Road test: 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

Road test: 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

A Toe in the EV Water

The Countryman is the largest of the four Mini models and is also the brand’s only all-wheel drive offering. Now, it’s also Mini’s first electrified model sold to consumers. It received major changes for its second generation, which was introduced in stages last year.

While Mini’s EV excitement is focused on the upcoming all-electric small hatchback, the 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid offers a taste of electrification to urban folks. They’ll find what plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are known for—electric commuting during the week and unlimited travel on the weekends. That’s better than a regular hybrid, which has no plug, and combines a gasoline engine and electric motor to improve fuel mileage ratings.

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

PHEVs offer varying amounts of battery power. The Countryman’s 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery, which hides under the rear seat, provides an EPA-rated 12 miles of all-electric range. That’s low on the list, as most other PHEVs offer EV ranges from the teens and twenties to as much as 53 miles in the Chevrolet Volt. That makes a difference on how much pure electric driving you can do.

Almost All the Way to Work

My Melting Silver Metallic test car, for example, got me about two-thirds of the way to/from work before the petrol began to flow. I dutifully plugged in at each end, and fully charged the small battery overnight on 120-volt current at home or by lunchtime on the 240-volt Level 2 ChargePoint chargers at work.

The Countryman cleverly delivers all-wheel drive by placing a 134-horsepower 1.5-liter gas engine up front, driving the front axles, and an 87-horsepower electric motor in back, driving the rear ones. The total system horsepower is 221, and 284 pounds-feet of torque, enough to send the Countryman from 0-60 in a satisfying 6.8 seconds. The system switches back and

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

The big center display

forth based on road conditions to provide extra traction when needed.

Naturally, how you drive determines how long your battery power will last. You can also use three different settings to configure how it’s used. In AUTO eDRIVE, you get pure electric driving up to 55 mph, and the gas engine kicks in when needed (or when the battery is depleted). In MAX eDRIVE, you can drive in pure electric mode up to 78 mph (illegally), with the engine dropping in only if you exceed that. The SAVE BATTERY mode uses the engine only, keeping the battery charged above 90 percent for use later, for example, in town after a long freeway trip, where the EV mode is most effective.

Like most PHEVs, the 2018 Mini Countryman’s instrument panel provides some feedback on energy use and regeneration. A gauge on the left has a Power section, when the energy is flowing out of the battery, and a Charge section below it for when coasting or braking is generating power. The eBoost area of the dial shows when the motor is working with the engine for maximum performance.

The Numbers Are Good

The EPA gives the 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid ALL4 ratings of 65 MPGe for Electricity + Gasoline, and 27 mpg for when it’s using gas only. I averaged 35.5 mpg during my test week.

The Countryman is just slightly bigger than the new Clubman, making it the largest Mini ever (a Maxi?) The main differences between the two big Minis are the Countryman’s all-wheel-drive capability, and its 4.6-inch taller stance.

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

A wide-track Mini

The new Countryman is also larger than its predecessor. It’s 8.1 inches longer on a 2.9-inch longer wheelbase, which translates into substantially increased rear legroom. It’s 1.3 inches wider, which adds up to two inches of shoulder room. Despite these increases, the car is still relatively compact, although the efficient space utilization makes it technically a midsize car per the EPA.

Since the brand re-emerged in the US in 2002 with its all-new Cooper hardtop (hatchback), it has appealed to people looking for motoring joy with a side of quirkiness. The large central dash display now holds audio and other information rather than the speedometer, but it has colors that react to settings changes. It still features toggle switches for windows and even the ignition.

The Final Numbers

The Countryman is assembled in Born, Netherlands, and contains half German parts (thanks to its BMW parent company), including its engine. The six-speed automatic transmission is Japanese.

My test car, with several options, including the $500 paint color, came to an even $40,000, including destination charges. The base price is $36,800.

