Previously, I compared the standard, non plug-in version of the Kia Sportage Hybrid (HEV) to the Honda CR-V Hybrid (since the CR-V is one of the most popular compact SUVs on the market). I also compared the Kia Sportage Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) to its standard Hybrid version to see the cost differences in up front prices and fueling between the two electrified options. Since some of Kia’s strongest value points are safety features, fuel efficiency, versatility, and up front cost, I am also comparing the Sportage PHEV and HEV to Kia’s “entry level” electrified vehicle, the Niro, which comes in HEV, PHEV and full EV variants. MSRP for the Niro ranges from $26,590 - $34,890 for the HEV version (in 5 trims, LX, EX, EX Touring, SX, SX Touring), $33,840 - $39,590 for the PHEV version (in 2 trims, EX and SX Touring), and $39,550 - $44,550 for the EV version (in 2 trims, Wind and Wave). The Niro is smaller and more fuel efficient than the Sportage, but offers many of the same features, versatility and even lower starting price points.
The Kia Sportage at 184” L x 73” W x 65-67” H is 10 inches longer, 1 inch wider, and 4 - 6 inches taller than the Niro. It also has, at over 39 cubic feet, about 16-17 cubic feet more cargo capacity (with all seats up) or about 10 more cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. Both Kias have very competitive cargo volume for their respective classes, especially with the rear seats folded down, but the Sportage certainly has a good deal more space (16-17 extra cubes is about the size of a subcompact vehicle’s entire trunk). The Kia Niro only comes in FWD, whereas the Sportage HEV can be had with either FWD or AWD and that, along with the size or volume of the two vehicles, could be the primary reason one may choose one over the other.
Otherwise, running through the top trims of each Niro version compared to the top trims of the HEV and PHEV Sportage, there’s a number of interesting differences. Starting with the most expensive Niro EV Wave, the differences in safety features include: Junction Crossing Detection - a feature not available in the Sportage - which helps prevent or lessen a collision by detecting a vehicle proceeding in front of the driver while crossing junctions; an enhanced Navigation-Based Smart Cruise Control that can automatically reduce the Niro’s speed when entering a curve based on the vehicle’s navigation system; a more capable version of the Highway Driving Assist system (it is ver 2.0) which is also capable of automatic lane changing and machine learning functions compared to the version in the Sportage which can only steer, accelerate, and decelerate; Rear Occupant Alert which gives audible and visual warnings if unattended passengers remain in the rear seating area and Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (unavailable in the Sportage) which uses the forward facing cameras to inform the driver of the indicated speed limit by “reading” the signs and displaying the info on screen. There are at least two safety features the Sportage has that the Niro does not have though: Surround View Monitor which gives the driver a near 360 degree view of obstacles near and around the vehicle which assists in parking and other low speed maneuvers (this is because the Niro lacks the side view cameras that the Sportage has on its side mirrors), and Blind-Spot View Monitor which displays a live video feed from the side mirror cameras of whatever is in the Sportage’s blind spots when the turn signals are activated. If those features are more important to you, you might want to opt for the Sportage. Otherwise, true to many other brands, Kia has positioned its EV model on the bleeding edge with some of the most advanced safety features like automatic lane changing, machine learning and navigation based speed reduction.
Looking at the PHEV and HEV versions of the Niro compared to the corresponding versions of the Sportage: since all trims of the Niros lack cameras on the side view mirrors, none have the Blind-Spot View Monitor the Sportage has though the top trim Niro hybrids have radar sensors which provide audible warnings and visual indication (on the dash) of objects in the driver’s blind spots; the hybrid Niros also have the same Navigation-Based Smart Cruise Control, Intelligent Speed Limit Assist and the Rear Occupant Alert features as the EV version too. However, the hybrid versions of the Niro do not have other unique safety features that the Niro EV and Sportage hybrids have like Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Parallel Exit which alerts and can actively move your Niro EV or Sportage away from adjacent vehicles as well as alerts when exiting parallel parking spots.
In summary, the hybrid Niros have a few less safety features than both the Niro EV and the electrified Sportages. If safety features are your highest priority, the top trims offer the most, but you may have to accept some trade-offs on feature content depending on whether you prefer what is unique to the Niro EV or the electrified Sportages (or consider one of Kia’s other more expensive electrified vehicles). Which would you choose? Please leave your questions and comments below.
Images courtesy of Kia.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.