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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# Review
Review: The Kia Niro PHEV is the only car of its kind - so how does it measure up?
We test drive the plug-in hybrid version of the Kia Niro.

THIS IS THE Kia Niro Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PHEV). And if you are looking for a trendy crossover plug-in… well, there isn’t much competition as the Niro is the only one on the market at the moment.

The obvious difference between this and the standard Kia Niro hybrid (read our review here) is that you can plug it in to charge the battery.

The Niro PHEV features the same 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol engine as the parallel hybrid, but in the plug-in model, this is paired with a more powerful 44.5kW (60bhp) electric motor.

The battery charges up in around two and a half hours and when at full capacity will give you a 58km pure electric driving range.

When the battery depletes, the car’s 1.6-litre petrol engine kicks in and charges the battery as you drive.

Leon Giblin Leon Giblin

If you do most of your driving around town and commute around 50km a day the Niro PHEV is cheap to run as you are essentially only using the battery and paying for electricity. At present, the public chargers are still free to use and you can make use of the cheaper electricity night rate when charging it up at home.

However, even if you regularly drive on the motorway or on the back roads the Niro PHEV is should still save you some money at the pump as it is fairly economical. I managed on average 4.2 litres/100km during my week-long test drive and I only managed to charge the battery up once.

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The Niro PHEV is very similar to the regular Niro Hybrid apart from some subtle tweaks to the exterior including a new satin chrome grille surround, as well as special chrome brightwork with a metallic-blue finish, applied to thin ‘blades’ in the front and rear bumpers and it comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, engineered to reduce wind resistance, as well as new full-LED headlamps and dedicated ‘Eco Plug-in’ badging.

The cabin is similar to the regular model too – it is spacious, bright and has decent amounts of storage. The Niro PHEV is offered in just one specification which is very well equipped with leather upholstery with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, dual air-conditioning and a reversing camera. There is also a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system which includes sat nav with TomTom services and Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The Niro PHEV is equipped with smart cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist and driver attention warning. It achieved a full five stars in the Euro NCAP safety tests.

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The bulky batteries reduce boot capacity from 382 to 324 litres although with the rear seats folded the boot can hold 1,322 litres which still trumps space on offer in many other plug-in rivals.

The heavier batteries mean that the PHEV carries a bit more weight than the normal Niro hybrid, and it can get a bit jiggly around town. But the steering has a bit of weight to it, something that I am a fan of, and the brakes also have a nice firm bite to them. Even though the ride is a little bumpy over rougher road surfaces it’s nice and smooth on the motorway.

The weight of the Niro PHEV also affects acceleration and even though the two power units together produce 139hp and 265Nm of torque available in first gear, the car does feel a little sluggish. That said, the PHEV can accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 10.8 seconds, which is 0.7 seconds quicker than the standard Niro.

Leon Giblin Leon Giblin

One thing that makes the Niro PHEV stand out from its rivals is that drive to the front wheels is through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox (6DCT) rather than the continuously variable transmission (CVT) used by most hybrids.

You can also select the ‘Sport’ mode option and manually shift gears but as the PHEV is far from sporty it’s best left in standard ‘D’ drive mode, although ‘Sport’ mode does improve throttle response slightly. The dual-clutch gearbox isn’t the smoothest but I do prefer it to many of the CVT set-ups.

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Regenerative braking technology allows the Niro to harvest kinetic energy and recharge the battery pack while coasting or braking, while a new Eco Driving Assistant System (Eco DAS) provides drivers with intelligent guidance on how to drive more efficiently under current conditions.

Eco DAS includes Coasting Guide Control (CGC) and Predictive Energy Control (PEC), enabling drivers to maximise fuel mileage by suggesting when to coast or brake. CGC alerts drivers as to the best time to lift off the accelerator and coast towards a junction, allowing the battery to regenerate under engine deceleration. It is a system that works really well and very unobtrusively. It was quite fun trying to adjust my driving to improve my average consumption.

Leon Giblin Leon Giblin

Prices for the plug-in Niro start at €35,995, which includes €2,500 VRT reduction and there’s also a further €5,000 reduction available as the Niro PHEV also qualifies for the SEAI grant for environmentally friendly vehicles. This price undercuts that of the Niro’s most significant rival, the Toyota Prius PHEV (€37,125). CO2 emissions are 29g/km which means the Niro PHEV is €170 to tax per year. The car is sold as standard with Kia’s seven-year, 100,000m warranty, which also covers the battery pack.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid offers the versatility and trend of a compact crossover with fuel-saving technology. You can complete short journeys with zero emissions and lower running costs and you can undertake longer motorway drives without the range anxiety often associated with electric vehicles. The car comes very well equipped and it is wrapped up in a more conventional package than its most popular plug-in rivals.

READ: Top tips to stay alert behind the wheel >

READ: Here’s what it’s like to test-drive the Ferrari 488 Pista supercar – months before its launch >

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