The 2023 Kia Niro Is a Home Run for Small Cars

Slick looks, great hybrid and electric options, and probably an awesome price tag. What’s not to like?

byJerry Perez|
Kia News photo
Peter Holderith

The 2023 Kia Niro was unveiled today at the 2022 New York International Auto Show in all of its cutesy glory and three tasty trims: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric. More importantly, however, its debut represents something more significant. Cool small cars, something that's lacked in the automotive industry since SUVs took over, now get to live for at least a couple of more years with the introduction of Kia's new five-door hatch.

I gotta say, this isn't Fiat 500 small, but it's still small by most vehicle standards in America today. Technically, Kia calls the Niro a CUV (compact utility vehicle), mostly because it's got a hatch and rides a tad higher than, say, a VW Golf. But unlike the Golf, if you stare at the Niro's eyes (a set of sweet-looking headlights) you'll notice that it's not empty inside—it's got an adorable soul that's waiting to zip you around town with electrified might.

Peter Holderith
Peter Holderith

Having laid eyes on it in person today, it looks super modern without looking cold and miserable. The Audi R8-knock-off "Aero Blades" are neat and really bring lots of character to the C Pillar. Even better, Kia claims the blade can be painted in a contrasting color for more pop, or it can be matched to the rest of the body—but why would you? The rear has a first-gen Focus vibe with its cool, boomerang-style taillights, and the sloping roofline is pronounced enough to look sporty but not too much that it sacrifices headroom.

Inside, Kia's home run continues, with a clean, well-thought-out cabin. The lines are clean and the controls are well organized through the center stack and console. I'm not a fan of the two-spoke steering wheel—not just this one, any two-spoke wheel—because they tend to look somewhat cartoonish most of the time. All things considered, the Niro's wheel design plays well with the rest of the car, though.

Peter Holderith
Peter Holderith

Of course, I haven't had the chance to drive the new Niro(s), but its three different drivetrains provide 139, 180, and 201 horsepower, meaning that there's reason to believe the driving experience will be as charming as its looks. In fact, the hybrid and plug-in hybrid models even feature a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, though all models are front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive isn't available.

Having just been unveiled today, pricing isn't available yet, but the outgoing model ranged from $25,000 to $45,000, so the new one will likely follow through with a mild increase.

Overall, I'd describe the 2023 Kia Niro as the cutest new car out there. If you're a tough guy who has issues calling cars cute, then I suppose you could just call it "very awesome." What no one should have an issue with, however, is that the Niro—regardless of variant—keeps the dream alive for cool small cars in the U.S. If only we could get more automakers to follow suit.

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