The 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid will surely win over its traditional audience—stylish urban folks who want a slightly taller and roomier crossover vehicle with the Mini charms—and a small nod towards environmentalism. The EPA assigns the car just a 3 for Smog, but a commendable 8 for Greenhouse Gas. If you have a 10-mile commute, you could be driving the Mini as an EV all week.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: More Plug-in Hybrid Options

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News: Ford Does the Electric Slide

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 BMW i3 Electric

Flash Drive: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid)

Road Test: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid)

Cadillac’s Stealth Electrified Full-size Sedan

Waaaay back in 2014 Cadillac offered the short-lived, but very cool looking ELR PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). Based on the Chevrolet Volt platform and technology, the ELR coupe was ahead of its time for the traditional Cadillac buyer, which was too bad. Fast forward to 2018, the CT6 PHEV is the electrified version of Cadillac’s full-size flagship sedan, delivering the expected Cadillac comfort and luxury, but also quick acceleration and impressive fuel economy.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Cadillac’s big move–big car, big MPG

When Clean Fleet Report reviewed the 2014 ELR we noted that Cadillac had created a car unto itself, as there were no other luxury, two-door, plug-in electric hybrids on the market. This time around Cadillac has put its formidable PHEV technology into a full-size sedan, which places it against some of the most recognizable big luxury cars from around the World. The challenge for Cadillac is how to create awareness and interest in an electrified car that happens to be a sedan. With sedan sales in the US declining over the past few years, and SUV and crossover models becoming the vehicles of choice, Cadillac as well as all other auto manufacturers are grappling with how to stabilize or reverse this trend.

Powerplant and Performance

The rear wheel drive 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine and twin 100-horsepower (hp) electric motors mated to an electric variable transmission (EVT). Total system power numbers are impressive at 335 hp and 432 pounds-feet of torque. Clean Fleet Report was able to get consistent zero-to-60 runs at 5.2 seconds. The twin-motor EVT is a wonderful technology as it provides smooth acceleration and seamless ready-when-needed power at any speed.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Smooth power and ride along with a battery boost

The suspension is on the firm side, which is not a bad thing as Cadillacs of years past could get floaty or too soft. The ride, with 18-inch ultra-bright machined aluminum spoked wheels and all-season tires, is oh-so Cadillac smooth, with handling that borders on surprisingly agile. As a full-size sedan, it cannot and should not be compared with midsize sports sedans. Cadillac doesn’t do it, so set your expectations of it being a large sedan that has little body roll or motion, with good feel for the road through the electric-variable steering.

The size and weight of the CT6 PHEV is never a distraction as the car is well-balanced. Cadillac’s iBooster and electronic stability control system, with four-wheel ABS and disc brakes, are parts of the regenerative braking system. Other stopping aides include front pedestrian braking and forward and reverse automatic braking.

How Far and How Efficient

Combined fuel economy for the electric and gasoline propulsion system, which includes being able to drive 31 miles only on electricity, is rated at 62 MPGe. MPGe is a measurement of how far a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline. Once the electric power has been depleted and operating in hybrid mode, the fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg. In 249 miles of 85-percent highway/15-percent city driving, we averaged 41.8 mpg. An impressive number for a car weighing in at 5,511 pounds.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The driver can control the battery regen and use

The 18.4 kWh lithium-ion (li-ion) battery is charged by plugging into a 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) outlet and through regenerative braking. To replenish the li-ion battery’s 31-mile driving range, estimate eight hours for the former and 4.5 hours for the latter. The CT6 PHEV does not come with a 480V (Level 3) option.

The regenerative charging system converts kinetic energy into electric energy when applying the brakes or coasting and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine. The CT6 PHEV has Regen On Demand technology that is activated by pulling on the paddle shifters located on the backside of the steering wheel. Pulling on the paddle shifters applies the brakes and allows for one-pedal driving. Once you get the hang of it, this will be your go-to method of driving.

