Road Test: Kia Niro PHEV
Smart thinking from Kia, but the plug-in Niro has stiff competition on the way. By Alex Grant.
SECTOR Medium SUV PRICE £30,495 (After Plug-in Car Grant) FUEL 217.3mpg CO2 29g/km
SUV styling with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain; Kia has an eye-catching offer with the Niro PHEV, and it’s no surprise, with the tax breaks on offer, that most are expected to go to fleets. But this is a very different proposition to most apparently similar products.
The norm for PHEVs has become a high-performance petrol engine with a short electric range to bring CO2 emissions down. This is based on the already efficient Niro hybrid, with a 50% more powerful motor (60bhp) and mains-rechargeable battery to keep the engine switched off for up to 36 miles. The upshot; it doesn’t become a 35mpg burden when that range runs out.
Of course, it’s best to use it properly. The battery takes just over two hours to charge, offering just over 30 miles of range, and there are driving modes to either prioritise battery power or save it for later. Frustratingly, it doesn’t switch automatically between the two if there’s range left in the battery, as other PHEVs can, but it does
use navigation data to pre-plan coasting opportunities.
Once the battery range is depleted, it becomes a ~60mpg Niro hybrid – efficient enough for longer trips.
What impresses most, though, is how well it’s all packaged. SUV styling cues are a shrewd move, though it’s low like a hatchback to drive, and the long wheelbase offers near-Sportage levels of interior space. Boot capacity suffers slightly due to the bulkier battery, but the fuel tank is only slightly smaller and the hybrid’s multi-link rear axle is carried over, so it rides well. With spec based on the Niro 3 trim, it’s also well-equipped.
In a popular segment, with a tax and fuel-efficient drivetrain, there’s plenty of appeal here. But with the Niro EV en route, and the Hyundai Kona EV due this summer, both with long electric ranges, its USP could be short-lived.
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