Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Today’s Vehicle, With a Big Upside

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) is a stylish and useful compact crossover. You can drive it much of the time on battery power and, when necessary, take a long trip using the gasoline engine.

Kia has sold an all-electric Soul for several years. It also offers hybrid and PHEV versions of its Optima midsize sedan, but the Niro is meant to be the brand’s green warrior. A hybrid Niro preceded the plug-in; when I tested one, I recorded 43.8 mpg. An all-electric version just debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and is due in a year or so, with a reported range of 238 miles. That just happens to be the same as the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which currently is the most affordable way to go 200+ miles between charges. There is no gasoline-only Niro.

2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid

The right size and shape for a plug-in?

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is blessed with appealing, nicely balanced lines and proportions, without any extreme styling excesses. It wears Kia’s now familiar “tiger mouth” grill with the pinch in the middle. It looks good from every angle.

Inside Class As Well

The interior design is complementary, with cleanly rendered panels that blend smoothly and surprisingly rich-looking textures wearing matte finishes. What might be taken for hard plastic on the door and dash panels is slightly padded, giving the car a more upscale feel. The switchgear feels durable and moves with precision. An asymmetrical center console sweeps down from the dash, implying some sportiness.

Both the inside and outside classiness owe their dignity to former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, who has led Kia and Hyundai design for a decade, transforming both brands’ design language and image.

As a hybrid, the Niro combines a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 60-horsepower electric motor, which in PHEV form is fed by an 8.9-kWh battery. This energy source weighs 258 pounds versus the much smaller and lighter battery in the standard Niro Hybrid, which only gathers electrons by regenerative braking. The engine’s 104 horsepower and 109 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque mixes with the motor, with its robust 125 lb.-ft. of torque, giving a total of 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque combined.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

The commuting numbers turned out very nice

A stop-and-go system turns the engine off when the car is stationary, further saving gasoline. The drivetrain flows through a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The car is no rocket, with an 8.8-second zero-to-sixty time. When you press the pedal down hard, you’ll hear the sound of downshifting and an engine working hard to contribute its part to moving the 3,450-pound crossover forward. I noticed this mainly on the uphill climb to my house, but it was otherwise not a big deal.

The Mileage Numbers

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid earns 110 MPGe city/99 highway/105 Combined on the EPA’s tests, and a still decent 48 mpg city/44 highway/46 combined on gasoline only. The official battery range is 26 miles, although my test car’s display always read 24 when it was full. That, luckily, was enough for me to commute all week on electricity alone, leading to an exemplary 81.3 mpg for the week. If you rarely go more than 24 miles on a trip, you may find your gas lasts for months. Kia claims an impressive gas + electric range of 560 miles.

EPA Green Scores are 7 for Smog and a perfect 10 for Greenhouse Gas.

Three Flavors

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV comes in three trims—LX, EX, and EX Premium. My Platinum Graphite tester was an

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

The Niro interior stays classy

EX Premium with a soothing light gray interior. The price-leader FE model hybrid isn’t sold as a plug-in.

The LX offers a decent sound system, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, a smart key with pushbutton start, and more. The EX adds safety features, including blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. You also get “hybrid” cloth and leather seats, heated front seats and outside mirrors, 10-way driver seat adjustment with lumbar support and more. The EX Premium steps it up with leather seat trim, three-level heated and ventilated seats, a larger 8-inch touch screen on the dash and a voice-command navigation system.

With an 8.9-kWh battery, you can easily fill the battery at a Level 2 240-volt charger in a couple of hours from empty, or fill it overnight at home on 120-volt household current. When I charged at work after my 18-mile commute, I received a bill for less than a dollar! The charge door includes a small light—a thoughtful touch.

You can use the console button to set the car to EV or HEV mode. In the default EV mode, the Niro uses pure electricity until its big battery is depleted, and then runs as a hybrid. In HEV mode, you can select hybrid driving right away and retain the power for later. That’s great for cruising on the freeway in hybrid mode and preserving the electric power for local driving when you reach your destination. I did notice the engine kick in sometimes in the morning when I started up, even when I thought was EV mode.

