Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid review
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
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The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is a plug-in version of the standard Niro hybrid that allows you to travel farther 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 Niro PHEV is like a normal Niro hybrid, but with a bigger battery and electric power, so basically a four-wheeled Iron Man.
Its 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. It’ll take around three hours to charge up from a three-pin plug, or a little over an hour if you have a 7kW wallbox.
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.
Plenty of space for people, but less so for the stuff they bring with them.
The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s large doors make it relatively easy to climb into, but its seating position and roof aren’t quite as raised as in a Nissan Qashqai or VW Tiguan. It’s still more than big enough in the front for tall drivers to stretch out, however, and there’s plenty of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel to help you get comfy.
Every Kia Niro gets seat-height adjustment for the driver as standard, and mid-range 3 models and above come with electrical adjustment with memory functions – especially useful if you share your car with someone else. Unfortunately, adjustable lumbar support to help reduce backache on long journeys isn’t available on entry-level 2 cars.
Space in the back is pretty generous. The large doors make it easy for tall passengers to jump in and there’s lots of knee and headroom. Unfortunately, the Niro’s back seats aren’t particularly well-padded and the rather hard central seat makes it less comfortable for carrying three abreast than the likes of a Tiguan or Qashqai.
Three kids will have plenty of space to stretch out but fitting a child seat to carry even younger passengers is a bit of a pain. It’s a breeze to lift the seat through the Niro’s wide door openings but the Isofix anchor points are hidden away behind the seat padding. A Tiguan’s clearly marked anchor points make this job much easier.
The Kia Niro’s door bins are very spacious – you’ll have no trouble fitting a large bottle in each front door and the glovebox is reasonably roomy too. There’s some handy storage under the front armrest for keeping small valuables hidden and the cupholders in the centre console are easily big enough to hold a mammoth cup of service-station coffee.
The rear door bins aren’t quite as cavernous as those in the front but there’s still enough space for a medium-sized bottle. The folding rear armrest comes as standard with two (slightly smaller) cupholders, too.
The Kia Niro PHEV has a slightly scant 382 litres of boot space. It isn’t the largest around but it’s enough to carry a baby buggy and some soft bags. It trails the 430-litre Qashqai and relatively cavernous 615-litre VW Tiguan but its wide boot opening and square shape make it easy to pack full of large boxes.
There isn’t quite enough space under the adjustable boot floor to store the parcel shelf though, and the Kia Niro doesn’t get a 12V socket or any handy hooks to stop your shopping rolling around.
Thankfully, you can fold the back seats down in a two-way (60:40) split if you need to carry some very long luggage in the boot and a passenger in the back at the same time. With both back seats folded away (you’ll have to lean forward to reach the catches beside the headrests) you get a nearly flat load bay that’ll make sliding heavy boxes up behind the front seats fairly easy.
The Kia Niro PHEV’s outright 1,322-litre capacity is slightly less than the 1,585-litre Qashqai and 1,655-litre Tiguan but it’s still big enough to carry a bike – once you’ve removed one of its wheels.
Keep it charged and it’ll be really cheap to run, but fail to do so at your bank balance’s peril.
Every Kia Niro PHEV comes with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and 35hp electric motor that combine to drive the front wheels. It has the potential to be extremely cheap to run if you have a charging point at home, because it can drive around for around 30 miles using just the near-silent electric motor – ideal if you do lots of town driving.
When the battery becomes depleted, the engine kicks in with barely any delay and helps the Kia Niro cruise along without feeling strained at motorway speeds.
The PHEV has an official average economy figure of 201.8npg, and emits 31g/km of CO2, but as mentioned, you’ll need to charge it up at every opportunity if you’re to even approach these figures.
You get a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard on every Kia Niro PHEV (a similar unit will set you back around £1,500 on the VW Tiguan). The gearbox is smooth and helps take the stress out of long journeys and seemingly endless traffic jams but it’s not the most responsive gearbox around and sometimes hesitates before changing gear.
Better still, the Kia Niro PHEV is exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is easy to drive around town thanks to its slightly raised driving position and standard automatic gearbox. The pillars between the windscreen and front doors don’t create any particularly large blindspots at junctions or in tight corners and all models come with rear parking sensors and a reversing camera to help make parking fairly stress free, too.
At town speeds you’ll hear barely a hum from the Niro PHEV thanks to its near-silent electric motor. Once the petrol engine starts up to lend a hand it’s a little louder but still a touch quieter than the diesel engines you’ll find in many other small SUVs.
All Kia Niro PHEV models come with 16-inch alloy wheels as standard which help them iron out potholes reasonably well.
Sadly, you’ll also hear quite a lot of wind and tyre noise at motorway speeds. You couldn’t call it excessive, but it makes the Kia Niro slightly less relaxing to travel in for long distances than a VW Tiguan.
All models come with lane-keeping assistance to help stop you wandering into the path of other cars on the motorway along with automatic emergency braking to help prevent avoidable collisions.
It’s all very nicely put together with some ncie trims, but it’s also really dull.