The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is very efficient, with the potential of low running costs, it has a practical body style, and is relatively affordable.
We’ve already had the Kia Niro Hybrid, and now the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is here, offering an official 36-mile all-electric range. It’s also the first plug-in hybrid compact crossover to go on sale in the UK. Very soon we’ll have the all-electric Niro. There’s no combustion engine-only Niro. If you want more electric range than the standard Hybrid Niro offers, but you’re not quite ready for a pure electric car, does the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid offer the right solution?
The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox (6DCT) (rather than the more common Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)). The combustion engine, based on a 1.6-litre Kappa direct-injection (GDi) unit and developing 104bhp and 147Nm of torque, uses the efficient Atkinson cycle combustion process. There’s also a 44.5kW (60bhp) electric motor with 170Nm of torque, powered by an 8.9kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.
The Niro has a practical body shape with 16-inch alloy wheels with plastic covers designed to minimise wind resistance. Although these are efficient, they look small compared to most SUVs (for example take a look at the Jaguar E-PACE with its 19-inch wheels).
The Niro’s dashboard is typical Kia/Hyundai common sense: the design is functional and all controls are clear.
The Kia Niro Plug-in has an official electric range of 36 miles, and we typically experienced a real-world range of 34 miles. This means that all short-range local driving should be able to be done on electric power (you select electric driving by pressing the EV button). This in turn means that during such driving the Niro exhibits all the attributes of a fully-electric car, including being quiet, refined, and with zero tailpipe emissions. However there’s not much power in EV mode, and you can feel the gears changing, which is an unusual sensation for an EV.
On longer journeys, in hybrid mode (the HEV button), the Niro is very efficient. On a journey to Oxford, the Niro achieved 71.3mpg over 217 miles, which is an excellent result.
There’s no ‘Save’ mode to save battery charge, so if you’re driving down a motorway you can’t hold battery charge for eg. entry into a city at the end of the journey.
The default driving mode is Eco; if you move the gear selector to the right, you get Sport mode, when you can change gear manually. However don’t expect the Sport mode to deliver sporty performance; the Niro PHEV is focused around efficiency, not power or rapid acceleration. This is not a driver’s car.
The Niro also isn’t the most refined motorway cruiser, the ride isn’t cosseting, it could be quieter, and it doesn’t feel particularly planted to the road. Try negotiating a roundabout enthusiastically and you’ll see what we mean.
The official NEDC combined fuel economy of the Kia Niro PHEV is 217.3 mpg, with CO2 emissions of 29 g/km. These are impressive figures, and are the result of the 36 mile electric range. Even in real-world driving, the Niro delivered an excellent 34-mile electric range, which is better than almost all rivals.
As reported above, a 217 mile motorway drive to Oxford resulted in 71.3mpg. Another motorway journey of 121 miles with no battery charge gave an economy figure of 51.4mpg, which is also very good. Motorway speeds of 55mph produced 58.1mpg. Average fuel economy for our week with the Niro PHEV was 67.9mpg – but this was based on our typical mix of around 80% being long distance motorway journeys – not the ideal environment for this car. If most journeys were local and completed on electric power, it would be reasonable to expect fuel economy figures of over 100mpg.
The Niro PHEV can be fully recharged in two and a quarter hours.
The Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV DCT 6-speed as tested costs £30,495. It’s available from £28,345 after the Plug-in Car Grant. There’s only one trim level, but this is well equipped.
There’s also the (non-plug-in) Niro Hybrid, which can achieve up to 74.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 86g/km. And the all-electric Kia Niro is due soon. This should be an impressive car from an electric driving range and cost perspective.
The Kia Niro PHEV is a welcome addition to the growing range of plug-in vehicles available for motorists. It’s very efficient, it’s practical, and it’s reasonably affordable. This may be enough for many people. It isn’t a driver’s car, but that won’t be a concern for lots of car buyers.
What interests us is that Kia can produce a car as efficient as the Niro PHEV, and that it can also produce a car as excellent to drive as the Stinger. We’re really looking forward to driving a product from Kia that combines these two qualities. When that happens, other manufacturers should be really worried.
The Kia Niro PHEV gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.