Buyers can get the 2018 Kia Niro either as a regular hybrid or a new-for-2018 plug-in hybrid, both of which will deliver outstanding fuel economy and a long list of comfort and convenience features. The bonus is that for some models, the Niro has a cruising range of more than 550 miles.
We tested the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model this week, anxious to see just how good the mileage can be in this new car. The Niro PHEV is powered by a 1.6-liter gasoline engine supplemented by a 60-horsepower electric motor with an 8.9 kWh lithium ion battery pack. The combined powertrain is good for 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque.
The Niro can run up to 26 miles on battery power alone, and when combined with the gasoline engine, it is rated at the MPG equivalent of 105 miles per gallon. With the gasoline engine alone, the Niro PHEV is rated at 46 mpg combined. It seems like I drove the Niro around forever before the fuel gauge began to drop. Use the gas and electric as efficiently as you can, and you could travel as far as 560 miles down the road before having to fill up or charge.
The Niro PHEVs battery can be fully charged in 2.5 hours using a 240v charger and in less than 9 hours with a 120v system. The battery is tucked below the cargo floor under the rear seat. The charging port is in the right front fender, and the charging cord is stored in the cargo area.
The Niro PHEV seats five and is available in three trim levels: LX, EX and EX Premium. Our test car was the top end EX Premium, which had an MSRP of $34,500.
The test car was really comfortable, with a long amenity sheet for its price. Hybrid technology has come a long way in recent years. The cabin of our Niro PHEV Ex Premium had standard features like dual-zone air, Harman Kardon premium sound, a navigation system with a clear 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, Sirius/XM satellite radio, heated and ventilated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED headlights and daytime running lights, fog lights and power folding mirrors.
UVO is the connectivity system Kia uses, and it offers lots of features for drivers who like to monitor their fuel consumption. Drivers can also monitor and charge the battery remotely, set up charging schedules to take advantage of off-peak utility rates, preset the vehicle’s cabin temperature, turn on defrosters, heat the steering wheel and lock the doors with a smartphone.
On the road, the Niro PHEV was way more fun to drive than I expected. Acceleration was strong and the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission shifted quickly and smoothly. The Niro PHEV was flat in cornering and had linear, precise steering.
The Niro PHEV has not been safety tested, but it has a host of sophisticated safety features. My test Niro PHEV had advanced driver assistance features like blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, smart cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning and a lane keeping assistance system. As a result, Kia expects the vehicle to win good safety scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Niro Plug-in Hybrid is the next step in Kia’s plan to nearly triple the number of alternative fuel vehicles in its fleet by 2020. Currently, that lineup includes the Niro, Optima Hybrid, Optima PHEV and the Soul EV.
If you’re into saving gas and reducing your personal footprint, you ought to head down to Kia and check out the 2018 Kia Niro.
2018 Kia Niro PHEV Ex Premium
1.6-liter 4-cylinder plus electric motor
Dual-clutch 6-speed automatic
$34,500 ($35,575 with options & freight)
EPA mileage estimates:
46 mpg (gasoline only) 105 MPGe
Estimates highway range:
up to 560 miles.