Let’s assume you are cheap. In my case, you can assume away.

And even though gasoline is pretty reasonable right now, you don’t want to buy any more of it than necessary.

You might consider an electric car, but there are obvious limitations there in terms of range and recharging time.

Then there are electric-hybrids. The Chevy Volt is probably the king of the hill in terms of mileage, but it’s still a little pricey. The Toyota Prius is the granddaddy of them all, but even though it’s more stylish, it just screams “give me a tree to hug!” And it’s not exactly cheap.

So, for their initial foray into the hybrid field, the folks at Kia have given us a little crossover-suv-looking wagon called the Niro.

And it is simply wonderful. Start with the looks. Small, svelte, and looking completely normal, the Niro will give you stupendous mileage without looking like a bottom feeder, base model nothing-mobile, or a poster boy for Greenpeace. In short, the Niro lets you enjoy being frugal and socially responsible without calling attention to yourself.

At the heart of the deal is a small, 1.6-liter four cylinder engine making 104 whole horsepower. But it is mated to an electric motor cranking out the equivalent of 43 horsepower. With some linkage losses, the combined motive force is 139 horsepower, which given its 3108 pound curb weight is plenty.

The car itself is solid as a rock, as is the norm for Kia these days, and though the interior is a bit spartan, it never feels cheap. The car is roomy, comfortable, and while you won’t want to race your buddy in his Porsche, it handles well.

But here’s the beauty part. Although your 0-60 time can be measured with a sundial, the car is rated at 52 miles per gallon in the city, 49 on the highway. You will have to reintroduce yourself to the kid at the gas station because you won’t see him often.

And starting at $23,785 and topping out at just under $33,000, the Niro is a steal compared to other hybrids.

So if you are both cheap and socially aware, but don’t want to shout it from the rooftops, check out the Kia Niro. A lovely car with an aversion to gas pumps.


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