2022 Kia Niro Pros vs Cons. Should You Buy?
In the past few decades, Kia has risen through the ranks to become a formidable opponent to rivals in every segment. The 2022 Kia Niro stands out among hatchbacks and small SUVs. Since it is available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or all-electric vehicle, you get a lot of choices when it comes to powertrain configuration. If you are new to hybrids or EVs, the Niro is certainly a good place to start.
The 2022 Niro sees a minor scuttling about of standard features. Also, last year's Touring trim level has been replaced by the LXS Special Edition. It sits right in the middle of the pack - above the LX and LXS and below the Touring Special Edition and EX Premium. With it, you get a sunroof, LED lights inside of the cabin, power adjustability on the driver's seat, upgraded cloth/leather combination upholstery, and parking sensors for the rear of the vehicle. This undoubtedly makes for a good middle-ground trim.
Overall, the Niro drives well enough, mostly thanks to its spirited handling capabilities. And its spacious interior is laden with plenty of features for the price. But the hybrid powertrain's acceleration abilities are lackluster. And you might find yourself wishing that all-wheel drive had been made available. On a hybrid SUV, AWD is something you want since it gives you more traction.
Clearly, there are a lot of things to like - and a few that need improvement. Let's take a more in-depth look at what the 2022 Kia Niro has to offer and how it stacks up against this year's competition.
What's New for 2022?
As I already mentioned, the only major change for 2022 is the fact that the LXS Special Edition trim takes the place of the previous model year's Touring trim level. Other that a few features being shuffled about, essentially nothing has changed.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2022 Kia Niro – The Pros
1. Its Handling Feels Nimble
Let's talk about the 2022 Kia Niro's driving performance. While aspects of it could be better (as I'll elaborate on below), the Niro's handling performance feels rather nimble for a hybrid SUV/hatchback. While you are likely going to buy the Niro for its fuel economy, you can enjoy how it corners. Is it sporty? No, but it also isn't designed for sport. The Niro is all about practicality. But you can clearly still feel secure with sound handling when you are cruising along the open road.
2. Brake Performance is Solid
For your everyday commute, the brakes should feel easy enough to modulate. You will need to be mindful of making emergency stops since the vehicle has a slightly longer-than-average stopping distance, but in the usual traffic, the brakes feel secure. Nothing about them feels squishy or abruptly jerky.
3. Optional Heated and Ventilated Front Seats
Hybrid vehicles aren't exactly there to emphasize luxury. But - a real rarity for this segment - Kia includes heated and ventilated front seats on the line-topping EX Premium trim level. Even though this makes for a more expensive purchase, the ability to choose a trim level with these options is nice to have in a segment that generally does not offer them.
4. A Smooth and Quiet Ride
Well-mannered and tranquil, the Kia Niro makes for an enjoyable ride. Kick back in one of its supportive seats and take note of how smoothly this vehicle rolls over just about every type of road surface. You should not feel bumps reverberating throughout the cabin, and wind and road noise are kept to a minimum on the highway. The engine is the only thing that gets noisy, and it only does so when you push it to accelerate.
5. Easy and Effective Climate Control
Getting the cabin temperature exactly how you want it is a breeze. A dual-zone automatic climate control is standard issue. The system itself is simple in its design, making it an easy one to use. There is no real learning curve to it, no guesswork involved. The rear vents ensure that occupants in the back row get a sufficient distribution of air. Everyone can ride comfortably.
6. A Spacious Cabin Design
This subcompact style SUV/hatchback might look small from the outside, but inside, the cabin feels generous on space. If you're a taller and/or wider person, you can fit comfortably behind the steering wheel thanks to the amount of space you're given and the adjustability of the seat and wheel. Even the rear seats feel quite roomy and allow for someone to sit in the middle if needed. The wide door openings help make entry and exit as effortless as possible too.
7. Functional Controls
Up front, you get treated to an array of clearly labeled, easy-to-use controls. Yes, actually functional controls adorn the dash and steering wheel. Everything is placed within the driver's reach, and there is no guessing which control performs what function. The available 10.25-inch touchscreen display requires little effort to learn how to navigate. Its on-screen controls are thoughtfully laid out, and prompts are easy to follow.
8. Simple and Swift Connectivity
Speaking of connectivity, Kia makes it easy to stay informed and entertained while driving. Bluetooth pairing is rapid, and you can use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay on any given trim level to connect your smartphone. The available Harman Kardon sound system is an upgrade worth making since it produces crisp, clear sound from every speaker. Also, while the voice controls are rather simplistic, they understand natural speech patterns well.
