Kia is no stranger to electrified vehicles. It currently offers the Optima Hybrid in both regular and plug-in varieties and the fully electric Soul EV, so nobody should be surprised to see this new Niro…

2017 Kia Niro SX Touring

2017 Kia Niro SX Touring
Kia’s new 2017 Niro is the first dedicated hybrid to hit the streets in a long time, and the first subcompact SUV hybrid ever. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Kia is no stranger to electrified vehicles. It currently offers the Optima Hybrid in both regular and plug-in varieties and the fully electric Soul EV, so nobody should be surprised to see this new Niro subcompact crossover SUV show up in HEV guise.

The surprise is it’s dedicated hybrid powertrain. Yes, that means it won’t be offered with conventional gasoline-only propulsion at all. For this reason it’s been compared to the Prius, with some even considering it a Prius competitor. While this may indirectly be true, that’s really the job of Hyundai’s Ioniq, which while sharing the same underpinnings and the identical base Kappa four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle powertrain is shaped more like a traditional hatchback, is considerably longer, and sits a lot lower to the ground overall.

2017 Kia Niro SX Touring
The Niro looks best in top-line SX Touring trim thanks to big 18-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The shorter yet taller Niro is sized almost identically (other than its still lower overall height) to Mitsubishi’s RVR that has long been one of the largest subcompact SUVs available. The Niro is even wider than some compact crossovers, Subaru’s still longer Crosstrek being one, while Toyota’s new 2018 CH-R comes very close to matching the Niro’s size as well. This means the Niro, RVR and CR-R are considerably wider than most subcompact SUV rivals, while they’re also longer from nose to tail and ride on lengthier wheelbases.

Our Graphite painted Niro SX Touring looks stealth compared to those coated in Ocean Blue or Temptation Red; other exterior colours including a darker, greyer Gravity Blue, Espresso brown, Snow White Pearl, and Aurora Black, with all SX Touring models receiving black leather upholstery within an all-black interior (except for the white contrast stitching and colourful electronic displays).

2017 Kia Niro SX Touring
The Niro SX Touring is well stocked with features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Unlike Hyundai’s new Ioniq that comes with regular hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric (EV) powertrain options, the Niro only offers the Ioniq’s base single four-cylinder internal combustion engine (ICE) displacing 1.6 litres and incorporating direct injection. The ICE solely produces 104 horsepower while the permanent magnet synchronous electric motor it’s conjoined with is good for 32 kW (43 horsepower) on its own, but the combined net effect results in 139 horsepower at 5,700 rpm. Even better, the electric motor adds 86.5 lb-ft of immediate twist to the ICE’s 108.5 lb-ft of torque, the combined effect totalling 195 lb-ft of net torque at 4,000 rpm.

2017 Kia Niro SX Touring
A 6-speed dual-clutch automatic makes this hybrid sportier than most. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The inclusion of a quick shifting six-speed dual-clutch automated transmission makes the Niro feel even sportier, complete with Sportmatic manual mode, but despite Kia targeting the compact SUV market with a vehicle that looks very much the part, the placement of its 1.56-kWh rear-mounted lithium-ion battery means it won’t be getting all-wheel drive anytime soon if at all (although news that Hyundai-Kia is developing in-wheel e-AWD technology gives us hope).

AWD is a subcompact SUV prerequisite, its exclusion from Kia’s Soul one of the reasons many don’t classify the funky two-box model within same category the Niro is targeting. Will this make a difference to prospective buyers? It will to some, but the very fact many compact SUVs are sold in FWD as well as AWD trims means there’s room for the Niro, plus its fuel economy is superb.

2017 Kia Niro SX Touring
The leather covered front seats get 3-way heat and ventilation, while the driver’s is also 10-way powered with memory. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In fact, this new Kia was barely born and it had already earned a Guinness World Book of Record’s entry thanks to Wayne Gerdes and co-driver Robert Winger using just 4.1 tanks of gas while driving their Niro EX 5,979 km (3,715 miles) from Los Angeles to New York City, the key number being an average of 3.1 L/100km (76.6 U.S. mpg). No doubt they were using hypermiling techniques to achieve such incredible efficiency, as the Niro EX trim’s five-cycle Transport Canada rating is a more conservative 4.6 L/100km in the city, 5.1 on the highway and 4.8 combined. The base LX is claimed to do even better with a 4.5 L/100km city, 4.8 highway and 4.7 combined rating, whereas the as-tested SX Touring is good for an estimated 5.1 city, 5.8 highway and 5.4 combined.

