Kia Niro PHEV review
The Kia Niro PHEV is an alternative version of the Kia Niro hybrid, but with some important differences. Primarily, it has a larger-capacity-battery and a more powerful electric motor than the standard hybrid, which means that it can go further on electric power alone.
There aren’t many direct rivals that you could consider, but perhaps the most obvious is the MINI Countryman S E ALL4, which is also a plug-in hybrid SUV. The regular hybrid Niro is also worth considering, but you might also be tempted by a hatchback like the Toyota Prius Plug-In.
Next to them, the Niro looks pretty impressive. Kia claims that it can go up to 36 miles on a single charge – more than enough for most people’s daily commute, even though our experience suggests you'll see around 10 miles less than that in normal real-world driving. CO2 emissions of just 31g/km are considerably lower than the hybrid’s, too, and make it a seriously cheap company car option.
Unlike the Niro hybrid, which comes in a range of trim levels, the PHEV comes in just one specification, based on the 3 trim. That gives you automatic lights and wipers, as well as luxuries such as dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery and heated front seats. You also have plenty of technology, including sat-nav and DAB radio, controlled through an eight-inch touchscreen, as well as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.
What the plug-in version of the Niro does have in common with the regular hybrid is its 1.6-litre engine. And, as you might only expect, the two cars drive in a very similar way. If you spend most of your motoring life in the urban jungle, you’ll appreciate how easily the car gets around, switching between the two parts of its hybrid powertrain. For the record, the PHEV is a little quicker than the hybrid on paper, but it’s also quite heavy; its 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds is hardly what you’d call quick.
Admittedly, the Niro PHEV will be fast enough for most people’s needs. But if you’re the kind of driver who wants a bit more get-up-and-go, the MINI Countryman S E ALL4 could fit the bill perfectly.
Overall, in fact, the MINI is a much more engaging and exciting thing to drive, but it also highlights how good the Niro is for electric range and efficiency. The Niro feels most at home if you settle back and adopt a more relaxed driving style.
However, if you leave the Niro in normal hybrid mode, you’ll soon expose one of the Niro’s weaknesses: the petrol engine is too eager to kick in when you want to pick up the pace. That’s not ideal when you want the car to use electric power as much as possible to keep your running costs down. Also not ideal is the ride, which is a little on the firm side.
Where the Niro is more impressive is that it’s well built and pretty classy inside. There’s plenty of standard equipment, too, and the car is well suited to family duties. In addition to the generous room in the front, there’s enough room in the rear seats for a couple of adults.
The PHEV’s bigger batteries mean it has a smaller boot than the standard hybrid, and certainly the more expensive Mitsubishi Outlander is a better bet if you need a lot of space in your plug-in hybrid SUV.
Overall, though, there’s still plenty to like about the Niro PHEV, not least the excellent electric range that it’s capable of. Yes, you need to be able to keep its batteries charged up to get the best out of it, but that’s something it shares with all plug-in hybrids. And, given how well equipped it is and how spacious the interior is, it’s one of the best plug-in hybrids out there.
For a more detailed look at the Niro PHEV, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.