The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is a small family SUV that’s easy to drive. It’ll prove cheap to run, too – but only if you do mainly short journeys and have somewhere to charge it overnight
The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is a plug-in version of the standard Niro hybrid that allows you to travel further using just the electric motor. As a result, this compact family SUV is very cheap to run – especially around town – and a good alternative to the likes of the Hyundai Ioniq plug-in hybrid, as well as many conventional SUVs.
The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s interior feels relatively plush. The surfaces of the dashboard and doors feel soft and forgiving and you get a sharp 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring built-in.
There’s a decent amount of space in the front seats, and you get a height-adjustable driver’s seat as standard to help you find a comfortable seating position. Room for back-seat passengers is pretty generous, too, but three adults will feel more tightly packed-in than in the back of a VW Tiguan.
It’s a similar story when you try to fill the Kia Niro’s boot. At 324 litres, it’s smaller than the standard Niro’s boot and some way off what you get in the likes of the VW Tiguan. Fold the back seats down, however, and a bike will fit – if you remove one of its wheels.
The tradeoff for the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s impressive fuel-economy is a slightly smaller boot than the standard Niro. After all, those batteries have to go somewhere…
So, it might not be quite as practical as some conventional petrol and diesel SUVs, but the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid should prove cheaper to run – especially around town. Unlike the standard Niro (which runs out of electric puff after fewer than five miles) this plug-in model can drive using just its electric motor for approximately 25 miles between charges – perfect if you don’t live far from work and have somewhere to charge it every night.
If you do longer journeys, the Niro’s 1.6-litre petrol engine has to chime in to lend a hand – driving the wheels and simultaneously charging the onboard battery. With the petrol engine and electric motor working together, the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid should return around 65mpg in normal driving conditions.
Every Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid comes with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard, so it’s easy to drive in heavy traffic for long periods. The steering’s light and its relatively large windows give you a good view out so you won’t break a sweat threading it through tight city streets or into narrow parking spaces, either.
Its suspension soaks up bumps fairly well – especially if you avoid the optional 18-inch alloy wheels – but the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s cabin does get a little noisy at motorway speeds with wind and tyre roar. At least you get a lane-keeping assistance system as standard to help stop you weaving out of your lane, but you do have to pay extra for automatic emergency braking. As a result, the Kia Niro earned a respectable (if not class-leading) four-star safety rating from Euro NCAP when it was assessed in 2016.
That still makes it a safe small SUV, though, and one you should definitely consider if you do plenty of short journeys and have somewhere to charge it regularly.