Comparison: Kia Niro vs. Toyota Prius

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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Thanks to its familiar shape, the Toyota Prius is the car people think of in association with hybrids. Some people find the design polarizing, making the Prius unappealing as a daily driver. Others believe it conveys environmental consciousness, serving as a socially symbolic message during the daily commute.

If you like the idea of getting great gas mileage from an affordable and practical car, but you don’t want to drive something that looks like a boomerang on wheels, Kia has an option for you. It’s called the Niro, and in addition to its stylish SUV detailing it comes with more traditional design elements.

Beyond looks, though, when comparing the Niro against the Prius, which one is truly the better buy? That’s what we’re going to determine in this Kia Niro vs. Toyota Prius comparison.

What are the best things about the Kia Niro?

Kia Niro vs Toyota Prius Dashboards
Kia employs a traditional interior layout for the Niro, while Toyota uses a more futuristic, center-themed design for the Prius. Note the oversized 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system available in the Prius Limited. (Kia and Toyota)

 

Kia pitches the Niro as a crossover SUV, but doesn’t offer it with all-wheel drive (AWD). Instead, it has an inch or more of ground clearance compared to the Prius, helping it to get through deeper snow and farther off the beaten path. It also comes with dark tinted rear glass from the factory, an important sunlight protection consideration for young children in addition to an added privacy enhancement.

Equipped with a better warranty, a longer roadside assistance program, and a lower base price than the Prius, the Kia Niro is appealing for reasons other than its stylish SUV-inspired design. When properly equipped, the Niro earns a higher safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It also comes with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and connected services related to safety and convenience.

Passenger space is better in the Niro, too, and you can get ventilated front seats in this car. The Kia also has a more powerful drivetrain that uses a dual-clutch automatic instead of a droning continuously variable transmission (CVT). That means it sounds and feels like a normal car instead of a feral cat in heat when you’re accelerating.

Learn more about the Kia Niro

What are the best things about the Toyota Prius?

Kia Niro vs Toyota Prius Rear Quarter Views
If the left side of your brain guides your life, you’re likely drawn to the Toyota Prius. Right-brained hybrid buyers will probably find the Kia Niro more appealing. (Kia and Toyota)

 

For maximum fuel economy, driving range between stops for gas, and cargo space look no further than the Toyota Prius. These traits are its key benefits over the Kia Rio.

Additionally, every Prius includes standard advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). The cheaper base Niro FE doesn’t have them. For 2019, Toyota also debuted a new electronic AWD system in the Prius, an option that improves traction at lower speeds to make the car more appealing to Snowbelt dwellers.

Toyota offers free scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 25,000 miles of Prius ownership, but if you want Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you’re out of luck until next-generation infotainment technology arrives. Toyota also restricts its Safety Connect subscription service to the Prius Limited, which includes a larger 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system than the Niro’s dinky little 8-incher.

If the infotainment system is unimpressive, the Prius does offer exclusive features unavailable in the Kia. They include adaptive headlights that help you see around corners at night, a head-up display, and a semi-autonomous parking assistance system.

Learn more about the Toyota Prius

Kia Niro vs. Toyota Prius. Which is better?

Kia Niro vs Toyota Prius Front Quarter Views
If the left side of your brain guides your life, you’re likely drawn to the Toyota Prius. Right-brained hybrid buyers will probably find the Kia Niro more appealing. (Kia and Toyota)

 

Between these two cars, the Prius is the more efficient and practical model. Also, though it is typically more expensive than an equivalently optioned Niro, it ultimately proves to be more cost-effective over time. Plus, the new AWD-e system gives the Prius added traction in places where it frequently snows.

In exchange for maximum efficiency and cargo space, the Kia Niro supplies a genuine sense of style combined with greater comfort, better crash protection, and superior infotainment and subscription service offerings. And while it lacks AWD, it does provide more ground clearance for venturing out in winter weather or exploring farther off the beaten path.

Which one is better? In this case, it’s the one you like the most.

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About the Author

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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