Kia has an all-new Niro for 2023. It’s sharper-looking and is still the only vehicle on sale that offers hybrid, plug-in, and EV versions.
Kia has recharged its electrified crossover. The Niro is bigger and gets more high-tech features. It will also offer more range from both the electric and plug-in hybrid versions of the vehicle.
Kia first introduced the Niro in 2016. It offered similar driveline choices based on the same platform that underpinned Hyundai’s Ioniq hatch (not the Ioniq 5 EV). But it has a much more conventional crossover body shape in place of Hyundai’s oddball long-tail liftback design.
Three Ways to Electrify the Kia Niro
Electrification is the signature of the Kia Niro, and that continues into the new model. We have bad news if you were hoping for an all-wheel drive. The 2023 Kia Niro remains front-drive only.
A hybrid version will get a 1.6L four-cylinder engine and a 32 kW permanent magnet motor. The combined maximum power output is 139 horsepower with 195 pound-feet of torque.
This time around, Kia is targeting 53 miles per gallon combined. That figure would beat the 50 mpg of last year’s Niro FE fuel economy special model. It would be an even more significant improvement over the 43 mpg of the current Niro Hybrid Touring.
The plug-in hybrid model will get more power, thanks to a 62 kW electric motor and a battery with a 25% higher capacity than before. It will hold 11.1 kilowatt-hours up from 8.9, and the engine can put out a total of 180 horsepower and 196 pound-feet of torque.
That torque figure is unchanged, but 41 extra horses should give the 2023 Kia Niro PHEV plenty of extra go on the road. Especially thanks to the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that makes gear changes more direct than the CVT most other hybrids offer.
The Niro PHEV has an estimated range of 33 miles on electric power, a 25% improvement over the old model when fitted with 16-inch wheels. The lithium-polymer battery back can handle Level 2 fast-charging, where it can be topped up in just 3 hours.
More Range for Niro EV
The Kia Niro EV is powered by a 150 kW (201 horsepower) electric motor, again the same power as before. Though the battery is nearly unchanged at 64.8 kWh, Kia expects more range. The target is 253 miles, up from 239 miles in 2022. Credit goes to minor changes to the overall efficiency of the model.
Level 3 fast charging will take the 2023 Niro from 10% to 80% in under 45 minutes, Kia says, with a max charge rate of 85 kW. An 11 kW onboard charger will boost it on a Level 2 circuit in under 7 hours.
Kia has tweaked the system to allow better use of the regenerative braking feature. Information from radar sensors and road grade data will help maximize the energy you can get back with every stop. Kia says it will make stops smooth, too.
Automatic Green Zone EV Drives
Another new eco-friendly feature is Green Zone Drive Mode. Using GPS information and driving history, the Niro can switch to EV drive mode automatically. It works on hybrid and PHEV models and uses EV power in residential areas and near schools and hospitals.
With a wheelbase of 107.1 inches and an overall length of 174 inches, Niro is slightly larger than before. About an inch in wheelbase and 3 inches in overall length don’t sound like much on a spreadsheet but should give front and rear passengers more space.
Cargo space is up to 22.8 cubic feet, but Kia didn’t give enough info to tell us if that’s noteworthy. The automaker does say that packaging improvements give Niro “the roominess of a vehicle one size larger” and that it has best-in-class passenger space.
The shape adopts Kia’s new “Opposites United” design language and takes some influences from the HabaNiro concept model Kia showed in 2019. Kia has made a sharper-looking shape that is much more distinctive than the old Niro. It’s also impressively efficient, with a drag coefficient of just 0.29.
All get boomerang-shaped LED taillights, but Kia is taking some steps to separate the different models visually. Hybrid and PHEV get black wheel arch and door trim, while the Niro EV has black or steel gray trim depending on paint color.
Animal-Free Interior in the Kia Niro
Kia says the interior is more upscale than before. Dropping leather and using alternative and more sustainable materials are part of that improvement.
The headliner is recycled wallpaper mixed with reused plastic bottles. The seats use bio polyurethane and a fabric made from eucalyptus leaves. Even the paint on the inside door panels is free from some of the harmful ingredients.
Helping make it a nicer place to sit, Kia has added a pair of 10.25-inch screens to the options list; one for the dash and one for the infotainment system. Mood lighting and an active sound design let the driver tweak the electric motor sounds to personalize the experience.
Driver Assistance Tech Levels Up
New tech includes a head-up display with directions and safety warnings. Get the 2023 Kia Niro EV, and you can have the same onboard generator launched on the EV6. So you can power small appliances and even charge another EV.
Forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection is standard equipment, as are lane-keeping assist and lane following to detect lane markings. Blind Spot Collision Avoidance helps drivers when exiting a parallel parking space. Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance can hit the brakes in an emergency when you’re backing up.
Smart Cruise Control with navigation-based curve awareness is offered on the 2023 Kia Niro, helping set the right speed for bends on the road. Also optional and new this year is Highway Driving Assist II. HDA II is a hands-on system integrating several of the other driver assistance systems. It can guide you within your lane, helping maintain speed and making lane placement less stressful.
The 2023 Kia Niro EV will qualify for federal tax credits of $7,500, Kia says. All three models will go on sale this summer, and they will be available in all 50 states.