2019 Kia Niro vs. 2018 Subaru Forester

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Compared to metal, the Niro’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Subaru Forester has a metal gas tank.

Both the Niro and the Forester have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

Warranty

The Niro comes with a full 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Forester’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 2 years and 24,000 miles sooner.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Niro 5 years and 40,000 miles longer than Subaru covers the Forester. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Forester ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

There are over 22 percent more Kia dealers than there are Subaru dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Niro’s warranty.

Reliability

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Niro’s reliability 11 points higher than the Forester.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 43 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 28th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia fifth in reliability, above the industry average. With 45 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 24th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ April 2018 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia third in reliability. Subaru is ranked 6th.

Engine

The Niro’s 1.6 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid produces 21 lbs.-ft. more torque (195 vs. 174) than the Forester 2.5i’s standard 2.5 SOHC 4 cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the Kia Niro is faster than the Forester 2.5i (automatics tested):

 

Niro

Forester

Zero to 60 MPH

8.9 sec

9 sec

Quarter Mile

16.8 sec

16.9 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Niro gets better fuel mileage than the Forester:

 

 

Niro

Forester

 

 

 

n/a

22 city/28 hwy

2.5i/Manual

 

FE

52 city/49 hwy

26 city/32 hwy

2.5i/Auto

 

LX/EX

51 city/46 hwy

23 city/27 hwy

2.0XT/Auto

 

Touring

46 city/40 hwy

n/a

 

Regenerative brakes improve the Niro’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Forester doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Niro’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Forester doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Kia Niro uses regular unleaded gasoline. The Forester 2.0XT requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Kia Niro higher (7 out of 10) than the Subaru Forester (1 to 7). This means the Niro produces up to 47 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Forester every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

The Kia Niro comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Forester.

The Niro offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is more internally efficient than a CVT but just as easy to drive. The Forester doesn’t offer an SMG.

Tires and Wheels

The Niro S Touring/Touring’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Forester 2.5i Touring/2.0XT’s 55 series tires.

Suspension and Handling

The Niro has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Forester’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Niro’s wheelbase is 2.4 inches longer than on the Forester (106.3 inches vs. 103.9 inches).

The Niro Touring handles at .82 G’s, while the Forester 2.5i Touring pulls only .78 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Niro Touring executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.3 seconds quicker than the Forester 2.5i Touring (27.3 seconds @ .62 average G’s vs. 28.6 seconds @ .55 average G’s).

Chassis

The Kia Niro may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 200 to 450 pounds less than the Subaru Forester.

The Niro is 9.4 inches shorter than the Forester, making the Niro easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

The front step up height for the Niro is 1.8 inches lower than the Forester (15.5” vs. 17.3”). The Niro’s rear step up height is 1.8 inches lower than the Forester’s (16.2” vs. 18”).

Ergonomics

The Niro Touring’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Forester doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The power windows standard on both the Niro and the Forester have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Niro is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Forester prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The Niro’s standard front power windows lower with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The Forester’s standard power windows’ passenger windows don’t open automatically.

The Niro has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The Forester has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the Limited/Touring/2.0XT.

When the Niro with available tilt-down mirrors is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Forester’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

Standard air-conditioned seats in the Niro Touring keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Forester doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

The Niro has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Forester Touring.

Both the Niro and the Forester offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Niro EX/S Touring/Touring has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Forester doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

Recommendations

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Niro first among small SUVs in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Forester isn’t in the top three in its category.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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