It is important to note that fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific, representing the reviewer’s driving experience in our reviewer’s city. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

The CT6 PHEV has three drive modes—Tour, Sport and Hold. Tour is for everyday driving, Sport advances the throttle and tightens-up the steering, and Hold forces the car to not use any of the battery charge, therefore saving it for around town where it can deliver the most efficient driving. The transition between battery-only power and when the gasoline engine engages is seamless and only minimally noticeable.

Cadillac Style: Exterior

The exterior styling on the 2018 CT6 PHEV is clean and sophisticated. The evolution from the sharp angles of a few years back to a softer look immediately draws attention among large, luxury sedan aficionados. From the front grille with distinctive cross hatching and the proud Cadillac emblem, and the sharp-looking LED head lamps to the LED tail lamps that extend vertically over the fenders, the look is simple and pure Cadillac.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Large eco-luxury is here

Cadillac Style: Interior

Cadillac says the CT6 can seat five passengers, which technically is true. But anyone sitting in the center rear seat will be grumbling they pulled the short straw. Let’s just agree that the large, roomy and high-quality interior of the CT6 is better suited for four adults.

The interior materials complement each other with soft and supple leather seats and chrome, wood and carbon fiber trim pieces. About that carbon fiber trim: it really does not match well in the side-by-side placement with the wood trim.

The long list of standard equipment on the 2018 CT6 is what is to be expected on a car of this quality and price. Our CT6 had heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats. Both had 16-way power seats and 4-way power lumbar adjustments. The leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel, with power tilt and telescopic adjustments, made finding a comfortable seating position quite easy.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The backseat view will be more common in China

The driver’s seat has a surprise for you if you have not been forewarned: it vibrates as part of the lane departure warning system. If you did not use the turn signal when crossing into an adjoining lane on the highway, the driver’s seat will vibrate to let you know about your lane drift. I found myself changing lanes sans blinker on purpose just for the momentary rush, but after a while it became annoying, but effective, in reminding me to stay in my lane. The true safety impact of this feature is, if the driver is dozing off, the vibration, small as it may be, would wake the driver and hopefully prevent an accident.

The rear leather seats, separated by an armrest with cup holders, are best suited for two adults. On a long driving trip, luggage for four adults might be a stretch for the CT6 PHEV as the battery reduces trunk storage capacity. The power rear sunshade and manual rear side window shades are a nice touch as is heating in the outbound seats. Also worth noting are the 10-inch, pop-up color monitors located in the front seat backs. These come with wireless headphones and remotes.

The CT6 is well-equipped with true convenience features, including a panoramic power sunroof and shade, power rear deck lid, wireless phone charging, remote keyless entry with remote start, power door locks, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, keyless push button on-and-off and three years of OnStar.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader and, after the three-year service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.

The CT6 incorporates an open cockpit design with the center stack separating the front seats. Everything is nicely laid-out and within easy reach. The infotainment system on the CT6 starts with the CUE System, for information and media control, and a 10-inch full-color touchscreen display for the Bose Premium surround sound audio system with 10 speakers. Included are AM/FM HD radio with SiriusXM (90-day trial), Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio with multiple USB ports, 12V charge stations, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

In our opinion, the CT6 PHEV interior is nicer than a Tesla Model S. The CT6 PHEV is luxury, while the Tesla is premium. Go see for yourself.

Safety

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

30+ EV miles per charge, but gas to take you as far as you need to go

The CT6 PHEV comes standard with a tire pressure monitoring system, eight airbags, rear vision camera, surround view camera, forward collision alert and lane departure warning (with the previiously mentioned vibrating driver’s seat), pedestrian safety signal (useful when at a crosswalk and someone walks in front of the car), automatic vehicle hold (nice when stopped on a hill), front and rear park assist, and blind zone alert.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 CT6 PHEV comes in one trim level with an MSRP of $75,095, plus the $995 destination charge. The CT6 PHEV qualifies for federal and (many) state tax credits that could reduce the final purchase price. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a CT6 PHEV. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is that in California the CT6 PHEV qualifies for the coveted car pool lane stickers allowing solo driving in the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State.

