28.9.2020Kia Niro PHEV review
Having proven popular from launch, Kia hasn’t rested on its laurels and has already given its Niro line-up a refresh. Most of the improvements come in the shape of equipment upgrades, but they’re significant changes for potential owners.
Review by Chris Lilly
KIA NIRO PHEV: PERFORMANCE
Kia’s plug-in hybrid system uses a 1.6 litre petrol engine and 44.5 kW electric motor. Combined output is rated at 139bhp with 265 Nm of torque going to the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Performance? Well the 0-62mph time is 10.4 seconds, so it doesn’t follow the trend of PHEVs often being the most powerful models in the range.
Responsiveness is good thanks largely to the electric elements, and it allows the Kia to be a useful machine for running about town. Faster speeds see the engine take over the heavy lifting, but much of the time, a gentle right foot will allow you to make good progress on EV mode alone.
The whole Niro range has been set up for solid and comfortable progress, with suspension well suited to soaking up the inconsistencies typically found on urban roads. Body roll is kept relatively under control, but the Niro doesn’t have the stiff suspension often found on crossovers, which will be welcome news to many.
Steering is light yet precise, again well suited to town work, but it gets heavier at motorway speeds for greater stability. The Niro PHEV feels like it has a square stance, which helps with manoeuvring about in tight spots, particularly with the truncated rear.
Some of the updates to the Niro range involve the styling, with a few details sharpening things up front and rear. New running/fog lights have been added, and bumpers tweaked to match. The effect is subtle but improves what was far from a shabby design in the first place.
The Niro is largely led by function over form, with a fairly boxy shape maximising interior space. It’s great news for buyers looking for a practical crossover, particularly those with a family. Boot space is good for the Niro’s class considering the PHEV elements, and rear occupant space is decent too.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Although tweaks to the styling is welcome, the more important change is the addition of Kia’s latest 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It’s one of the best in the market, with a flexible and customisable set-up, crisp graphics, and fast responses. Crucially, it also includes Kia’s Uvo connected vehicle system, enabling app control of certain elements such as charging and air conditioning.
The rest of the cabin feels solidly built, and with semi-premium materials lending an air of quality to the interior. It’s not full-on premium in the mass-market sector, but Kia’s certainly a long way from its basic and budget roots. Switchgear is well laid out, and there are plenty of actual buttons making life simpler and safe on the move.
KIA NIRO PHEV: MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Kia’s official figures for the Niro PHEV are good by any standard, but as always relies greatly on charging. A 30 mile electric-only range helps with a fuel economy of 201.8 MPG.
Real-world fuel economy largely depends on charging, but the Niro PHEV performs very well regardless. Even on a 200 mile trip on a single charge, the trip computer reported more than 65 MPG, which is as good or better than a diesel option - which doesn’t have the option of improving that figure on electric-only power. Electric range was starting to be calculated at 33 miles on a full charge by the car, but it worked out at a realistic 28 miles - still a strong figure.
Kia has fitted an 8.9 kWh battery, which is fairly compact in capacity compared with newer PHEVs being launched. Still, it does a useful job as the above figures report. It’s charged via a Type 2 inlet at up to 3.3 kW AC, allowing for a full charge in a little over two hours.
Drive modes include an Eco setting, which helps make everything more efficient, plus there’s brake energy recuperation to top up the battery a little on the go. Guidance as to when the driver can lift off to coast is offered, further improving efficiency, by using information from the navigation system.
Kia offers two trim levels for the Niro PHEV - 2 and 3. Fitted as standard are 16-inch alloys, dual-zone air conditioning, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and smartphone connectivity, reversing camera, parking sensors front and rear, part leather upholstery, and smart cruise control.
Moving up to 3 adds heated front seats and steering wheel, electric driver’s seat, the 10.25-inch touchscreen system with Uvo Connect, and wireless phone charger.
KIA NIRO PHEV:MODEL SUMMARY
Already a good family-friendly plug-in hybrid, the changes have further boosted the Niro PHEV’s appeal. It offers greater value for money, and retains the efficient powertrain that has helped make it a success already.
Model tested: Kia Niro PHEV 3
Engine / CO2: 1.6 litre petrol engine and electric motor / 31 g/km
Trim grades: 2 and 3
On-road price: £31,945
Warranty: Seven years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars