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Kia Niro PHEV 2023 Review

The 2023 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid has an electric range of up to 38 miles and an official combined WLTP fuel economy figure of 282.5 mpg – but should you opt for the PHEV or the EV?

  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
  • Kia Niro PHEV 2023
Green Car Guide Rating: 8/10

Key stats

  • Model/Engine size:  Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV ‘4’
  • Fuel:  Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid
  • Fuel economy combined (WLTP):  282.5 mpg
  • Electric range (WLTP):  38 miles

Summary

  • Quality feel overall
  • Interior looks good and is functional
  • 38-mile electric range
  • Niro PHEV’s electric motor produces 83bhp; Niro EV’s produces 201bhp

Background

Kia has demonstrated amazing progress over recent years, especially in the area of electric cars. The Kia EV6 is one of our favourite EVs, and the new Niro EV is also a quality product. So should you consider the Niro Plug-in Hybrid rather than the Niro EV?

Kia Niro PHEV 2023Kia Niro PHEV 2023

Design & Engineering

Kia describes the Niro as a ‘compact crossover utility vehicle (C-CUV)’, although we’d say it’s a small family hatchback. Compared to the previous Niro, the new model is 65mm longer, 20mm wider, 10mm taller, with a 20mm longer wheelbase, and a 348-litre boot (or 1,342 litres with the rear seats folded). The styling is bolder than the previous Niro, with the option of the rear ‘C-pillar’ being in a different colour on ‘4’ versions, as per our test car.

The new Niro is available as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, or an EV. The plug-in hybrid on test here has a 4-cylinder, 1.6-litre ‘GDi’ petrol engine, together with a 11.1kWh Li-ion polymer battery, an 83bhp (62kW) electric motor and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. The powertrain develops a combined 180bhp and 265Nm of torque.

Kia Niro PHEV 2023Kia Niro PHEV 2023

Kia Niro PHEV 2023 Driving Experience

The new Kia Niro feels more engaging to drive than the last generation model, with improved steering feel being a key reason for this. The Niro is also relatively compact, and, at 1,594 kg, it’s not as heavy as some EVs, which helps with a feeling of agility.

The interior is now very similar to that of the Kia EV6, which is excellent from a quality, design, and functional point of view. There’s a wide touchscreen, with buttons underneath that can be toggled between the main touchscreen controls such as navigation, or heating and ventilation. You can switch off the lane departure warning system with one press of a button on the steering wheel, which is fantastic. Buttons for seat heating and steering wheel heating are conveniently placed near the rotary gear selector.

So there are good points, but there’s one key issue about the Niro PHEV compared to the Niro EV, and this issue applies to most PHEVs. The Niro EV has a power output from its electric motor of 201 bhp. The Niro PHEV has a power output from its electric motor of 83 bhp. Therefore when you’re driving the Niro on electric, there’s not much power (just 41% of the power of the EV). So the performance isn’t great.

A related problem is the drive modes, accessed via a switch on the steering wheel, which are Eco and Sport, ie. there’s no ‘Normal’ or ‘Comfort’. Eco should mean the car runs on electric power, and this mode feels like the responses are dialled down. If you select Sport, the petrol engine fires up (ie. you can’t have electric power and Sport mode). And compared to the torque and the serenity from the EV propulsion system, the petrol engine can be noisy and strained. The Niro EV has a Sport mode, and this delivers a much more responsive driving experience.

There’s also an EV button between the front seats, which aside from offering an electric mode, gives you the options of Hybrid or Automatic (it’s very hard to tell the difference between these two options when driving).

And another issue is that Eco mode should mean electric power, but very often the Niro was using its petrol engine in Eco mode.

There are steering wheel-mounted paddles, which allow you to change gear if you’re using the petrol engine, and they allow you to change the level of brake regeneration if you’re on electric power. A very small graphic in the instrument panel shows you the level of regeneration that you’ve selected.

The Niro is front-wheel drive so you can experience wheelspin when accelerating from junctions in the wet. Some tyre noise is evident at motorway speeds (when it’s still possible to drive up to 83 mph on electric power).

The Niro has a 10.25-inch touchscreen display with navigation (standard on all ‘4’ versions and Niro EV ‘3’), and a 10.25-inch driver’s instrument display, and there’s also a head up display.

If you have to reverse out of a parking space, the Niro will beep and its steering wheel will vibrate if it senses any vehicles approaching the car.

The Niro PHEV has a 1,300 kg towing capacity.

Kia Niro PHEV 2023Kia Niro PHEV 2023

Kia Niro PHEV 2023 Economy and Emissions

The Kia Niro PHEV has an electric driving range of up to 40 miles, combined fuel economy of 353.1mpg, and CO2 emissions as low as 18g/km (in the case of the ‘2’ trim level). The ‘4’ trim level as tested has an electric driving range of up to 38 miles, combined fuel economy of 282.5mpg, and CO2 emissions of 22g/km.

In real-world driving we experienced a 36-mile EV range (in winter), with a 384-mile petrol range. Our real-world economy was 61.6mpg after a week of mixed driving.

The Niro PHEV features a Green Zone Drive Mode which can choose electric power automatically in, for example, built-up areas.

The Niro PHEV takes just under three hours to charge from 15% to 95% on a 3.3kW home charger.

Kia Niro PHEV 2023Kia Niro PHEV 2023

Price and Model Range

The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid ‘4’ is available from £39,725. This compares to £43,345 for the Kia Niro EV ‘4’ with a heat pump (the Niro EV is available from £36,795 for the ‘2’ trim).

There are three model grades – ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘4’, and the Niro line-up consists of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric powertrains.

Kia Niro PHEV 2023Kia Niro PHEV 2023

Conclusion

The new Kia Niro PHEV feels higher quality than the previous model, it has bolder styling, an improved interior, and it’s better to drive. It has a useful 38-mile electric range, which could result in high miles per gallon figures if most of the driving is on electric power. The main issue is that when the PHEV is driving on electric, you only have 83 bhp of power. In comparison, the Niro EV has 201 bhp. There’s also the issue of the PHEV only having Eco and Sport drive modes, meaning that performance on electric power is dialled back, and if you want Sport mode, you have to put up with a revvy and noisy petrol engine (whereas you can select Sport driving mode in the EV and it offers good performance). So although the Niro PHEV is a good car, if the price difference wasn’t an issue, we don’t really see why you would choose it over the Niro EV. The Kia Niro PHEV gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8/10.

Car facts and figures Kia Niro PHEV 2023 Review

  • Test economy: 61.6 mpg
  • CO2 emissions (WLTP): 22 g/km
  • Vehicle tax rate (VED):  First year £0
  • Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability (2022/23): 12%
  • Price:  £39,575
  • Insurance group:  TBC
  • Power:  180 bhp (Petrol and electric)
  • Torque:  265 Nm (Petrol and electric)
  • Max speed:  100 mph
  • 0-62 mph:  9.8 seconds
  • Weight:  1,594 kg
  • Towing capacity: 1,300 kg
Paul Clarke

Review by:
Paul Clarke, GreenCarGuide Editor