The 2018 Kia Niro should be considered a hatchback even though it's officially classified as a hybrid SUV. Crossovers and SUVs typically have extra ground clearance and can be equipped with all-wheel drive for inclement weather driving or even light off-roading. The Niro doesn't check either of these boxes.
The Niro's main appeal comes from a modern exterior design that doesn't shout "hybrid," as well as a relatively peppy powertrain that makes it both capable of outrunning a Toyota Prius and returning up to 50 mpg in combined city and highway driving, according to EPA estimates.
One thing to be aware of with the Niro is how it allocates interior space. Compared to its mechanical sibling, the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro has a significantly smaller cargo area behind the rear seats. That said, rear passengers in the Niro will enjoy slightly more legroom and headroom, and much of that space can be converted to cargo room when the rear seatbacks are folded.
Like many vehicles from Kia, the Niro offers a healthy number of features for the money, especially at the higher trim levels. But if you genuinely need crossover capability in your hybrid, we'd suggest checking out the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
The Kia Niro is available in five trims beginning with the most fuel-efficient FE trim, with features added incrementally moving up to the LX, EX, Touring Graphite Edition and Touring trims. All models come with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder hybrid-electric powertrain (139 hp, 195 lb-ft total output) that sends power to the front wheels through a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. The FE comes surprisingly well-equipped for a base model, while the fully loaded Touring trim comes with nearly every modern comfort feature standard.
The base FE comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, six-way manually adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split folding rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, selectable drive modes, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera, Uvo eServices app suite, Bluetooth, and a four-speaker sound system with a USB port.
Stepping up to the LX trim adds rear LED taillights, roof rails, keyless ignition and entry, an underfloor storage tray for the rear cargo area, and a rear center armrest with cupholders. Kia did away with all the stand-alone options from 2017 and instead offers the Advanced Technology package, which bundles forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and a few upper trim items such as front foglights, LED daytime running lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob.
The EX trim comes with all the LX trim items plus power-folding and heated side mirrors, a high-gloss black upper console, cloth and leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear air-conditioning vents, an additional USB charge port, and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. Like the LX trim, all EX options are now bundled into packages. The Advance Technology package includes the same active safety features as the LX but also adds a 10-way power driver's seat. The non-safety items from the LX package are already included in the EX trim.
A new Premium package for the EX trim adds nearly all the Touring trim content, including xenon headlights, a gloss black front grille with chrome trim, a sunroof, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory function, a heated steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen display, navigation, an eight-speaker premium Harmon Kardon sound system, LED map lights, front and rear parking system, wireless phone charging and a 110-volt power outlet. The only thing the package doesn't add is the Touring trim's 18-inch wheels, which affords better fuel economy and a slightly cheaper price tag.
The Touring trim comes with everything standard this year including the active safety aids from the Advanced Technology package on lower trim models. The only choices you have are colors and smaller accessories. So if you plan to check all the boxes, and you don't mind 18-inch wheels instead of the EX's 16-inchers, you're best off beelining it to the Touring trim.
Similar to the Touring Launch model from last year, the Touring Graphite Edition is priced in between the EX and top Touring trims. In terms of features, it's closer to the EX trim but adds the 10-way power driver's seat, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a premium Harman Kardon audio system. It also features a trim exclusive Platinum Graphite paint, glossy black 18-inch wheels, glossy black roof rails and a metallic-colored front grille. The only caveat is none of the EX trim's packages are available with this trim.