Kia XCeed PHEV plug-in hybrid review
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||36 miles||168-202mpg||32g/km|
Kia was one of the first manufacturers to go big on plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology, with its Niro PHEV SUV and now-discontinued Optima PHEV estate models. While those cars faced only a limited field of competitors, more and more brands are entering the fray of late.
This new Kia XCeed PHEV – a stylish-looking family crossover – faces rivals like the Renault Captur E-TECH, Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid, Ford Kuga Plug-In Hybrid and Skoda Octavia iV and forthcoming new Volkswagen Golf GTE. There's also the less stylish but more practical Kia Ceed Sportswagon PHEV for buyers to consider.
Although no longer eligible for a plug-in car grant from the government, plug-in hybrids continue to be an attractive financial proposition thanks to the potential for zero-emissions electric running (up to 36 miles in the XCeed's case) and low Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax (10% for the 2020-21 financial year). Manufacturers are also keen to sell as many of them as possible to help meet strict new average CO2 emissions targets laid down by the EU.
The XCeed PHEV's powertrain is familiar from other plug-in Kias: a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine making 105hp, paired with an electric motor making 60bhp, for a total power combined output of 139bhp, delivered to the wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. The battery is the same 8.9kWh unit seen in the Niro PHEV, but as the XCeed is a smidge lighter and more aerodynamic, it betters that car's 30-mile pure-electric range.
It follows, then, that using the same powertrain as other plug-in Kias means the XCeed PHEV is subject to many of the same compromises as those cars: namely, it's heavier (by 115kg), has less luggage space (135 litres less, to be precise) and is more expensive than a comparable turbocharged petrol XCeed.
And unlike some plug-in hybrids, the XCeed PHEV isn't exactly overburdened with power, feeling a bit sluggish under acceleration and when overtaking, which contradicts the model's supposedly youthful and sporty character. Sport mode does improve things a little, but at the cost of some ride comfort.
However, if you prefer to just drive from A to B sedately rather than pushing the car's handling limits on every journey, you probably won't be too bothered by such shortcomings, and happy to enjoy the running-costs savings the XCeed's powertrain brings.
Kia's plug-in hybrid system has been refined over several years now and works flawlessly; you should easily see over 30 miles of electric running even with a mix of road types, weather conditions and driving styles thrown in.
And you can stretch out the battery's energy using clever functions such as the 'Driver Only' button, which shuts down all the air vents bar the ones around the driver to save power if you're travelling alone. And as with other Kia plug-in hybrid and electric cars, charging can be programmed for certain hours overnight, in order to take advantage of cheaper domestic electricity tariffs.
Inside, the XCeed impresses, with high-quality materials that wouldn't look out of place in premium rivals like the Volkswagen T-Roc (which may gain a plug-in version in due course). Standard equipment is generous and includes automatic climate control, LED headlights, a rear-view camera and alloy wheels, while Kia's infotainment system is one of our favourites, with clear and sharp graphics along with an intuitive interface that doesn't take long to get comfortable with.
So while the XCeed hybrid's driving experience may disappoint some – and even send them in the direction of rival models – this is still a good looking, good value and cheap-to-run small family SUV that will tick a lot of boxes for many.