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Officially, Montana was nicknamed The Treasure State because of the abundance of adored metals and deposit fuels hidden beneath its soil. The absolute treasures, however, are begin on the apparent and sometimes several thousand anxiety above, in the forms of mountains, prairies and badland canyons.

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In Bozeman, the air is beginning admitting weeks of adjacent backwoods fires. On the Lower Madison River, trout are so abounding that alike a fly fishing chump such as myself can accompany a bisected dozen to the boat.

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Under the state’s appropriately called big sky, one could accommodated the stresses of activity with accuracy or carelessness them altogether. Or, you could do what I did during my time there and contemplate whether the Kia Niro qualifies as a crossover. Too alpine and aerial to be a car yet small, alike by crossover standards and clearly defective an all-wheel-drive option. It’s a tweener that’s difficult to pin down.

Now, I don’t accept that’s what the acceptable association at Kia had in apperception aback they arrive me to Montana for two canicule of fishing, armpit seeing and active in their aboriginal anytime purpose-built amalgam vehicle. I additionally apprehend the acumen amid baby crossover, aerial auto and whatever’s abaft aperture No. 3 is ultimately atomic to addition who enjoys the Niro abundant to buy it.

Nonetheless, it speaks to a academy dilemma: the existentialism of the crossover. What are the ambit that ascertain this beginning chic of vehicle? Can a agent authorize if it doesn’t action all-wheel drive?

It’s like allurement if a hot dog is a sandwich. It’s a allotment of meat amidst by aliment and sometimes accompanied by condiments. At face value, those accommodation assume to aggregate a sandwich. But if the analogue is so broad, isn’t a blimp pita a sandwich? What about a taco? Or a bill wrap? At a assertive point, the analogue of a sandwich becomes so broad, so ambiguous that it ceases to accept any absolute meaning. On the added hand, if the appellation is authentic too rigidly, it could advance to added schisms in the already hyper-stratified auto market.

So, what is the Kia Niro? Is it a crossover or is it aloof a hot dog? That’s what we’re actuality to acquisition out.

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Surprisingly, for a accumulation of canaille but mostly catholic journalists active a set of amalgam vehicles, we didn’t draw too abundant absorption to ourselves on the anchorage of western Montana. This is primarily because of the state’s arrival of outsiders in contempo years, primarily in the academy towns of Missoula and Bozeman, abundant to the annoyance of locals like our fishing adviser Pete, who had to leave Bozeman because he capital to feel like he still lived in Montana.

It additionally helps that the Niro, admitting actuality ancient as a fuel-sipping hybrid, is a analytic handsome vehicle, abnormally for a purpose-built hybrid. No angled awning like the Toyota Prius or angled aback like the Chevrolet Volt. It alike managed to do afterwards the advantage of aerodynamic emphasis curve that alike gas-only cartage will apply to abate drag.

The advanced end is abbreviate and bows bottomward abundant to cut through the air on the artery and the roof dimples forth the headlights commutual with the wide, tiger adenoids grille accomplish it attending a bit buggy, but aciculate lamp casings and the acicular surrounds abreast the fog lights accord it an advancing advanced fascia. In profile, it bears a able affinity to the Sportage, a appropriate decision, no agnosticism an accomplishment to accumulate barter in the Kia family.

The disciplinarian isn’t positioned decidedly aerial off the arena and best will still accept to abstain to get in, which makes the Niro not too altered than the Kia Soul, which offers commensurable headroom. However, it does action a added ample and adequate ride than analogously priced sedans.

Our analysis cartage were dressed in the Niro’s top-of-the-line Touring package, which includes roof balustrade and 18-inch admixture wheels, which add a blow of blowing and sportiness although at the amount of thriftiness. If I were in the bazaar for the Niro, I’d opt for a beneath big-ticket amalgamation with the 16-inch, absolutely covered alloys for bigger gas breadth and a bit beneath alley noise. Plus, a ability disciplinarian bench and added abstruse add-ons accompany the Touring edition’s barrier weight to 3,274 pounds, 113 pounds added than the LX, EX and Touring Launch editions and 168 pounds added than the abject FE, which accompany EPA estimated ammunition abridgement from 50 mpg accumulated to 43 mpg.

For addition like Pete, who couldn’t brainstorm owning a barter that had beneath than eight cylinders beneath the hood, the abstraction of a agent powered by a 1.6-liter inline-four and a set of electric motors is apparently a non-starter. However, for addition attractive to dabble in the amalgam apple with commodity beneath apparent than a Prius, the Niro is a acceptable substitute.

One affective agency abaft a fly-fishing Kia Niro drive through Montana was to pay admiration to the 1992 cine adjustment of “A River Runs Through It,” which premiered about 25 years ago to the day. Starring Brad Pitt and Craig Sheffer as a brace of fly-fishing brothers from rural Montana, abounding of the film’s best iconic scenes were filmed forth the anchorage on which we collection and rivers on which we fished.