The 2018 CT6 PHEV comes with these warranties:

Bumper-to-Bumper                    Four years/50,000 miles

Scheduled Maintenance             Three years/36,000 miles

Battery                                           Eight years/100,000 miles

Powertrain                                    Six years/70,000 miles

Roadside Assistance                    Six years/70,000 miles

Courtesy Transportation            Six years/70,000 miles   

Observations: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The badge is discreet

The 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV is the real deal for luxury, performance and fuel economy. Plus it stacks-up well with standard features, better fuel economy and lower price in an apple-to-apple competition with BMW, Audi and Jaguar.

Here’s the catch. The CTS PHEV probably won’t be a big seller in the United States, which Cadillac most likely isn’t fretting over. Where big sales numbers for the CTS PHEV are vital, and important, are in China, where strict restrictions on air pollution are being implemented. Built in Shanghai China, the CTS PHEV is a prime candidate for the Asian market, where executive cars that are easy on the environment are popular.

It is a shame that more people may not consider the CTS PHEV over a SUV or crossover. This is a very nice car in many ways and it really needs to be promoted as such.

Clean Fleet Report suggests calling ahead to make an appointment with a Cadillac factory-trained hybrid expert. This is important as sometimes the general sales person can get the hybrid technology story wrong. Take the time to learn about and experience this fine car, and it just may end-up in your garage.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Luxury PHEV Choices

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All-wheel Drive Cars with the Best MPG

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: 2019 Ford Fusion Energi Gains EV Range And Safety Tech

News: 2019 Ford Fusion Energi Gains EV Range And Safety Tech

A Nip and Tuck Face Lift Is Added To EV Boost & Tech

Ford apparently had ants in its pants earlier this week. The 2019 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid midsize sedan will make its public debut at next week’s New York Auto Show, but the Detroit automaker just couldn’t wait—the company revealed details about the car on Wednesday, a week before the New York show’s media days. Here’s what we know.

Nearly 20 Percent More Electric Only Driving Range

The 2019 Ford Fusion Energi doesn’t receive any mehcanical updates, but the plug-in hybrid gets a battery capacity boost that gives it a longer electric-only driving range of a projected EPA rating of 25 miles. That’s up from the 21 miles of electric driving of the outgoing 2018 model, or a nearly 20 percent improvement. That’s not a huge boost, but it’s enough to get the Fusion Energi up to the same 25-mile range rating as the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime, the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the U.S. so far this year.

2019 Ford Fusion Energi

EV Boost and grill tweak for 2019

How did Ford engineers accomplish that while maintaining the same size of the existing battery pack? Specifically, they came up with a new chemistry for the 84 individual lithium-ion cells that’s slightly more energy dense. The capacity of the air-cooled battery pack has risen from 7.6 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to 9.0 kWh.

Ford said data generated from existing plug-in hybrid owners shows the 2019 Fusion Energi should have sufficient range for up to 80 percent of owners’ daily commutes, with the support of both home and workplace charging, assuming the vehicle is fully charged daily at home and at work. Even without workplace charging, the automaker estimates approximately 48 percent of plug-in hybrid customers could potentially get to and from their jobs on electric power alone.

Ford did not yet have a projection for the 2019 Fusion Energi’s combined gasoline and electric range; this year’s figure is 610 miles. Regardless of that EPA rating, the plug-in 2019 Fusion Energi still qualifies for a $4,600 federal income-tax credit for buyers.

A Horde Of New Safety Tech

The 2019 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, along with the hybrid and gasoline models, will be Ford’s first model to get its Co-Pilot 360 Protect safety systems, just announced a week earlier at the Ford Uncovered sneak peek. Standard on all Fusion models, Co-Pilot 360 Protect includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot information system, lane keeping system, a rear backup camera and auto high-beam lighting.

