2019 Kia Niro vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

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 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a metal gas tank.

Both the Niro and the Highlander Hybrid 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 Highlander Hybrid’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 Toyota covers the Highlander Hybrid. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Highlander Hybrid ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Reliability

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 Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 24 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 17th, 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 Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia fifth in reliability, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 8th.

Brakes and Stopping

The Niro stops shorter than the Highlander Hybrid:

 

Niro

Highlander

 

60 to 0 MPH

122 feet

124 feet

Motor Trend

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 Highlander Hybrid Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

Suspension and Handling

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

The Niro Touring handles at .82 G’s, while the Highlander Hybrid Limited pulls only .75 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Niro Touring executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Highlander Hybrid Limited (27.3 seconds @ .62 average G’s vs. 28.2 seconds @ .62 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Niro’s turning circle is 3.9 feet tighter than the Highlander Hybrid’s (34.8 feet vs. 38.7 feet).

Chassis

The Kia Niro may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 1700 pounds less than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

The Niro is 1 foot, 9 inches shorter than the Highlander Hybrid, making the Niro easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The Niro is 7.7 inches shorter in height than the Highlander Hybrid, making the Niro much easier to wash and garage and drive (lower center of gravity).

The design of the Kia Niro amounts to more than styling. The Niro has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .29 Cd. That is significantly lower than the Highlander Hybrid (.33 to .34) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Niro get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

The front step up height for the Niro is 3.8 inches lower than the Highlander Hybrid (15.5” vs. 19.3”). The Niro’s rear step up height is 3.3 inches lower than the Highlander Hybrid’s (16.2” vs. 19.5”).

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 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The power windows standard on both the Niro and the Highlander Hybrid 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 Highlander Hybrid prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

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 Highlander Hybrid’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

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 Highlander Hybrid isn’t in the top three in its category.

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

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