Thankfully the latest wave of mass market hybrids no longer force the space age look. The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid offers a more traditionalist approach for consumers, offering massive economy focused numbers in the compact crossover segment. Although it looks like a hatchback, the Niro PHEV offers more ground clearance (6.3″) than something like the Mini Countryman, and nearly the same clearance as a Toyota RAV4.
A 104hp/109lb ft 1.6 liter gasoline direct injection paired with a 60hp electric motor powered creates 139hp/195lb ft combined. A 8.9kWh Lithium Ion Battery is stored beneath the cargo floor and comes with a charge time of just under 2.5 hours on a 240V level two charger with a SAE J1772 connector. This combination returns an EPA figure of 46MPG, 105 MPGe and 26 miles of electric only range. It also does this without the use of a CVT, the Niro utilizes a 6 speed dual clutch automatic, let the motorheads rejoice. In all seriousness, from the perspective of driving dynamics we’re sincerely thrilled to see the lack of a CVT. In our week with the Niro in Central New York we found the regenerative braking to be reasonably effective at extending the range, but the one pedal driving experience will not be found here.
Exterior lighting is quite sharp and gives a commanding presence. The PHEV EX gives full LED headlamps with automatic high beams, front turn signals, daytime running lamps, tail lights, and mirror side repeaters. An unexpected set of incandescent bulbs are fitted to the front fog lamps, reverse lights, rear turn signals and license plate lights.
A well laid out and simplistic cabin allows for a very user friendly experience. Easy to read controls and a combination of ample shortcut keys and a touchscreen infotainment system that isn’t overly complex made my week with this plug-in a breeze. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included as standard, my press car was also equipped with Kia’s integrated navigation system. The user interface in recent Kia/Hyundai products may not be cutting edge, but among my favorites in the mass-market automotive products. They’re consistently easy to use, and offer clear markers and commands without wonky touchpads or gesture controls. Dual zone climate control compliments heated and ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel. A “Driver Only” climate control mode helps reduce energy consumption rather than heating or cooling the entire cabin.
After driving a great deal of plugins over the past year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that the a front fender mounted charge port is not my preferred location. If you’re in a scenario with an EV or PHEV parking in some scenarios you’ll have to stretch past the doors, or across the hood.
An upright approach to the styling of the rear, as well as very clever placement of the hybrid battery pack storage usability is quite practical. The hatch opening is notably large, allowing for easy access to the 19.4 Cubic Feet of storage. I found luggage for two, plus camera gear and detailing equipment fit without fault, and allowing a nifty velcro placement of the 120V charging case.
We really wish that a sunroof would have been an available option in the plug-in, but hopefully they can resolve that for 2019. A week long examination of 2018 Kia Niro EX Premium PHEV with an as-tested MSRP of $35,970 left an impression of great content for a reasonable price, with little drawback. The Niro offers remarkable efficiency without looking like you stole a car from the Jetsons.
As always, thanks to Kia Motors America and DriveShop for facilitating my week with the Niro.