Can the 2020 Kia Niro Hybrid Hang With the Toyota Prius

The hybrid platform has fully integrated into the car scene over the last 20 years or so. What started as something only meant for eco-conscious drivers has morphed into the powerplant for sports cars, supercars, and pickup trucks. It is as ubiquitous as a V6 at this point. The hybrid posterchild was and probably still is the Toyota Prius. So, does the 2020 Kia Niro hybrid have what it takes to step to the big dawg?

Is the 2020 Kia Niro hybrid a good car?

The 2020 model refresh has a 1.6-liter engine and an electric motor totaling 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. The powerplant is paired with a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission. According to MotorTrend, their test found the 0-60 mph test to take a sluggish 9.2 seconds. The Toyota Prius, on the other hand, with its 121 hp, only managed a 9.8-second 0-60 mph sprint. 

An orange 2020 Kia Niro on display in a parking lot with trees in the background
A 2020 Kia Niro on display | Photo via Kia

MotorTrend notes that the little electric motor is nice around town but isn’t very well-integrated with its gas-powered counterpart. The two power sources are said to be slow to join forces, and even once they do, the results aren’t very stimulating. 

What kind of transmission does the 2020 Kia Niro have?

Don’t get too pumped for the dual-clutch talk. Although that is a buzzy term often associated with cool sports cars, it isn’t quite the same deal with the Niro. MT reports that the gear changes are pretty clunky and rough. The clumsy gearbox eclipses any smoothness afforded by the electric motor. This would have probably been a good opportunity to throw in a CVT like the Prius, to smooth out the ride a little. 

The Kia Niro hasn’t made up any ground on the brakes

With EVs and hybrids, there lies an opportunity for buttery-smooth braking with the advent of brake blending. This is the regenerative braking system mixed with friction brakes, which can be a joy, but it is hard to pull off. The Kia Niro is evidence of this. After days of driving the Niro and trying to get used to the brakes, the MT tester says that a smooth and gentle stop was nearly impossible. The regenerative braking starts the process, and the closer you get to stopping, the friction brakes step in abruptly. 

RELATED: The 2020 Kia Niro Hybrid Can’t Come Close to Toyota Prius Sales Numbers

While the Toyota Prius only stopped a foot short of Kia Niro’s 132 ft stopping distance, the Toyota’s brake feel is much smoother and more accurate. The good news is that with the Kia Niro, you can amp up how hard the regenerative braking system works, which doesn’t help the braking feel much, but it does add some charge to the battery, which is part of what makes the Niro so fuel-efficient. 

How many mpg does the Kia get vs the Toyota? 

An image of a Toyota Prius outdoors.
Toyota Prius | Toyota

If sports cars are judged on speed and handling, hybrids are all about fuel economy. The Kia Niro is the most fuel-efficient Kia money can buy. In town, the Niro EX gets 46 mpg, 51 mpg on the highway, and 49 mpg overall. Here’s the dagger; the Prius, when similarly equipped, can get up to 52 mpg combined, and in the Eco model, it can squeeze out 56 mpg combined. 

Is the Kia better than the Toyota?

Simply put, no. That doesn’t make it a bad car, though. The Niro is doing precisely what hybrid compact sedans do; it has four wheels, all the necessary doors, a roof, and gets stellar gas mileage. Yes, the Toyota Prius is more comfortable, has a better gearbox, brakes, and gets more range from the same amount of gas, but who says that’s better? Well, I guess probably everyone would. Ok, so the Prius is better, but it isn’t prettier. The Niro is better looking, and that matters.