The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is a new addition to the Niro lineup. It’s the same as the regular Niro Hybrid, but it features a larger rechargeable battery pack that allows you to drive up to 26 miles on electric power only. At this point, you are looking at still frugal 46 mpg combined. And the price is cheaper than most rival plug-in hybrids.
Kia describes the Niro as a crossover SUV. But without an all-wheel-drive system and just over 1 more of ground clearance than the Optima sedan, it’s better to consider the Niro a four-door hatchback than an SUV. Also, note how the Niro allocated its interior space. Compared to its mechanical sibling, the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro has a much smaller cargo area behind the rear seat. Instead, the Niro offers a little more legroom and headroom in the back, and much of that space can be converted into cargo space when the rear seatbacks folded down.
The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid enters this growing segment that has been filled by Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Prime and Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. If you want an efficient, easy-to-drive car with SUV-like styling, the Niro Plug-In Hybrid is the right choice.
The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is a new addition to the Niro lineup.
Trim levels and features
The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is a five-passenger subcompact crossover SUV that offered in three trims levels: the base LX, EX and EX Premium. The regular 2018 Niro Hybrid is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment for the base LX includes 16-inch wheels, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, 60/40-split folding rear seats, a 7-inch infotainment display, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, and a four-speaker sound system with satellite radio. Also standard are adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, front collision warning and mitigation with automatic emergency braking, and a rearview camera.
The EX trim adds rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear air vents, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather and cloth upholstery. The EX Premium further add front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, a bigger driver information display, ventilated front seats, an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, a wireless phone charger and a Harman Kardon eight-speaker surround sound system.
The 2018 Niro Plug-in also features a driver-only air conditioning mode which sending cooled air at the driver only in order to save power.
Under the hood, the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is powered by a 1.6-liter gasoline engine and a lightweight electric motor. Together, this combination produces a total output of 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Unlike many other hybrid powertrains that use a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the Niro Plug-In has a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which provides a more engaging driving experience.
With 11.4-gallon fuel tank and an 8.9-kWh lithium-ion battery, the Niro Plug-In provides a total range of up to 560 miles or 26 miles on electric power alone. The EPA estimates fuel economy for the Niro PHEV at 105 miles per gallon equivalent or a combined 46 mpg combined (48 city/44 highway) when under combustion power alone. These figures are almost identical to the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, though the Volt gets more than double the Niro Plug-In electric-only range. With standard 120-volt household outlet fully charges the battery pack takes less than nine hours, hooking up to a 240-volt (Level 2) source cuts that time to 2.7 hours.
The Niro Plug-in is designed to provide an understated conventional ride, and it accomplishes the mission well. There are four driving modes: EV, Hybrid, Eco Mode, and Sport mode. The hybrid modes generally modest and provide decent acceleration, although selecting the Eco mode causes a noticeable reduction in acceleration. Switching to Sport mode can pep things up a little at the cost to a few mpg. And with a low center of gravity and balanced suspension system, the Niro Plug-in handles well in the city and on the highway. In performance testing, the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in EX Premium accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds, beat its lighter sibling by 0.6 seconds.
Although designed for five passengers, the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is best to carry four passengers comfortably. Although not too luxurious, the interior is well-designed with quality materials and solid control. Even tall drivers will find multi-adjustable seats that are easy to live with. There are enough headroom and legroom in front and rear, but the hard plastic front seatback does not leave a lot of support if sitting behind a tall driver. The middle passengers will appreciate a relatively flat floor, but sitting three adults behind will be a little tight.
The 2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid is strong on the technology side, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto coming as standard equipment. The Uvo navigation system is the same as in other Kia models, easy to use but starts to look dated compared to other systems found in competing models.
Behind the rear seats there are 19.4 cubic feet of cargo space, folding the rear seatback there are 54.5 cubic feet of total cargo capacity. That means the Niro can carry more than an average sedan but less than most small SUVs.
Release Date and Price
The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is on sale and arriving now at dealers nationwide. Direct competition includes the Chevrolet Volt, Honda Clarity, and Hyundai Ionic Plug-in Hybrid.
Official pricing for the base LX trims starting at $28,840 (include $940 destination fee). The EX trim starts at $32,440, while the top EX Premium trim starts at $35,440.