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Kelley Blue Book: The 2023 Kia Niro has a distinctive new look, but it’s still practical and affordable

The 2022 Kia Niro is a delightful, practical car that can do almost anything and is utterly forgettable. Available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric vehicle, it has the living space of a good-sized small crossover, a sub-$25,000 starting price, and the option of great fuel economy or no need to fill up at all. But it looks something like the generic car non-player characters drive in a racing video game.

What could Kia
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do to make you notice this eminently livable little car?

How about a flat-out strange redesign?

The 2023 Kia Niro is shaping up to be a delightful, practical car that can do almost anything and will make you turn your head in traffic. Kia showed off the all-new car at this week’s New York Auto Show after no fanfare at all and surprised attendees with its weird charm.

Does it look fantastic? Probably not to most people. But it looks distinctive, which may be enough to make the Niro get a look from more car shoppers.

Kia hasn’t announced pricing. The 2022 version ranges from $24,690 to nearly $40,000 for the EV (though it is eligible for the full $7,500 federal EV tax credit). Kia also charges a $1,255 freight fee.

Also see: This is Kia’s fast-charging 2022 EV6

Still three drivetrains

Mechanically, the Niro remains a large hatchback or small crossover depending on the angle you approach from. It’s still available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or EV.

Hybrid versions combine a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor for a total output of 139 horsepower and a targeted 53 mpg. Plug-in hybrids get a more respectable 180 horsepower and up to 33 miles of all-electric driving before the gasoline engine turns on. EV versions are the swiftest, making 201 horsepower and a targeted range of 253 miles.

None of those figures are likely to attract buyers who live to drive. But they’re more than enough to commute and run your daily errands comfortably.

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Handsome new cabin

Inside, the 2023 Niro adopts Kia’s new brand style, which looks sharp here. A single, curved housing holds both the driver’s instrument screen and the central touchscreen. It makes them look like one wide, curved screen and conveys a high-tech feel. Add the (probably optional) aluminum pedals, and you have a handsome cabin.

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Meet the “aero blade”

But none of this gets your attention when you see the Niro approaching. What grabs it, instead, is the new look. It borrows a bit of the sharpened nose of the all-electric Kia EV6 hatchback. Draw your eyes back from there, and you’ll see a predictable crossover body…until you get to that thing.

Behind the C-Pillar sits what Kia calls the “aero blade.” It’s a chevron-shaped body panel stretching from roof to wheel well painted in a contrasting color from the rest of the body. Get closer, and you’ll see that it stands out from the rest of the body like a giant air vent.

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It somewhat resembles the blades on the side of the mid-engine Audi R8 supercar, and it just got us to compare an affordable small hatchback to the mid-engine Audi R8 supercar.

Kia says it performs an actual aerodynamic function, improving fuel economy, reducing wind noise, and enhancing overall stability.

That may be true, but its effect is likely small on a little, tall two-box crossover. What it indisputably does is take a forgettable car and make it something you’ll notice.

In 2022, if you told friends you bought a Kia Niro, you’d have to explain what that was. By the time the 2023 Niro has been on the roads for a few months, they’ll likely know it on sight. That’s not something we can say about many practical little crossovers.

This story originally ran on KBB.com. 

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