Kia has added a plug in hybrid variation to its Niro hybrid. We’ve tested it but with little regard to being green. We wanted to see how well it works in the real world and not in the hands of a hyper-mileing hybrid/EV fanatic.
There is no denying it the Korean firm is making some very smart looking machines these days. A quick glance at the new Stinger or Sportage will induce a nod of approval in most but with Niro the design team has delivered a relatively ordinary looking machine despite its high tech underpinnings. The Niro sits on a unique crossover platform in the Hyundai/Kia group. The five door crossover isn’t that big but manages to feel large inside. In overall size the five seater is larger than a Ceed but smaller than the Sportage.
The big draw is its electrification. So what has the PHEV got? The Kia Niro PHEV uses a 1.6 litre GDI engine (Kappa four cylinder) and a 44.5kW electric motor to power its front wheels. The PHEV’s electric motor is larger than the standard Niro hybrid’s 32kW motor. The plug-in part features a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery pack with a capacity of 8.9kWh that allows for up to 58km of electric only driving from a full charge – that’s a safe 35km for most us. The standard Niro hybrid makes do with a far lower battery capacity of 1.56kWh. Kia quotes a total power output for the Niro PHEV of 141hp and 265nm of torque. 10.8 seconds will cover the sprint from 0-100km/h (Niro 11.5 seconds). It is not earth shattering performance but it feels brisk thanks to the electric motor’s instant urge. The plug-in hybrid’s battery pack is well hidden and located beneath the boot floor and rear seat bench. The boot capacity of hybrids usually suffers but Niro still manages to deliver 324 litres of space – so you can still do ‘the big shop’. There is space beneath the boot floor to store the well packaged Niro’s charging cable. The 43 litre petrol fuel tank is located alongside the battery pack beneath the rear bench. Both fuel flaps are located on the car’s nearside. A surprising number of Hybrids and EVs cannot tow but Niro PHEV comes with an optional towing pack that allows towing of up to 1,300kg (braked).
Most current hybrids use an e-CVT type automatic transmission but Niro PHEV uses a six-speed double-clutch transmission (6DCT). It delivers power smoothly and more efficiently (its a parallel hybrid so there is less power loss) but the soundtrack sadly is not much better than a CVT’s when accelerating hard. You can pop the gear lever over to Sport and manually push and pull the lever to shift gears but the PHEV is far from sporty – so it is best left in ‘D’. An EV button near the gear selector lever is the only thing a driver can actively hit to feel a little involved in the greener experience – I seldom used it during testing. There are some timer settings you can tweak in the digital sub menus but again I felt no need to. Just like any hybrid you simply drive the car and get on with it. The nice thing with the Niro PHEV (and Niro hybrid) ownership is that there is no danger of turning in to an EV nerd/bore. The car simply goes about its business with little fuss and is very easy to live with. The Niro PHEV features the usual fuel saving hybrid technologies like regenerative braking etc. and Eco DAS that includes Coasting Guide Control (CGC) and Predictive Energy Control (PEC) to enable drivers minimise fuel consumption by suggesting when to coast or brake. Kia says 1.3l/100km (217mpg) is possible and I’m sure it is if you recharge at every opportunity. I decided to drive the Kia in a utterly normal way to get a more real world/worst case figure. I did not charge up over night at my wall box and did not go out of my way to charge up at public power points yet still averaged a respectable 5.3 l/100km (53mpg).
The Kia Niro PHEV costs €35,995 (including €2,500 VRT rebate) a €5,000 SEAI grant is available. The standard Niro hybrid is cheaper at €30,495 and produces 88g/km of CO2. The Kia Niro PHEV is dearer than the larger Sportage and Optima, and not far off the seven seat Sorento at €39,495. The Kia Niro PHEV is definitely not cheap but you do get a lot of creature comforts as standard in the one specification vehicle. Leather seats, heated steering wheel and heated seats, dual zone air conditioning etc. feature. Infotainment comes via a large 7 inch touch screen Kia Connected Services is now available in the Niro PHEV. The TomTom powered package offers a wide range of up-to-date information, including live traffic updates, speed camera locations and alerts, local point-of-interest search and weather forecasts. This service is free of charge for European buyers for seven years after the car’s purchase. Connectivity is good with Apple CarPlay and Android auto featuring and the sound system is adequate too and easy to use. Wireless phone charging features also in the PHEV.
The Niro comes with seven airbags and ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the second row as standard. Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system is standard and it helps drivers keep stability under braking and cornering. When VSM detects a loss of traction it intervenes using the vehicle’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and electric power steering. The Niro gets the latest active safety and autonomous hazard avoidance technologies. Kia brings its ‘DRiVE WISE’ advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to the Niro PHEV. With ADAS the PHEV scores a five star rating at EuroNCAP. The safety kit includes autonomous emergency braking (aka forward collision-avoidance assist), smart cruise control, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning. So in terms of semi autonomous driving the PHEV is up there with the latest tech running on Ireland’s roads.