It’s the brakes, man. Automakers have to get these regenerative brakes sorted out. Only a few makers do them well, and off the top of my head, I can’t remember any of them. This Niro pedal has no feel during the regen part of the stroke, and then the pedal gets hard at the bottom. It’s disconcerting. Other than that, it’s a fine hybrid.
I think the Niro looks cool. The shape is normal, and it has sort of a sporty look. It doesn’t scream hybrid, which I like. It just looks like a regular compact SUV.
Inside, it feels like a regular Kia, besides the extra battery gauge. The dash is clean, and the company’s infotainment system is easy to use. The seats didn’t go as low as I’d like, but there are a bunch of adjustments for getting a comfortable seating/wheel position.
You will have to hammer it to get any momentum going. But like most of these hybrids, there's a little satisfaction when keeping it in the “eco” portion of the power meter. I didn’t notice that it had a dual-clutch transmission, which means it must have been smooth.
The RAV4 Hybrid and Prius would probably be its closest competitors. I think the RAV looks goofy, but the new Prius is damn good. I don’t know if the extra utility of this compact will push it above the ur-hybrid from Toyota; for me, it doesn’t. But again, this looks less “hybrid” than almost any other dedicated hybrid. I think that’ll help its sales.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor