Getting high fuel economy in a small hatchback doesn’t mean you have to give up safety. The 2018 Kia Niro hybrid small wagon — with key extra-cost equipment — has earned top scores across the board to win a Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To get that level of safety, however, is a little complicated.
For full crash protection in the Niro, you need to have the front crash prevention system that is optional on the hybrid model’s LX and mid-level EX trim levels, as well as the high-intensity-discharge headlights that are optional on the EX. The top Touring trim level includes both features standard, along with leather seats and other upscale goodies, but also has the highest starting price of $32,940, including a $940 destination charge. You’re out of luck with the base LX and highest-fuel-economy FE trim levels, however. The high-intensity-discharge headlights are not available on either of these entry-level models and the collision system cannot be had on the FE.
The insurance-industry safety agency says that the crash-test results also apply to the Niro plug-in hybrid model. The plug-in version, with more limited trim levels, also has the top-rated crash prevention system standard on all versions. But the available LED headlight system has not yet been tested by IIHS.
The Top Safety Pick Plus Award for the Niro hybrid wagon in its best configurations beats the IIHS rating for the rival Toyota Prius hybrid, however, which ranks a level below with a Top Safety Pick award. To get the top award in 2018, a vehicle must have the top good rating in five crashworthiness tests, an acceptable or good score in the new passenger-side small-overlap front crash test, an advanced or superior score for the crash prevention system and a good score in headlight testing.
The Niro achieved top scores in all. So did the Prius except for an acceptable score for its headlights, one step below the required good. In fairness to the Prius, however, that is still a pretty good score, and it applies to the LED headlights that are standard on all models, while the Niro’s base halogen projector headlight system was rated poor. A front crash prevention system also is standard on all Prius trim levels.
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