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First Drive: Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV 3 DCT

The story:
Kia’s second plug-in hybrid model joins the Optima, as well as the pure electric Soul, as Kia sets out on a process of rapid expansion of its ultra-low emission models.
Key rival:MINI Countryman PHEV
Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV 3 DCT
On sale:Now

The growing plug-in hybrid marketplace has a new entrant in the form of the Kia Niro crossover, the brand’s second plug-in hybrid, after the D-segment Optima, which has plug-in saloon and recently launched estate models.

2017 Kia Niro PHEV - Image 4The Niro plug-in joins the regular petrol-hybrid model launched last year, and is capable of up to 36 miles of zero-emission motoring between charges, giving it a 29g/km emissions figure and a notional 217.3mpg, although with plug-ins, the fuel use will be entirely dependent on the user’s ability to drive it on electric only. Never do more than 30-odd miles between charges and it won’t use any fuel, but pound up and down motorways all day and you’re probably looking at a still-decent figure of around 55mpg. 

Usefully, the car features a Coasting Guide Control function that uses the satnav system to alert the driver that they are heading towards a junction, allowing you to lift off earlier to harvest energy under deceleration to replenish the battery. 

That battery combines with a 104hp petrol engine for a total of 160hp. This, combined with the brisk initial surge of power that electric motors provide, makes the car feel brisk when the accelerator is firmly planted. When you’re in more relaxed mood, the dashboard dials make it easy to keep within electric power only by showing when you’re about to push the throttle hard enough to make the engine kick in as well. It’s straightforward to stay just below that around town without hindering progress. The transition from battery to petrol power is also virtually seamless, although the petrol engine isn’t the quietest under acceleration. 

There’s a P11D price increase of just over £5,000 compared with the same ‘3’ specification of regular hybrid Niro, although the PHEV is eligible for a £2,500 Government ultra low-emission vehicle grant. The only difference to practicality is that boot space drops by 49 litres to 324, which is a touch small for a car that’s otherwise a decent size. The fuel tank is also a couple of litres smaller, but that extra battery range means it will still go much farther between trips to a petrol station. 

Standard equipment is good, including 8.0-inch touchscreen satnav, autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, lane-keep assist, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, reversing camera and dual-zone climate. 

2017 Kia Niro PHEV - Image 9


paul barker

The verdict

Makes great sense on paper, the hybrid system works well and the PHEV is an attractive if understated package let down a little by some interior plastics.