2019 Ford Fusion Energi

New safety tech puts Fusion Energi in front of other Fords

Beyond the standard Ford Co-Pilot 360 Protect is a more advanced bundle of optional driver-assist technologies called Co-Pilot 360 Assist. It adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go, which automatically accelerates and brakes to a full stop when traffic halts, while maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. It also includes voice-activated navigation, along with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link. Fusion SE trims and above get SYNC 3 with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, in addition to an embedded 4G LTE modem with WiFi hotspot support for up to 10 devices.

A Mild Refresh

The Fusion Energi has always been a Clean Fleet Report favorite when it comes to styling. For 2019, the Fusion Energi receives a new chrome mesh grille, while other models keep five horizontal bars. There’s also a new lower front and rear fascia, and a new LED taillamp design with a distinctive new horizontal chrome garnish across most of the rear deck, just above the lamps. There are no significant changes to the interior.

We’ll have more details and pricing information on the 2019 For Fusion Energi closer to its launch in late summer.

Related Stories on Plug-in Hybrids:

News: Ford Does the Electric Slide

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV

News: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Hybrids at the Chicago Auto Show

News: 12 Greenest Cars of 2018 Revealed

Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity PHEV

Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Flash Drive: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Kia’s Small Crossover Fuel Economy King Gets Even Better

It may take a few decades, but there will come a time when more new cars are powered purely by electricity than gasoline. The bridge between that point will be the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), a technology that many auto manufacturers are adding to their model line-up. Case-in-point—the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

Kia pushes the mpg boundries

Kia’s first foray into this arena was the 2017 Optima PHEV. New for 2018 is the Niro PHEV, which joins its sibling the Niro Hybrid. Clean Fleet Report has reviewed the Niro Hybrid (reviews at the end of this story) and found Kia’s self-described “urban crossover hybrid vehicle” jumped to the top of hybrids for design, ride, comfort and value. With the addition of the plug-in Niro Hybrid, Kia has only increased the reasons consumers should be looking at this car.

Drivetrain

The Niro PHEV has the same specifically engineered parallel hybrid powertrain as the Niro Hybrid—a 1.6-liter gasoline engine and a AC synchronous permanent magnet motor. The total system 139 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque is the same for both cars, but the 26 miles of pure electric driving in the Niro PHEV makes a big difference in what you will get out of the car. Mated to a smooth shifting six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), the torque made highway ramp sprints and passing 65+ mph big rigs easy.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

Four ways to go, but all in the mpg stratosphere

There are four driver-selectable drive modes of Eco, EV, Hybrid and Sport. Eco is the default setting and will deliver the best fuel economy. It drives similar to the Hybrid mode. EV means you are only using electricity for up-to 26 miles. But for the most fun, opt for Sport mode, where there are quicker transmission responses, and a bit more spirited, albeit less fuel-sipping, driving.

The hybrid system’s 8.9-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery can be replenished through charging. It takes three hours with a 240V, Level 2 charger or overnight with a 120V regular household outlet. When braking or coasting, the regenerative braking system converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge, where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and electric motor. The pedal feel on hybrids can be grabby at times, requiring a learning period to get it right. Not so on the Niro, where the regenerative braking required little pedal modulation and provided a confident feel. Missing on the Niro PHEV is an on-board generator that replenishes the battery when driving in gasoline/hybrid mode. Also, it lacks a “Hold” to conserve battery charge so it can be used when you want it.

The EPA fuel economy rating running as a hybrid is 48 mpg city/44 highway/46 combined. But adding together the gasoline and electricity, the EPA estimates 105 MPGe (Miles Per Gallon Equivalent). MPGe measures how far a plug-in car can travel on electricity (33.7 kWh) with the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline. In 650 miles of 60-percent highway/40-percent city driving throughout Southern California, Clean Fleet Report achieved an average of 62.8 mpg.