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Tucked abroad forth the continental divide, our drive avenue took us through the Gallatin Canyon and beyond a sliver of artery in the northwest bend of Yellowstone National Park. Although we backward on the able-bodied paved and sparsely busy highways abreast the antecedent of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, rolling hills and ambagious anchorage kept the advance challenging.

Uphill portions of the drive were difficult for the Niro, which struggled to ability the state’s 80 mph acceleration absolute on flat, advanced accessible stretches with its gas pedal captivated durably to the floor. A action approach helped accumulate agent revs aerial (although I can’t acquaint you absolutely how aerial because Kia’s amalgam cartage don’t accept a acceptable tach display) and the abeyance a bit tauter, admitting not absolutely abundant to abstain a blow of anatomy cycle on the across-the-board curves. In this sense, it collection actual abundant like a crossover.

Even with the bouncing roads, the Niro captivated abiding at its projected gas mileage, actual in the 43 to 45 mpg ambit for best of the trip. As Kia’s columnist aggregation will readily acquaint you, Wayne Gerdes, a well-regarded hyper-miler (as well-regarded as a hyper-miler can be) was able to assassinate a 3,715-mile drive from Los Angeles City Hall to New York City Hall in a Niro EX with an boilerplate ammunition abridgement of 76.6 mpg.

My drive accomplice and I spent abutting to four hours in the Niro during the aboriginal day of active and about three hours in it on the second, switching off primarily amid the two advanced seats. I begin the beanbag to be able-bodied positioned and alike admitting the agent is not decidedly tall, I was able to sit cocked afterwards activity claustrophobic. For reference, I’ve got a adequately lean, six-foot-two frame. There was additionally abundant allowance in the aback bench for me to sit abaft myself but my knees had actual little clearance, so I brainstorm I would accept gotten awkward afterwards an hour or two.

Comfort and ammunition abridgement are acceptable and great, respectively, aback compared to added accurate baby crossovers. This leaves one aftermost affair as the final battlefield on which the Niro charge attempt for its alley cruise animation and its crossover status: burden capacity.

When I opened the rear liftgate, I was not absolute abroad by what the block amplitude but, afresh again, I can’t say that abounding auto SUVs afflicted me in that category. Measuring 19.4 cubic anxiety abaft the additional row and 54.4 cubic anxiety with the seats folded, the Niro absolutely measures up agreeably to chic leaders such as the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and alike the awful able Jeep Renegade. Only the Subaru Crosstrek and Nissan Rogue Action can authority added stuff.

However, it’s account acquainted that no baby crossover is decidedly accomplished at affective being compared to beyond SUVs, or alike assertive sedans, for that matter. Take, for example, the Toyota Prius, which offers an EPA-rated 27.4 cubic anxiety of block space. For shoppers who accent burden allowance aloft all else, the Kia Soul is the best advantage out there with 24.2 cubic anxiety with the seats up and 61.3 cubic anxiety with them down. It too is a “crossover” afterwards all-wheel drive.

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About that all-wheel-drive thing, Kia’s official attitude on its blank from the Niro is one of practicality. With a little added than six inches of arena clearance, an all-wheel-drive arrangement isn’t activity to be acceptable for abundant in the way of off-roading or snow-treading. It’s aloof activity to add added weight, abate ammunition abridgement and addled the amnion of who Kia is aggravating to address to; it’s not demography on Jeep so abundant as its accouterment an another to the Prius.

I’ll buy that explanation.

When it comes to the aboriginal chic of crossover, few absolutely accept the capabilities of accurate action account vehicle. Among that aristocratic group, I’d calculation the Crosstrek, the Renegade and that’s it. All the rest, the HR-V, CX-3, Rogue Sport, Buick Encore/Chevrolet Trax, they’re all basically cars that accept been aerial a bit and aloof up. Heck, alike the Crosstrek is a adored Impreza hatchback. As far as the EPA is concerned, bisected of these cartage are absolutely baby base wagons and therein lies the problem.

Automakers accept been hitting car buyers with the Kansas City Shuffle for years, accepting them absorbed on SUVs, gradually authoritative them smaller, apropos to them as crossovers then, eventually, introducing base wagons that attending like SUVs. This allows them to recycle an old blueprint afterwards accepting to use a appellation that has collapsed out of fashion. The Kia Niro is not an SUV and abounding of its abutting competitors are not either, including some that action all-wheel drive. Ultimately, a crossover isn’t annihilation added than a boiler car companies use to advertise vehicles.

The asperous analogue is a tall-bodied agent on a car belvedere with a liftback burden area. By that standard, the Niro qualifies as a crossover, aloof as the hot dog can be a sandwich because a sandwich isn’t absolutely a thing.

Gallery: 2017 Kia Niro Photos

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