Affordable Kia Niro PHEV plug-in hybrid has wide-ranging appeal

Kia brings plug-in hybrids into more people’s price range with the Niro PHEV crossover. With more people set to switch on to electrified cars, there’s nothing to be scared of, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
Looks and image
This is no dull, impractical eco mobile. It’s a well-proportioned, good-looking crossover, more estate car than SUV, well suited to family life.
Not as rugged as an SUV, but chunkier than an estate car, the more time I spent with the Niro, the more I appreciated its talents.
Under the bonnet
It shares the 104bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine with the standard hybrid but a more powerful electric motor and bigger drive battery give an electric range up to 36 miles on a charge, although a full charge never showed more than 34 on the test car.
The electric motor can propel the Niro along at 70mph but the faster you go, the more ‘juice’ you use, reducing the range faster. I regularly achieved 25 to 30 miles – even with some fast motoring – enough for my commute and some city driving.
The result was a best of 250mpg, dropping to 90mpg overall with a 200-mile drive on only the engine but, that alone, averaged nearly 60mpg – as good as my wife’s diesel.
Charging with a domestic three-pin plug cable took around five hours – a cable is also supplied for public charging points and takes two-and-a-quarter hours.
Eco mode promotes efficiency but in sport mode, with engine and electric motor working together, it’s more mean than green and no slouch.
It has a six-speed automatic gearbox rather than a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) favoured by most hybrids.
How it drives
Given the Niro’s height, it corners flatly with body lean in check so you can carry speed into corners which aids economy.
The trade-off is a firm low-speed ride, so you are aware of worn, pock-marked roads, but it’s more composed cruising but road noise from the eco-focused tyres is highlighted because the powertrain is pretty quiet in general use.
Space and comfort
The Niro, designed as an electrified vehicle, is bigger inside than you would expect. Six-footers have plenty of head and legroom in the back, even behind tall adults, and you can seat three in the back without being crammed or cramped.
But that larger drive battery raises the boot floor, reducing space to 324 litres from 373 but it’s still well shaped. Fold the 60/40 split back down and you’ve got 1,322 litres against the standard hybrid’s 1,371 litres.
The Niro PHEV is available only in ‘3’ trim so comes with lots of standard kit, creature comforts and connectivity.
At the wheel
It may have the complicated technology of a plug-in hybrid but Kia has kept it simple for the driver. If you’ve driven any Kia you’ll feel at home with the main change a gauge with charge, eco and power zones instead of a rev counter, and fuel and battery range displays.
The high-level infotainment screen is intuitive and easy to use with large, clearly-labelled function buttons below and likewise for heating and ventilation.
Final say
The Kia Niro PHEV will help drive the switch to hybrids and people’s perception of them. It’s more affordable than many rivals, easy to live with and highlights there’s nothing scary about electric motoring. Cars like the Kia Niro PHEV are the future.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV 3 £30,495 excluding £2,500 government plug-in car grant
Powertrain: 1,580cc, 104bhp, four-cylinder petrol and 44.5kW (60bhp) electric motor (combined 139bhp) with six-speed automatic gearbox
Performance: 0-60mph 10.4 seconds; top speed 107mph
MPG combined: Engine 67.3; weighted 217.3 (electric range up to 36 miles)
CO2 emissions: 29g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 13pc
Insurance group: 13 (out of 50)
Warranty: Seven years or 100,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,335mm; W (excluding door mirrors) 1,805mm; H 1,545mm