We accomplished this gaudy number by plugging-in the Niro PHEV at every opportunity, taking advantage of the idle stop/start, driving conservatively in hybrid and all-electric mode, even up to 65 mph. Because this number was so much higher than the EPA estimate, we contacted Neil Dunlop, product & technology communications manager at Kia, to get confirmation that our results were feasible. He confirmed that it was and that Niro PHEV owners have reported even higher numbers.

It is important to note that fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific, representing the reviewer’s driving experience in our reviewer’s city. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

The numbers tell a great story

The front-wheel drive 2018 Kia Niro PHEV weighs in at 3,391 pounds. The well-distributed weight is due to the under-seat battery placement, creating a low center of gravity and resulting

in very good driving dynamics. The motor-driven power steering was a bit light, but tuned for good road feel. Maneuvering in town, including parking, was easy. The front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and gas shocks plus the rear multi-link suspension with twin tube shocks delivered a smooth and stable ride. Tire and wind noise could be hidden a bit better, but the engine in gasoline mode was quiet. Of course, when running on electricity only, there is no engine noise because no engine is running. Seems obvious, but it needed to be said.

The 16-inch alloy wheels and 205/60R Michelin low rolling resistance tires deliver handling that was direct with little body roll. While there is nothing sporty about the Niro PHEV, it had a very respectable zero–60 time of nine seconds.

As previously mentioned, the regenerative braking system has four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist. The stops were straight and true, with no brake fade, nor noticeable hybrid braking whine.

Designed with a Clean Slate

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

Could be mistaken for its non-plug sibling, but that’s an okay thing

Clean Fleet Report’s review of the 2017 Niro Hybrid went into detail on the exterior design, which continues over to the 2018 Niro PHEV. Then and now, we are impressed with the Niro as it is stylish and uncluttered, with excellent sight lines for the driver. We also like that Kia did not design the Niro to look like a hybrid car, as in it isn’t shaped like a wedge of cheese or has unnecessary scoops and cladding.

The Niro has incorporated Kia’s signature tiger nose grill that runs edge-to-edge on the front end, leading to the swept back projector beam headlights. LED daytime running lights and fog lights, located in the bottom fascia, complete the front end design. The side profile draws a nice line to the A pillars, leading to a gently sloping roof with rack rails, a shark fin antenna and an integrated black spoiler over the rear hatch window. The narrow horizontal LED taillights and smooth-surfaced hatch finish off the attractive rear. Only some blue accents differentiate the PHEV from the Hybrid Niro.

Welcoming Interior

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

It’s not a luxury car, but you will be comfortable

In our earlier review of the 2017 Niro Hybrid, we were impressed with its spacious cabin; our impressions of the Niro

PHEV are no different. Clean Fleet Report tested the Niro PHEV LX trim level with cloth seats. The front seats were supportive and 6-way power adjustable. We like that the outlook on the road is higher than a sedan (6.3-inch ground clearance), but not as high as an SUV. The rear 60/40 split-folding rear seat has a center armrest with cup holders, and is best suited for two adults. The flat load floor provides for extra cabin space and legroom. Rear storage features a large flat carpeted surface, made even larger when the rear seat is folded flat. An added bonus is a concealed storage compartment beneath the cargo floor, where an optional sectioned storage tray makes keeping loose items secure and separated.

The center dash in our Niro PHEV came with a 7.0-inch touchscreen housing Kia’s UVO eServices infotainment system, which included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The six-speaker sound system plays AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX and SiriusXM (with a 90-day introductory subscription). The Bluetooth worked very well for voice recognition; most of the entertainment is controlled by switches on the leather-covered steering wheel. Big thanks to Kia designers for the knobs and wheels to control the radio and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Safety, Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features. Since some of the features are only available on higher trim levels and through packages, we advise getting your car with as many advanced driver technology and safety features as possible.

Features available on the Niro PHEV include seven airbags, four-wheel power disc ABS braking system with brake assist, forward emergency braking and collision warning, stability control, smart cruise control, blind spot monitoring, park assist with front and rear sensors, vehicle stability management, traction control, hill launch assist, tire pressure monitoring system, engine immobilizer, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert.

