1.6 GDi PHEV 6DCT
it or not, electric power for
cars is as certain as taxes. And while
it is hybrids that have initially led the
green and clean engine revolution,
its plug-ins that are continuing the
charge. Fresh on the eco front line
is Kias compact crossover plug-in,
the Niro PHEV...
THE NIRO PHEV PLUG-IN is the first plug-in hybrid compact crossover
to go on sale in the UK and wears a practical yet on-the-money SUV-esque bodyshell
styled jointly by Kia's South Korean and Californian design studios.
The PHEV's stance is wide, its bonnet long and the overhangs short with elevated
cut-in headlamp units either side of the trademark 'tiger-nose' grille and bold
flat-cut wheelarches with black protective inserts at both ends of its 'clean'
as to its green-ness are subtle and blue: special chrome 'blades', with
a metallic blue tint, highlight the lower front grille and the rear apron, while
inside the black leather upholstery and wheel rim features blue stitching and
there are blue surrounds for the fascia air-vents.
travelling up to 36 miles
on the energy stored in
its batteries, maximise its
all-electric promise and
it could deliver as much
What is for sure is that
many owners will be able
to complete their daily
commute without using a
drop of petrol or
producing any tailpipe
And even using both
power sources its
low CO2 emissions are a
new Niro PHEV uses the same 104bhp 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol engine
as the Niro hybrid that was launched previously in 2016, but is now paired with
a more powerful 44.5kW (59bhp) electric motor supported by a larger 8.9kWh battery
(up from 1.56kWh); together they produce 139bhp and 195lb ft of torque.
While capable of travelling up to 36 miles on the energy stored in its batteries,
maximise its all-electric promise and it could deliver as much as 200+mpg. What
is for sure is that many owners will be able to complete their daily commute
without using a drop of petrol or producing any tailpipe emissions. And even
using both power sources, its low CO2 emissions are a very blue-planet-friendly
In the real world and driven on longer trips where both the electric motor and
petrol engine contribute, the official figure is 67.3mpg expect around
the 52.5mpg we averaged during a particularly demanding week's testing and you
won't be disappointed; in fact, there's no reason why you shouldn't better it
and clear the 60mpg marker.
And when the charge in the battery pack is all used up, the Niro PHEV just carries
on regardless using the petrol engine while continuing to top up its batteries
when coasting or braking until you can plug-in and recharge the battery pack,
either from a three-pin domestic socket or a dedicated fast-charger; the fastest
time to charge from fully depleted to 100% charged is just two-and-a-quarter
Apart from the fluent dual-clutch automatic gearbox's six ratios (with Manual
and Sport settings for more control and some additional verve), there is a Drive
Mode Select switch for Eco or Normal running to obtain maximum energy efficiency
or greater performance as well as an EV/HEV button. In EV mode the car runs
as a purely electric vehicle all the while the energy stored in the batteries
is adequate, and is able to regenerate electrical power on the move to recharge
In HEV mode the powertrain automatically balances the use of the electric motor
and petrol engine for a seamless combination of electric and petrol-fuelled
power although a greater proportion of it comes from the combustion engine and
the charge level of the batteries is constantly being topped up for later use.
While the default is for the PHEV to use the all-electric mode for pulling away,
gentle acceleration and when descending slopes or braking, our advice is don't
be like that other Nero and fiddle too much; just leave the system to get on
Do so and you'll find the PHEV driving experience to be agreeably smooth and
totally stress-free, with the system seamlessly mixing-and-matching parallel
drive from the petrol and electric power units for the best performance.
also oh-so-easy to become captivated by the near-silence every time the Niro
glides along in EV mode. Especially as there are no worries about lagging behind
the other traffic the Niro PHEV gets the benchmark 0-60mph done and dusted
in a brisk 10.4 seconds and, at 107mph, the top speed is more than motorway
become captivated by the
near-silence every time
the Niro glides along in
Especially as there are no
worries about lagging
behind the other traffic
the Niro PHEV gets the
done and dusted in a
brisk 10.4 seconds and,
at 107mph, the top speed
is more than motorway
its green credentials are obviously a core USP for private buyers looking to
run a plug-in for environmental reasons and not just to lessen their company
car tax bill, there are lots of other sound reasons to 'go PHEV'.
In the Niro's case it comes with plenty of kit: not just for comfort and convenience
but for safety too; and it's up to speed in the crucial comms department
all high priority items for today's drivers.
Not to be overlooked either is Kia's still-unmatched seven-year/100,000-mile
warranty in the Niro's case that includes the battery and all the plug-in
bits and bobs. So no worries there either.
For a five-seater, five-door, front-wheel drive crossover carrying a 117kg battery
pack under its boot floor, the Niro handles perfectly fine it always
feel stable on the blacktop and the suspension is adept enough to keep it honest
through the twisties (and you won't hear any complaints about its ride quality
either). It's easy to place too, thanks to a good driving position that gives
clear views over the bonnet; rearwards visibility is equally good, and the driver's
wide-view door mirror shows what's coming up alongside plus there's blind spot
assist to prevent you from straying into the path of an overtaking vehicle.
It's also reassuring to know that out of sight there's Electronic Stability
Control and Vehicle Stability Management keeping things tidy for you: together
they control skids when cornering or accelerating on dodgy surfaces. And added
to that is the Niro's five-star EuroNCAP crash-test rating.
