Kia Niro hybrid goes the distance

Powered by a fuel-sipping gas/electric motor, the brand new 2017 Kia Niro Touring Hybrid makes commuting a breeze.

When we took the Niro on an extended road trip to New Hampshire, we found ourselves skipping gas stations thanks to the nearly 50 mpg on average. Overall, the Niro is rated at 43 mpg in mixed driving. The 1.6- liter gas engine mated to a 43-hp electric motor with regenerative braking creates the combined 139 hp that powers the mini CUV.

The car felt solid on the highway as it happily and quietly scooted along with traffic. And though you won’t win any drag races, the Niro responds pretty quickly when asked for some giddy-up.

The Korean auto giant’s newest entry in the competitive Hybrid market is a five-door hatchback that is surprisingly comfortable and nicely appointed. The upscale leather-trimmed interior features climate-controlled front seats, contrast stitching, lacquered plastics and some soft touch surfaces.

Kia does a nice job ­addressing curb appeal with the projector beam style headlamps, LED daytime running lights and gentle curves in the sheet metal. A sunroof and 18-inch alloys dress up the CUV and add some snazziness to the Ute. One big drawback for this edition — no all-wheel-drive.

Folding the rear seats creates a good-sized cargo area that allowed the Niro to pass my big box home improvement store test, which required hauling several bags of garden soil without any noticeable fall off in performance.

But I think where this car will shine is getting to work; particularly if you’re carpooling.

With comfortable seating for five, the Kia offers an effortless driving experience. Like many hybrids, the handling was a bit numb and I wondered if a CVT — rather than the dual clutch six-speed transmission — might provide for a couple more miles per gallon.

Simple Bluetooth connectivity and compatibility has been Kia and ­Hyundai’s bread and butter for several years and I thought the upgraded Harman Kardon sound system worked well with the popular UVO infotainment center.

Our trimmed up $32,445 Touring model came loaded with all the current safety features, including automatic emergency braking, lane departure, collision warning and adaptive cruise control.

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross- traffic alerts are standard.

The Niro starts at a base MSRP of about $24,000 with the Touring tops of four trims available. Compare this CUV with other hybrid CUV’s in class including Ford C–Max and Toyota Prius V.

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