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV comes in three trim levels. MSRP for each without options or the $940 destination charge:

  • LX                     $27,900                               
  • EX                    $31,500
  • EX Premium  $34,500

    2018 Kia Niro PHEV

    With the hatch and fold-down seats, you’ve got flat-out room

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain – 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Battery – 10 years/150,000 miles (CA, OR, WA, NY)
  • Battery – 10 years/100,000 miles (Remaining states)
  • Basic – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion – 10 years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

In our view–simply the best

No mincing words here: the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV is a near perfect small wagon/crossover. The fuel economy is stellar, even if yours is closer to the EPA estimate than our test results. The

design doesn’t scream for attention, which is just fine for the discerning buyer who wants a clean, classic looking car from a company offering the best warranty on the market.

Our Wish List of an on-board charger while driving, and a Hold feature to conserve your battery charge, are minor items and should not present an obstacle to your owning a very nice, modern car. If you are interested in getting at or above 50 mpg in a well-built, attractively designed, comfortable-to-drive station wagon/compact crossover, go check-out the Kia Niro PHEV. We know you will not be disappointed.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

In order to give you the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Road Test Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV (Steve’s view)

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: More Kia Tests & PHEV Alternatives

News: Kia Niro EV Showcased

Road Test: 2017 Kia Cadenza

News: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid Introduced

Flash Drive: 2018 Kia Rio 5-Door

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro FE

Road Test: 2017 Kia K900

News: Hyundai-Kia’s Future Is Electric Powertrains

Road Test: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Kia Optima PHEV

Road Test: 2017 Kia Forte

Road Test: 2017 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim)

Other PHEVs

Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

 Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Flash Drive: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

Road Test: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: Volvo Electric Performance Brand Polestar Displays First Car/Showroom

News: Volvo Electric Performance Brand Polestar Displays First Car/Showroom

Images of Polestar 1/Showroom Released Ahead of Geneva Motor Show

Its new owners are taking the Volvo car brand to places it has never been before. The best evidence will be shown to the European public for the first time this week at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. The Polestar 1 will be the flagship of this new sub-brand focused on electric performance.

Polestar 1

First car for the Volvo electric performance sub-brand will be the Polestar 1

Order books for the Polestar 1, a plug-in hybrid GT, will open shortly, while production is slated to start mid-2019. According to Volvo, interest has been strong in the 600 horsepower (hp) coupe that will offer 93 miles of all-electric range. Two electric motors producing 218 hp drive the rear wheels while a 2.0-liter gas engine powers the front. That range can be expected to drop if you put the 738 pounds-feet of torque to work.

The Polestar 1 is also one of the first vehicles being sold on a subscription model. Buyers will pay an all-inclusive monthly fee covering vehicle use, insurance and including a pick-up and delivery service for maintenance, a number of car rental days and access to a range of concierge and on-demand services.

A Minimalist Cube

Prior to the show Polestar also showed drawings of its new minimalist cube retail stores and its headquarters, which is being built on Volvo grounds in Sweden. Polestar started as the performance brand for gas-powered Volvo tuner cars, essentially the Swedish version of AMG. It now is a separate brand with its own engineering and R&D departments, but still will benefit from the scale of larger parent Volvo.

Polestar 1

The Polestar 1’s interior follows recent Volvo styling trends

The brand’s retail stores, called Polestar Space, will open in mid-2019 in the U.S., China, Germany, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. Other country locations will be added later. Polestar 2 and Polestar 3 models, both full electrics, are planned to follow next year as well. Polestar 2 is described as a midsize battery electric vehicle designed to compete with the Tesla Model 3; Polestar 3 will be an all-electric SUV.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Electric Performance

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News: Volvo Cars Joins the Electric Parade

News: Mercedes-Benz AMG To Move to Hybrid Powertrains