The Long & the Short of It

At just 171.5 inches long on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the car is tidy for nipping around town, but can carry 54.5 cubic feet of gear when you flip down the rear seats.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

A small badge and a big plug separate this from the straight hybrid

Pricing starts at $28,840 for the LX and moves up to $32,440 for the EX and $35,440 for the EX Premium. All prices include shipping. My car’s only option was $135 worth of carpeted floor mats.

As a crossover, the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV is sitting pretty, right in the middle of today’s most rapidly growing vehicle segment. I found it just right for family and musical instrument hauling.

The Niro PHEV just won Green Car Journal’s Green SUV of the Year Award, so I expect to see lots of them on the road soon. Plug-in hybrids provide local electric-only clean driving with zero range anxiety when you range farther afield. Until EV batteries are all high-range and quick charge, and the charging network is built out more, it’s the ideal choice for many people.

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2017 Geneva Motor Show: New Heights in Efficiency

2017 Geneva Motor Show: New Heights in Efficiency

More Plug-ins Are Coming

Kia Niro PHEV, 2017 Geneva Motor Show

The new Kia Niro will get a plug-in cousin

The 87th International Geneva Motor Show (in March 2017) saw a huge variety of new cars being showcased, from concepts to upcoming production cars. Here at Clean Fleet Report, a few of the upcoming production cars caught our eye because they will offer new heights in fuel economy.

Many of you are familiar with Kia’s Niro hybrid, but this year in Geneva, Kia unveiled its new Niro plug-in hybrid.

 

Important for this model is its new 8.9-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery, which replaces the standard hybrid model’s 1.56-kWh battery. It promises to give the Niro PHEV an electric-only range of about 25 miles. This estimated range would keep the Niro PHEV competitive with one of its main rivals, the Toyota Prius Prime.

A Lexus Hybrid Flagship

2018_Lexus LS_500h_

Lexus sets its sights on Tesla

Lexus also revealed its new 2018 LS 500h luxury hybrid sedan, which looks identical to the standard LS 500, but features a V6 gasoline engine paired with two electric motors and a small lithium-ion battery. Total power is rated at 354 horsepower which is delivered through a multi-stage hybrid transmission that acts like a 10-speed gearbox. It will replace the LS 600h, which we reviewed last year.

Expected to compete directly with Mercedes-Benz and Tesla, the LS 500h appears to be a strong step forward for the Lexus luxury brand, which has been struggling to balance style and performance in recent years. Prices for the LS 500h have not yet been announced, however prices should start around the Tesla Model S base price of $70,000, a significant drop from the previous model.

Plug-in Power from Porsche

It is not very often that a twin-turbo V8 is featured on Clean Fleet Report, but Porsche gives us the opportunity with the unveiling of its Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. The Turbo S E-Hybrid features a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine and a 100-kilowatt electric motor mated to the gearbox via an electronic clutch. Overall power is stated as 680 horsepower with 627 pounds-feet of torque.

As a plug-in hybrid, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is able to cruise for up to 31 purely electric miles while in its “E-Power” drive mode. Power for the electric motor comes from a liquid-cooled 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery which can be Level 2 recharged in six hours with the standard 3.6-kW onboard charger or around 2.4 hours with the optional 7.2 kW charger. Overall MPGe is rated at 81.1 when factoring in the full electric range.

2018-Porsche-Panamera

Porsche combines hybrid technology with sports car power

Ford Offers Eco Power

While not an EV or a hybrid, Ford debuted its next generation Fiesta ST which features an all-new 1.5L three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine–the first three-cylinder motor for the Ford Performance division. Power output is rated at 197 hp, and 0-62 mph acceleration is announced at 6.7 seconds.

Even with the fuel efficient nature of a three-cylinder engine, the 1.5L EcoBoost comes equipped with cylinder deactivation, which shuts off one cylinder when it is not needed, increasing efficiency and reducing emissions. The new Fiesta ST will officially launch across European markets in early 2018.