Whatever the purpose of your trips the school run, commuting to work,
or setting off for a weekend break the Niro's cabin is an agreeable place
to be; not just for the driver, but for passengers too. The seats, upholstered
in black leather, are nicely padded and the plump bolstering is comfortably
effective the driver is pampered the most with powered seat and lumbar
adjustment along with a heated steering wheel rim (great not just on chilly
winter mornings, but it also keeps your fingers flexible on much longer journeys).
Both front seats have three-stage heating, height adjustable seatbelts and easy-to-adjust
headrests; headroom is generous. Your front passenger will be delighted to find
that they can stretch their legs right out; the person sitting behind them will
be equally pleased that it's not at their expense.
cabin ambiance is welcoming with clean lines, well-thought-out ergonomics and
minimal switchgear; there's plenty of high-gloss black finishing (gearlever
surround, climate panel, touchscreen, door panels and steering wheel) and it's
all tastefully done.
drive crossover carrying
a 117kg battery pack
under its boot floor,
the Niro handles
perfectly fine it always
feel stable on
the blacktop and the
suspension is adept
enough to keep it honest
through the twisties.
Its easy to place too,
thanks to a good driving
position that gives
clear views over
interior is well equipped with plenty of 'wish list'-grade goodies such as an
eight-inch touchscreen featuring Kia's Connected Services with TomTom satellite
navigation providing live traffic updates (refreshed once every minute), suggested
alternative routes to avoid congestion, local point of interest searches (500
categories), speed camera and accident blackspot alerts, and an integrated reversing
There's also Bluetooth, a DAB radio, and an eight-speaker 320-watt JBL premium
hifi with subwoofer, external amp and front centre speaker. Naturally there's
also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for hands-free calls and texts and voice
recognition, smartphone linking, and access to Google Maps navigation and Google
Play music. And, last but not least, there's a wireless mobile phone charger.
The driver is kept well informed with a comprehensive range of information shown
on the digitised 4.2-inch TFT LCD colour instrument display including powertrain
data, road speed, and navigation prompts along with the battery pack's state
of charge, current usage and range, plus the currently engaged drive modes and
gearbox settings. It even rates your driving style we scored 47% Eco;
48% Normal; and 5% Aggressive. Cheeky!
Should you wish, detailed energy flow and economy information can be shown on
the central touchscreen which has been configured especially for the plug-in
Niro to also display the location of nearby charging stations.
Other kit not already mentioned includes an automatic 2Zone 'intelligent' heating,
ventilation and air conditioning system designed to save battery power with
a driver-side-only setting for when the other seats are unoccupied to minimise
energy usage. We particularly liked the Climate button that lets you see and
adjust all the settings on the infotainment screen; or you can use the traditional
'hard' buttons on the climate panel.
You also get powerfolding heated door mirrors (on demand and automatically on
locking and leaving), tinted glass with privacy glass from the B-pillar back,
front and rear parking sensors, electric windows with one-shot fronts, a foot-operated
parking brake (it's to the left of the clutch and works fine), auto-dimming
rearview mirror, auto lights, and rain-sensing wipers.
Kia say that the Niro is one of their most efficiently packaged cars and this
certainly rings true for storage space for personal items with a drop-down sunglasses
holder, good-sized damped glovebox, large siamesed cupholders, a 'cave' at the
base of the centre stack for wireless charging your smartphone (with two 12v
sockets and USB and AUX ports), a box under the armrest (with a fast charge
USB point) between the front seats, as well as bottle-holding door bins.
there are plenty of safety 'assists' such as tyre pressure monitoring, drive-away
auto door locking, autonomous emergency braking that will bring the car to a
halt if the driver fails to react to a potential collision, hill-start assist,
rear cross-traffic alert which watches both your rear sides as you reverse,
lane keep assist, emergency stop signalling, speed limiter, adaptive smart cruise
control, and seven airbags (front, side and curtain with one for the driver's
is good for four (and even
five), the battery pack
does steal some of the
Niros boot space,
clipping it to a still-
practical 324 litres.
However, when cargo
calls, dropping the rear
seatbacks creates a
Rear passengers will immediately feel at home; the backrests are set at a relaxing
angle, headroom is good and so too is foot and knee room so they can move around
on long trips. Two will definitely be very comfy, helped by a large drop-down
centre armrest with built-in cupholders, padded outer armrests, useful door
bins and netted seatback pouches, damped grabs and their own air vents.
If not snoozing they can keep in touch with the outside word through the big
windows and even the views to the front between the front seatbacks are good.
Other plus points include a perfectly usable middle seating position for a third
rear passenger (who also enjoys a fist of headroom) plus Isofix tether and anchor
points for child-seats.
While cabin room is good for four (and even five), the battery pack does steal
some of the Niro's boot space, clipping it to a still-practical 324 litres.
However, when cargo calls, dropping the rear seatbacks creates a clean-sided
1,322-litre loadbay. Another plus point: a luggage blind cassette that's easily
Equally important for lugging, the 60:40-split rear seats fold fully flat which
combined with a mid-thigh load height makes for back-friendly loading and unloading.
In the boot you'll find two sets of charging leads (one for a domestic three-pin
and one for connection to a public or workplace charging point) while under
the floor is a tyre repair kit along with a useful storage tray.
After deducting the £2,500 Government grant, this plug-in Niro costs £28K and
for the money does a smart job of blending frugality with fashion; it also ticks
enough of the right boxes to earn itself a high place on anybody's plug-in hybrid
shortlist. ~ MotorBar
Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV 6DCT
Maximum speed: 107mph | 0-60mph: 10.4 seconds | Test Average: 52.5mpg
Power: 139bhp | Torque: 195lb ft | CO2: 29g/km