2017 Kia Niro SX Touring
The Niro is big for a subcompact SUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Features on our test model included HID headlamps, LED DRLs, LED taillights, 18-inch alloys, power-folding mirrors, proximity access with push-button ignition, a colour TFT multi-info display, dual-zone auto HVAC, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation with mapping, a backup camera with active guidelines, wireless device charging, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio steaming, Harman/Kardon audio, satellite radio, a powered glass sunroof, a heated leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, leather upholstery, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with powered lumbar support and memory, heated and cooled front seats, heatable rear seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, radar cruise control, emergency autonomous braking, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and much more.

2017 Kia Niro SX Touring
How’s that for luggage space? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We’ll have driving impressions as well as a full critique of its interior layout, ergonomics and refinement, its feature set (including what’s missing), its overall livability, and much more in an upcoming review.

For now it’ll clock up plenty of miles as we give it a thorough test…

How I love minivans! Well, maybe the love is about what I can get done when I’ve got a minivan at my beck and call, than actually loving minivans. Still, I think most will agree the Sedona goes about…

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+
The Sedona’s lean, long, low design looks fabulous for a minivan. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

How I love minivans! Well, maybe the love is about what I can get done when I’ve got a minivan at my beck and call, than actually loving minivans. Still, I think most will agree the Sedona goes about its practical business with a lot more style than most.

It helps that Kia gave me a luxury-lined SXL+ model, which is outfitted about as nicely as anything in the class comes. OK, it’s not as tarted up as a full load Pacifica, but its as-tested $46,895 window sticker doesn’t shock the senses as much as the $58,480 2017 Pacifica Limited I put through its paces recently. I believe the Pacifica is worth the extra money, but this Sedona is also worth every penny and more.

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+
It looks SUV-like from the rear as well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Kia’s minivan enters the 2017 model year with no new additions and one notable subtraction, the elimination of the SX trim line. Fortunately the new model doesn’t suffer from any lack of options, its available trims still including L, LX, LX+, SX+, SXL, and the SXL+ model currently in the garage.

It’s an attractive van no matter the money spent, the Sedona’s long nose, bold grille, sporty fascia detailing, low profile, and wide, solid stance making it look more like a seven-passenger crossover SUV than anything van-like. Of course, the side sliders give away its pragmatic roots, but that’s about it.

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+
Luxury and high-tech abounds. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All of its trim lines featuring nice chromed exterior detailing, auto on/off projector headlamps, heatable body-coloured side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a rear rooftop spoiler, and more, while features like a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, powered front and second-row windows, display audio with satellite radio, a backup camera, Bluetooth, illuminated vanity mirrors, seating for seven, “Slide-n-Stow” second-row seats, and more come standard for just $27,995.

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+
Luxurious perforated Nappa leather seats are heated and cooled. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A 276 horsepower direct-injection 3.3-litre V6 with 248 lb-ft of torque comes standard too, mated to a six-speed automatic with a Sportmatic sequential shifter, while optional Drive Mode Select offers Comfort, Eco and Normal modes. Base models get 17-inch rims, but my SXL received chrome-finished 19-inch alloys for a nicer look and better road holding, but like usual I’ll leave comments about driving dynamics to my upcoming review.

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+
Dual sunroofs add an open, spacious ambience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Instead, some notable features that come with mid-range trims include HID headlights with auto-leveling and adaptive cornering, power-folding side mirrors, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, eight-way powered front seats, driver’s seat memory, three-way heatable and cooled front seats, heatable second-row captain’s chairs, tri-zone auto HVAC, 8.0-inch infotainment with Android Auto, a 360-degree parking camera, navigation, front and rear parking sensors, second- and third-row sunshades, a hands-free powered liftgate, blindspot monitoring and more.

 

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+
Second-row captain’s chairs offer leg extensions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The SXL includes stainless steel door scuff plates, an enhanced LCD/TFT Supervision primary instrument cluster, a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, dual 110-volt household-style power inverters in the console and cargo area, supple perforated Nappa leather upholstery, three-way ventilated front seats, second-row luxury captain’s chairs that slide back and forth as well as side-to-side (with kick-out extendable leg rests no less), plus front parking sensors, lane departure warning, and much more.

2017 Kia Sedona SXL+
How does the Sedona measure up to its peers? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Special SXL+ features include a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, a 360-degree-surround parking camera, Infinity eight-speaker audio with an external amp and sub, auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, and autonomous emergency braking.

There are additional features that set the top-line Sedona apart from its peers, but I’ll delve into these when I pen my review. Until then, watch this page for our detailed review and massive photo gallery, as this high-value minivan might just be your next family hauler…

Capable of 4.5 L/100km in the city, the new 2017 Kia Niro should be high on Canadians’ shopping lists, especially considering most of us are now paying similar fuel prices to what we endured prior to…

2017 Kia Niro Road Test

For decades, the Korean brand Kia was an enigma in the North American markets. During its early history, Kia supplied engines and transmissions to Ford for use in North American and European models. When I first married, I bought my then wife a 1988 Ford Festiva, a Kia-powered tiny affair. We drove the Festiva for 87,000 km with the only problem being a faulty driver-side, rear wheel bearing. The Festiva featured decent performance-it actually was fun to drive-and was roomy inside. I wish YouTube had been established in 1988, as watching me unfold my 6-foot-9, 300-pound body from the Festiva would've probably made for a viral hit. But I fit just fine inside the tiny car, and its reliability endeared me to the Kia brand.

Fast forward to the late '90s when Kia established its first dealerships here in Canada. Due to the Asian financial crisis of the same era, Kia filed for bankruptcy and after a bidding war with Ford was acquired by fellow Korean brand Hyundai. Under Hyundai's tutelage Read Full Story
Most financial analysts aren’t predicting a rosy short-term future for Canada’s economy despite what PM Trudeau, FM Morneau and the rest of the Liberal establishment tell us, so will automakers start…

Kia releases photos of new Picanto city car

The Picanto has long been a great looking little city car that sells very well in global markets. Canadian world travelers that happen to love cars may have noticed them roaming the streets in Europe, Asia, or most anywhere else, although diehard automotive fans will likely be aware of the car's existence. Given its popularity elsewhere and our burgeoning small car market, wouldn't it make sense for Kia, a growing albeit still less popular brand, to offer it here?

Kia has just released photos of its third-generation Picanto, a stylish little runabout that boasts a 15-mm longer wheelbase than its predecessor at 2,400 mm, and wheels that have been pushed farther out towards each corner for "a more confident appearance," says Kia. Along with more sculpted bodywork the new Picanto's exterior colour palette will be even more vibrant than previous generations, with 11 bright paint options designed to make passersby take notice.

The Picanto's redesigned interior will include Read Full Story
Before you buy another Camry or Accord, take a moment to consider the new Kia Optima. For similar money you’ll get a lot more car, with a more advanced turbo powertrain, paddle-shift performance and…

2016 Kia Optima SXL Road Test Review

I can't say the new Optima is better looking, but it's certainly different. Let's face it. Improving upon the previous third-generation design would've been difficult. That car changed wholesale perceptions of Kia as a brand.

With the 2011 Optima, Kia immediately became synonymous with cool and cutting edge, not unlike the way the sixth-gen Sonata wowed the mid-size class when it debuted in 2009, and thus caused us all to look at Hyundai in a different light. Still, while the new 2016 Optima design is sleeker and seemingly more aerodynamic, it's lost some of the previous version's unique character, and that may hurt sales, but Kia had to do something.

After all, over the past four years the Optima went from a respectable sixth in the mid-size family sedan segment with 11,992 sales in 2012 to eighth with 6,210 sales in 2015. But an all-new model should boost sales up again, right? Normally that's the case, but after 10 months of 2016 the Optima has only sold 4,157 units, Read Full Story