What kind of problems does a Kia Niro Hybrid usually have? This blog has outlined all the most important things you should watch for when you’re in the market for a Niro. However, let’s first start with a quick answer:
Kia Niro Hybrid have problems with an overheating power relay assembly and clutch actuator oil leaks which both increase fire risk in 2017 – 2018 models. Loss of electrical power steering, braking power, and transmission problems resulting in lagging acceleration are common 2017 – 2019 problems.
However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the rest of the article, we’ll discuss every problem in detail. Furthermore, we’ll let you know if recalls for specific problems have been issued or not. When applicable, we’ll also discuss the cost of repair or any other helpful information. Read on!
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1. Too Much Electrical Resistance Cause Overheating Of Backseats
A critical part of vehicles that are entirely or partially driven by electricity is the power relay assembly. This is a device that opens or closes electrical circuits using an electromagnet. However, this essential part has proven to be a pain point of the 2017 – 2018 models. It even became so bad that Kia had to issue a recall for these model years.
In the case of the Niro Hybrid, the power relay assembly had inadequate connections between its contacts. This meant the available contacts got overloaded and started to overheat. In turn, this started to overheat the rear seat that was directly above the power relay assembly, which increased the risk of fire.
The recall started in November 2018 under number 18V666000. The solution was to replace the main relay if no damage was found. If damage was found, the whole power relay assembly was replaced. No other model years have had this problem, so it can be assumed the fix worked.
Want to read more about the Kia Niro? Also read: Types Of Gas A Kia Niro Takes (Explained)
2. Clutch Actuator Leaks Oil
The second recall on this list was a specific culprit of the 2017 model year of the Niro Hybrid. The hybrid clutch actuator, which is the system responsible for depressing the clutch when you press the pedal, had an oil leak. Specifically, an inner seal wasn’t holding the oil in place correctly.
This allowed oil to flow in the hydraulic clutch actuator cap, which could then cause short-circuit of the system. As you can imagine, a short-circuit in any electrical system combined with a small oil reservoir increases the risk of fire.
The recall began in June 2018 under number 18V257000. The solution involved checking the HCA cap for leaked oil. In that case, either the HCA assembly was changed, or the HCA cap was sealed more thoroughly.
3. Loss Of Electric Power Steering Assist
Half of this article involves recalls specific to either the 2017 or 2018 model year of the Kia Niro Hybrid. This final 2017 recall involved problems with the complete loss of the electric power steering assist. Owners reported a sudden and total loss of power steering, which makes steering incredibly difficult at lower speeds.
Luckily, this only involved a total of 135 vehicles which meant it wasn’t a significant recall. Kia eventually learned that these models had a malfunctioning motor-driven power steering connector, and this was replaced free of charge under recall number 17V159000.
4. Loss Of Braking Power
Besides the official recalls, some common complaints are essential to be aware of if you’re in the market for a Kia Niro Hybrid. One of these complaints involves the complete and sudden loss of braking power in some 2017, 2018, and 2019 models.
Owners of the vehicle report no pressure from the braking pedal when the pedal is pressed, and in some cases, this has led to accidents. Furthermore, Kia never officially acknowledged the issue, and a recall was never issued.
One owner of such a vehicle reported that the car did indicate an issue with the regenerative braking system (he did this on the website of the NHTSA). After doing his inspection, he found that the right rear flexible brake line was loose at the point where it attached to the hard line. He tightened this fitting and added 6 ounces of brake fluid to the reservoir. Furthermore, he checked the system for leaks under pressure, which solved his braking problems.
5. Lagging Acceleration And Lunching Forward
A final complaint that we need to discuss about the Niro Hybrid is its power train. This is possibly one of the most complained about parts of this vehicle in the earlier models. Specifically, we’re talking about 2017 – 2019 models and the 2019 models of the plug-in hybrid (which, otherwise, seems to be relatively pain-free).
Owners have reported a very noticeable lack in acceleration and jerking or launching forward when shifting. All of these problems indicate something is wrong with the transmission. As it turns out, the transmission is not faulty; it’s just poorly tuned for the way the car is designed.
That’s because most hybrids use an eCVt or CVT (electronically continually variable transmission), which uses a motor to balance the engine output. However, these model years of the Niro Hybrid make use of a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Supposedly, the plan was that this should make the hybrid feel more like a regular car. In reality, the dual-clutch transmission isn’t tweaked properly and therefore has trouble dealing with the torque and power a hybrid power system delivers.
It seems later versions of the Niro Hybrid (2020 and older) don’t have this problem, even though the car still uses a six-speed DCT. However, we’re assuming Kia did take some more time to optimize this powertrain compared to the previous model years.
What’s The Worst Model Year Of The Kia Niro Hybrid?
Finally, we’ll have to answer what model years of the Kia Niro Hybrid are the worst and which are the best. Based on our research, and the points we’ve described above, there’s only one conclusion possible.
2017 – 2019 model years of the Kia Niro Hybrid and the 2019 PHEV are the worst model years you can get. This is because they suffer from a faulty transmission and loss of braking power. Furthermore, they’ve been recalled for loss of electronic power steering and have had several recalls for increased fire risk.
The 2020 and older Niro Hybrid and Niro PHEV and the 2018 PHEV are the best models because they’ve suffered only minor recalls. Furthermore, there are almost no recorded complaints about these vehicles, and they don’t suffer from faulty transmissions and loss of braking power or power steering as do other model years.
Also read: Kia Niro Towing Capacity: Can It Tow a Camper Trailer, Boat, or Jet Ski?
Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!