2017 Kia Niro Long-Term Update 6: Mystery Solved

We’re inching closer to the end of our year with the Kia Niro. The intrepid hybrid has helped me move and served as my faithful companion on road trips, where it tackled light off-road duties without fuss. It is on these longer trips where I’ve had the best opportunity to test out the Niro’s adaptive cruise control.

Cruise control works well maintaining my set speed. Except there’s one glaring issue. The distance the Niro keeps between it and the car ahead is fixed and cannot be changed. At least not on our Niro.

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2017 Kia Niro steering wheel detail
2017 Kia Niro steering wheel controls

The left photo above depicts what the steering wheel cruise control buttons look like on a regular 2017 Niro. On our long-term tester (the photo on the right), the cruise control distance button is replaced by an “OK” button.

So why is our tester different? Turns out, because it’s an early model. We contacted the folks at Kia and learned our Niro is an M-level unit. These vehicles are built in the very last stage before the official start of production, although they’re still considered sellable and up to production standards. Many Kia press cars are M-level units so media can have early access to them. After discovering that it had an early steering wheel, though, Kia asked us to return the Niro. We’ll explain the long version of this story in our upcoming Verdict, but for now, we’re getting in a 2019 Niro with the latest steering wheel to test out cruise control.

For now, let’s focus on the Niro’s other creature comforts, starting with air conditioning. Just like other electrified cars I’ve driven, including the Kia Soul EV, there is no “full blast” on this system. Even on the highest setting, it lets out a gentle breeze of air, despite noise that makes it seem like it’s working hard. It’ll take a little longer than normal to cool down the cabin on those hot summer days. When it’s temperate, we enjoy the button that restricts climate controls to the driver’s side of the cabin.

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