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Fastlane: 2017 Kia Niro | Affordable and Fun Hybrid

By Brian Armstead

For decades, the Korean brand Kia was an enigma in the United States. During its early history, Kia supplied engines and transmissions to Ford for use in U.S. and European models.

Fast forward to the ‘90s, when Kia established its first dealerships here in the States. Due to the Asian financial crisis of the late ‘90s, Kia filed for bankruptcy and was acquired in a bidding war with Ford by fellow Korean brand Hyundai. Under Hyundai’s tutelage, both brands have slowly built their model portfolios into solid brands. A stroke of marketing genius saw the introduction of the industry’s first 10-year, 100,000-mile Powertrain Warranty, on both Kia and Hyundai models.

Now, with this kind of warranty protection, you’d better build quality cars, or else expect to go broke very quickly on warranty claims. Yet, Kia has responded over the years in a major way. Just a few decades ago, J.D. Power reliability pegged Kia cars as among the worst in the industry, but now its most recent survey has shown Kia as the best.

The 2017 Kia Niro is a compact Hybrid Crossover utility vehicle. With handsome styling, 52 city mpg efficiency, and tall wagon utility, it’s the perfect vehicle for those with young families and active lifestyles.

Niro’s standard and optional equipment includes dual-zone climate control; push-button start; heated seats and steering wheel; an eServices smartphone app; 10-way power seats with power lumbar support; Apple CarPlay or Android Auto; an eco-performance monitor to track and enhance mpg; seven or eight-inch telematics screen, depending on trim level; voice command navigation; harmon/kardon premium surround-sound; power sunroof; roof rails; leather seat trim; and so much more.

On the road, you’ll be forced to choose from ‘Economy’ (Eco) or ‘Sport’ mode. To achieve max mpg efficiency, Niro defaults to Eco mode, which is fine, as long as you are not trying to get anywhere in a hurry. In Eco mode, its 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, coupled with a dual-clutch, six-speed automatic transmission offers leisurely acceleration to save fuel. I think the whole industry is still trying to figure out how Kia and corporate cousin Hyundai can market their vehicles at such reasonable price points. Priced from $22,890 to $29,650, Niro is impressive at all trim levels.

If you want safety and style, as well as economic and utility efficiency, look no further than the 2017 Kia Niro. AT

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