£30,845 Price range
The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid (or PHEV, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) is a family SUV that’s well worth considering if you don’t need a massive boot but do want cheap running costs.
The main difference between it and the standard Kia Niro Hybrid (reviewed separately) is that you can plug it into a plug socket to charge the battery. Using a fast charger you can fully charge the battery in just over two hours, and when full you’ll be able to drive the Niro PHEV for up to a claimed 38 miles on electric power alone – although expect this to be more like 25 miles in the real world.
When you run out of charge the Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s 1.6-litre petrol engine will kick in for the rest of the journey, and you can use it to charge the battery on the move. If your normal driving requires minimal use of the petrol engine – ie you drive mostly around town – then the Niro PHEV is incredibly cheap to run, because you’re only really paying for the cost of electricity. It’s worth noting that when you accelerate hard the petrol engine is quite noisy, and considering the Niro’s not exactly fast, that can be annoying.
The Niro Plug-in’s extra batteries mean it’s quite a bit heavier than the normal Niro hybrid, and this results in suspension that’s less able to soak up bumps – and the Niro PHEV can get a bit jiggly around town.
The boot’s a bit smaller than the normal hybrid Niro’s too, thanks to the extra batteries and the charging cable. You’ll still fit a couple of large suitcases in there, but a normal SUV such as a VW Tiguan has far more space and is better suited to long family holidays.
The rest of the Niro’s cabin is nicely made, with lots of expensive-feeling soft-touch plastics on the dashboard and a standard-fit 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring systems. You don’t get those features in an entry-level Tiguan, so hats off to the Kia in terms of value.
The back seats are roomy enough for two adults for long trips, although you won’t want to squeeze three big friends back there for very long.
However many of the Niro’s seats you use, you and your passengers will be safe if the worst happens. The Niro scored a respectable four stars in Euro NCAP’s 2016 crash tests, and top-spec models get automatic emergency braking that can stop the car if it detects an imminent collision.
You get peace of mind elsewhere too – the Niro gets Kia’s standard seven-year warranty so you’re covered for a long time should anything go wrong.
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