fuel economy and benefit. This is thanks to not only faster acceleration compared to the first generation, but also much more active use of batteries and drive motors. In particular, the newly added green-zone drive mode and regenerative braking system show how to be more eco-friendly.

The level of regenerative braking can be adjusted with paddle shifts behind the steering wheel. Pulling the left lever increases the level of regenerative braking, increasing the energy going back to the electric motor, while the right lever reduces it. The convenience of smart regenerative braking also becomes a charm of the Niro Hybrid. It works by pulling the right lever for about 1 second, which automatically adjusts the amount of regenerative braking according to the traffic flow analyzed by the front radar. When congestion begins and you take your foot off the accelerator pedal, the speed naturally decreases to match the distance to the car in front without stepping on the brake pedal. Its intensity can also be adjusted, allowing the driver to adjust the driving speed to the desired level.

The success of the first generation does not guarantee the future of the next generation. As the market changes and its competitors become more numerous, the engineers must prepare more fully. The current Niro Hybrid is a precious result, after putting so much into it. This gives answers to these complex and difficult questions: ‘How to integrate design philosophy and functionality into one car’, ‘How to use limited space more efficiently’, ‘How to achieve high fuel efficiency and low emissions’, or ‘How we could use new technology to make our lives more convenient’.

Written by Dong-hee Lee(Auto columnist, consultant)

As mentioned above, the perspectives of the three columnists who evaluated the Niro Hybrid were different. From a lifestyle point of view, Wu-sung Jung believes that the versatile Niro Hybrid reliably and conscientiously makes our daily lives convenient. As a working mom herself, Hyo-jin Ahn was impressed by how helpful the Niro Hybrid can be as a family car. In addition, Dong-hee Lee closely checked the sophisticated technology and functions of the Niro Hybrid based on his long-term experience in the auto industry as a journalist, consultant, and product planner.

However, their opinions clearly have something in common; Not only does the Niro Hybrid make our lives more convenient with its clean, eco-friendly technology, but it is also a compact SUV with ample space and is very valuable. These colorful aspects of the Niro Hybrid are probably the secret to its love all over the world.

Dong-hee Lee (Automobile Columnist, Consultant)
CEO of Full Throttle Company, an automotive education and consulting company. He is also a current auto columnist.

Wu-sung Jung (Lifestyle Columnist, CEO of The Park) 
He served as a car reporter for 〈GQ〉 and 〈Esquire〉, and is currently working as the director of The Park, a lifestyle magazine on YouTube.

Hyo-jin Ahn (Editor-in-chief of Motor Trend Korea)
She worked as an editor for the 〈Top Gear Korea〉 and 〈Motor Magazine〉, and is currently making the 〈Motor Trend Korea〉.

Edited by Injoo Lee

Photography by Beom-seok Kim

HMG Journal Operation Team


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