The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV is a plug-in version of Kia’s newest hybrid crossover, and the brand’s third plug-in hybrid. Starting around $28,000, the Niro PHEV is meant to compete with other PHEV hatchbacks like the Toyota Prius Prime and the Ford C-MAX Energi, despite the fact that the Niro isn’t really a hatchback. While it doesn’t return the same type of incredible mileage as a Prius Prime, the Niro does offer additional ride height and healthy cargo area as well.
While its competitors’ appearances have a tendency to genuinely look like hybrids, the Niro bears more of a resemblance to compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V. One staffer commented that though the Niro doesn’t bring to mind your typical hybrid, it definitely incorporates the signature Kia styling we’ve come to appreciate.
The Niro does have one hybrid-like design feature: the inclusion of Hybrid Blue accents throughout the vehicle. On the exterior are Hybrid Blue inserts on the front and rear bumpers, which likely look better in some colors than others. Inside the cabin there are even more Hybrid Blue accents, including the stitching on the seats, steering wheel, shifter, arm rest and air-conditioning vents. The accents certainly add a certain “Je ne sais quoi,” but the lifespan of their trendiness remains in doubt.
Under the Hood
Providing power to the Niro PHEV is a 60-horspower electric motor with up to 26 miles of electrically driven range. When EV range is depleted, a 1.6-liter 139-hp gasoline direct-injection engine takes over. Manufacturer mpge estimates are 105 miles when driving using both power plants, with approximately 560 miles of range on one tank of gas. EPA estimates of 46 mpg combined do seem slightly higher than we experienced, with our combined mileage coming in at 37.6 mpg. This could be for several reasons, one of which is the traffic-inundated roads the Niro was driven on.
Behind the wheel, the Kia Niro PHEV is just as smooth as you’d expect from a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle. It’s quiet and very well-mannered, maybe even a little bit too much so. It’s easy to appreciate a car that doesn’t relocate your coffee from its cardboard cup to the console during a normal commute, but in the Niro you could probably safely drink tea from a cup and saucer spill-free. Obviously, there isn’t too much get-up-and-go when you mash on the accelerator, but then again, if you wanted neck-snapping performance you’d probably be opting for something else.
Staffers also commended Kia’s inclusion of a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission, forgoing the drone-prone CVTs its competitors use. The automated manual supplies smooth shifting and adds to the stellar ride experience the Niro delivers.
Aside from feeling great on the road, the Niro is full of tech features our team loved. There are plenty of driver-assistance features, such as smart cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and forward-collision warning. Kia even included a special version of its UVO connectivity service, which allows the driver to monitor their vehicle’s battery and charging process, schedule charging and enable climate-control features to better prepare the Niro regardless of weather conditions. In addition, the Niro PHEV also comes with staff-favorite Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making syncing your cell phone to the infotainment system quick and easy.
After a week with 2018 Kia Niro PHEV, the team was sad to see it go. Sure, it’s not the most exciting hybrid ever (that honor would likely go to the Porsche 918 Spyder), but it’s an incredibly smart choice. With a host of tech features, a great ride and awesome mpg, this Kia is a plug-in you should consider for your garage.