2018 Kia Niro PHEV

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

This subcompact crossover helps take plug-ins mainstream.

By Cherise Threewitt, Contributor, Car-ED.com | August 2018

What is this vehicle?

The Niro is a subcompact SUV that was added to the Kia lineup for 2017. The first Niro to roll out featured a super efficient hybrid powertrain, and this year, Kia added the PHEV plug-in hybrid model to the Niro family. There isn’t anything quite like the Niro PHEV on the market right now, but it’s fair to expect that rivals might follow suit in the near future as small crossovers continue to dominate the market and automakers invest more in electric and hybrid technology. The Niro is an affordable and practical path to better efficiency.

Who is this vehicle for?

Take a look at the Niro PHEV if you want a new, modern subcompact crossover with great technology features and excellent efficiency. The Niro does have some drawbacks, namely that it is not available with all-wheel drive and that it isn’t especially fun or interesting to drive. However, if those factors don’t matter to you, the Niro PHEV could be a very good choice for a subcompact SUV or crossover. Furthermore, not all potential buyers will necessarily see a benefit from the plug-in hybrid drivetrain, because the hybrid Niro is already super efficient.

Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?

Plug-in hybrid vehicles are becoming more commonplace, and we can certainly expect that trend to continue. The Niro PHEV is an important addition to the market because it is a good choice for people who want a vehicle that blends in. That is to say, unlike many of the plug-in hybrid vehicles already on the market, the Kia Niro does not call attention to itself with polarizing styling or obnoxious marketing. Though the base Niro is a good choice for an efficient vehicle, the PHEV model adds 26 miles of all-electric range on a full charge.

Interesting facts about this vehicle!

The Kia Niro PHEV comes with the same powertrain as the base Niro, a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor, good for 139 horsepower. The Niro PHEV can also travel up to 26 miles on a charge.

The Niro PHEV’s cluster has a lot going on. It provides instant feedback about your driving style (Economical, Normal, and Aggressive, with percentages for each). It also shows whether the vehicle is currently in Charge, Eco, or Power mode, which will help you learn how to drive more efficiently. 

The Niro is rated for 52 mpg city and 49 mpg highway, but our real-world use fell a little short of that. Our average, over the course of a week of city and highway driving, was 45.2 mpg, even though our driving ratings were about evenly split over Economical and Normal ratings, with just 2% Aggressive over that time period.

What Impressed Us / Top Likes:

The Kia Niro’s interior is really similar to the Hyundai Kona — no surprise there, and not a bad thing. We loved the blue trim (which also made an appearance on the vehicle’s exterior) and the blue steering wheel stitching.

The acceleration is great, and it’s surprising that the vehicle is running efficiently even when you feel like you’re really pushing it hard. Despite constantly accelerating hard off the line, our “aggressive” rating ended up at only 2 percent by the end of the week.

Even though there was a lot of real-time information in the display, it was presented in a way that was easy to see and understand.

Items to Make Better (Least Favorite Things):

First, it should be mentioned that we tested the Niro immediately after spending a week with the Hyundai Kona, and while, yes, they are different vehicles, it’s almost impossible to avoid drawing comparisons. One major example is that, while the Kona feels fairly sporty, the Niro has a noticeable lack of steering feedback. It would actually feel pretty sporty if the steering was tighter. Sure, Kia probably isn’t going for sporty here, but the drivability would benefit from more responsive steering, regardless.

Though we liked the interior overall, we weren’t crazy about the off-white upholstery in our test vehicle. It was high quality and looked nice… but we can’t help but wonder how long that will last.

Segment and Competitors:

The Kia Niro PHEV competes against other affordable subcompact crossovers, though few can match the Niro’s efficiency. The Niro will face some tough competition from the upcoming Hyundai Kona EV, however. Other notable competitors include:

  • Honda HR-V
  • Subaru Crosstrek
  • Mazda CX-3
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Nissan Rogue Sport
  • Buick Encore

Unique Specifications:

Hesitant about buying a plug-in hybrid vehicle? The Kia Niro’s best-in-class warranty coverage should help ease your mind. The Niro is backed by a a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. In addition, some of the hybrid components get a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Pricing and Availability:

MSRP starts at $23,240 for the Kia Niro and $31,500 for the Kia Niro EX PHEV. The EX is a mid-tier trim level with lots of standard equipment, hence the significant jump in price between the base model and the PHEV. The Kia Niro PHEV is available now.