A chatbot would never lie to you, right?
That’s what I wanted to find out when I tested a Facebook Messenger chatbot for the 2017 Kia Niro crossover, which recently won the Guinness Book of World Records for the lowest fuel consumption for a hybrid vehicle. (It was an interesting competition, because two people drove across the United States using only around four gallons of fuel.)
Surprisingly, the chatbot is pretty smart. I asked it some basic questions about features and how the hybrid tech works. It quickly provided information about the 103-horsepower gas engine and the 43-horsepower equivalent electric motor (for 146 horsepower combined). The bot even offered a helpful explanation: “My 42kW lithium-ion polymer battery is packed with 1.56kWh of energy.” I was impressed with the level of detail so far.
The bot is not exactly an online brochure that feeds links to the Kia site, although in the end it is definitely a marketing tool. You can ask more detailed questions. For example, I asked about tire size and the bot gave the exact dimensions of 205/60R16 or 225/45R18s (since this depends on the wheels you choose). It also provided the exact size of the fuel tank (11.9 gallons).
Those specifications are helpful, but I wanted to ask about features that I could then test in the real car, since — as I was chatting on Facebook with the bot, the car was sitting right in front of me. Also, while specs like engine size and the fuel tank are important, there wasn’t really a way for me to verify any of that. So, I asked about a few more features.
One is related to wireless charging. It turns out the Niro supports Qi charging in a small cubbyhole below the stereo. The bot helpfully asked if I use an iPhone or Android, then pointed me…