In the past month, our Kia Niro PHEV has been put through its paces, serving as a versatile companion for various tasks, including airport runs and accommodating numerous passengers and cargo. This chapter delves into our experience, exploring the car’s practicality, performance, and ability to match its claimed electric range.
Passenger and Cargo Transport
The Kia Niro has proven its worth as a practical choice for transporting both passengers and luggage. Even the previous-generation model, which has now transitioned into a purpose-built taxi called the Niro Plus, impresses with its spacious interior. During airport runs with tall passengers, the rear seat not only provided ample legroom but also comfort thanks to the Niro’s generous headroom and soft trims.
The Niro managed to effortlessly accommodate four passengers’ luggage, despite the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version having a slightly smaller boot compared to the regular hybrid variant. The Niro’s high roof design adds to its versatility, making it easy to load bulky items like bikes and furniture. This feature has proven invaluable during our time with the car, and we eagerly anticipate how the new-generation Niro will measure up in this regard.
Ride comfort remains impressive even when the Niro is fully loaded, and the additional weight from the 8.9kW battery (weighing 117kg) doesn’t noticeably compromise the ride quality.
Ergonomics and Features
The Niro’s interior layout showcases a straightforward and user-friendly approach, evident in its multimedia screen. This screen seamlessly integrates with the car’s glossy dash design and is conveniently placed for easy access to touch controls. Practical shortcuts and a volume control knob add to its user-centric design.
However, the stock navigation software falls short, lacking updates for new charging locations that have become increasingly prevalent. Given the Niro’s front charging port, the absence of a forward parking camera feels like a missed opportunity for improved maneuverability.
Heated seats, known for their energy-efficient heating capabilities, are notably absent from this model despite its price point. This omission becomes particularly noticeable during winter, leaving drivers yearning for this desirable feature. Surprisingly, the fully electric version of the Niro offers heated seats, raising questions about why they were excluded from this model.
The Niro delivers an easy and enjoyable driving experience. Its visibility, compliant suspension, and light steering, which aids in parking, have garnered praise from our team. However, it’s essential to address some of the vehicle’s less thrilling aspects.
Acceleration, even in full electric mode, is leisurely, and the Niro can feel underpowered when the battery is depleted. Although the Niro boasts a combined output of 104kW/265Nm from its electric motor and 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, it doesn’t translate to the expected punchiness on the road.
Handling remains commendable, yet the lane-keep assist system can be overly assertive on multi-lane highways at higher speeds. An intriguing observation is how Kia has positioned the electric motor between the engine and transmission, resulting in a mechanical feel during low-speed electric drive. This quirk occasionally makes engagement on steep terrain feel a bit erratic.
Regenerative braking, while offering three levels of regen for enhanced energy efficiency and brake pad preservation, feels somewhat less refined compared to competitors. The Niro’s system lacks the smooth transition between regen and normal driving found in some rival PHEVs and EVs. Instead, it tends to lurch between these modes, especially in the strongest regen setting.
Claimed Electric Range and Real-World Testing
Intrigued by the Niro’s advertised electric range of 58 kilometers, we decided to put it to the test. The claimed range is based on lenient NEDC testing, which can be challenging to replicate in real-world conditions.
Our test involved fully charging the battery, recording the odometer, and driving exclusively in electric mode while maximizing regenerative braking. Surprisingly, we managed to cover 62 kilometers on a single battery charge, surpassing the NEDC figure.
We attribute this success to our consistent use of maximum regen and avoidance of air conditioning, which triggers the combustion engine even when driving in electric mode.
While the Niro’s versatility and efficiency make it an attractive choice for urban driving, the need for frequent charging outside of daily commutes can be somewhat frustrating. Weekends or longer journeys often exceed the electric range, necessitating hybrid mode.
Despite these occasional limitations, our Niro’s fuel consumption remained impressive, averaging just 3.2L/100km for May and June. Although we didn’t always enjoy the full benefits of electric driving, our efforts to minimize fuel consumption were far from in vain.
Stay tuned for our final installment, where we’ll share our concluding thoughts on the Niro and explore what the new generation has to offer. We’ll also provide insights into whether a PHEV like the Niro remains a compelling choice in the ever-evolving automotive landscape.