9. A Large Smattering of Standard Driver Aids
Standard driver aids come bundled together on the 2022 Kia Niro, starting on the LXS trim level. Among them, lane keeping assist seems to be the only one that is a touch too sensitive. Otherwise, you can feel secure using automatic high beams, a driver attention warning, rear cross traffic alert with the blind spot monitoring system, and forward collision mitigation. The LXS Special Edition's rear parking sensors can come in handy, and the Touring Special Edition and EX Premium both come with a well-functioning, responsive adaptive cruise control system.
10. Abundant Small Item Storage
For being a rather small vehicle, storage space is at a premium. But Kia makes the most of it inside of the cabin. Each side door comes with a deep pocket and bottle holder slot built in. Cups and travel mugs can easily fit into the sizable cupholders too. There is no shortage of spots to place your cell phone up front with the cubby holes that are built into the dash.
Reasons Not to Buy a 2022 Kia Niro – The Cons
1. The Sluggish Hybrid Powertrain
The biggest reason why you might not want to buy the 2022 Kia Niro is that the hybrid powertrain is markedly slow. This four-cylinder hybrid electric powertrain can generate a combined 139 horsepower, but that feels relatively sluggish. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is partly to blame for the slow delivery of power, as it takes extra time to shift between gears. Most hybrids employ continuously variable transmissions, which are known for their efficiency and smoothness in delivering power.
2. Steering Feels Disconnected
Another downside to driving the Niro is that the steering system leaves the driver feeling disconnected from the road. There is really no road feedback, which is something most drivers want to experience. At least the steering will bulk up as needed and makes it easy to maneuver through tight parking lots and along narrow city side streets.
3. Subpar Fuel Economy For a Hybrid
Fuel economy is a major factor in why people decide to buy hybrid vehicles. And, on paper, the Niro's 50 mpg in combined driving sounds pretty awesome - if you've never driven a hybrid. Unfortunately, this number scrapes the bottom of the fuel economy barrel for hybrids in its class. The Honda Insight, Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, and Toyota Prius all manage to get closer to 60 mpg in combined driving. Even five years ago, 50 mpg would've been great, but hybrid technology has made large strides since then.
4. AWD Isn't Available
Unlike most hybrid SUVs, AWD is not even available on the Niro. You are stuck with the lackluster powertrain sending power to only the front wheels. AWD provides the traction you need to control a hybrid vehicle, especially on slick surfaces. While AWD does produce a slight drop in fuel economy, it ensures that hybrids get a lot of traction and stability control for managing all kinds of roadways and weather conditions. You might not want it, but others might, making it a nice option to have.
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How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2022 Kia Niro vs. 2022 Toyota Prius
As the long-established poster-child for hybrid vehicles, the Toyota Prius is a tough competitor for the Niro. The 2022 Prius returns over 50 mpg combined and has a totally serene cabin, remaining quiet even when the gas-powered engine is running. AWD is available for those who want it, and you can easily see out of the Prius from all sides. But here's the not-so-great: Toyota's standard infotainment system for the Prius feels really outdated. The ride quality also gets bumpy on uneven road surfaces. The Prius also struggles to accelerate quickly, and the instrument panel is set slightly out of direct line-of-sight for the driver.
2022 Kia Niro vs. 2022 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid combines a stellar fuel economy (of close to 59 mpg combined, mind you) with a plethora of available technological gadgetry and driver aids. It also boasts one of the bigger cargo areas for this segment, giving you more versatility for toting cargo around. However, it also struggles with poor acceleration. The Ioniq Hybrid also has very firm seats that can feel uncomfortable the longer you sit in them.
Overall, the 2022 Kia Niro is a decent vehicle. Kia's biggest challenge is going to be finding a powertrain that better blends powerful performance and heightened fuel economy. Switching to a CVT would make for a good start. But, with no changes in sight for that aspect, the Niro offers just a "meh" driving performance. For seasoned hybrid buyers, it might be a "pass". For newcomers to the segment, it might feel like a good stepping stone into the world of hybrid vehicles. It has a lot of features packed in, which makes the cost feel rather justifiable. And it reflects Kia's high standards for comfort and safety. Still, there are other hybrids that offer the same benefits with a stronger powertrain equipped.