Last year we had high praise for the Kia Niro, with its breakout styling, robust tech, and value price point. This year we got to try 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid – Kia’s plug-in version and it’s better in nearly every way. Of course, you sacrifice a bit of cargo space going from a 1.56kw battery to 8.9kw. This gives a claimed 26-miles of EV only range and helps you potentially qualify for a substantial tax credit. Most importantly, if your daily commute is under that figure you may never need to add any gas to keep it going. On the downside, keeping your right foot disciplined enough not to overpower the capability of a 60hp electric motor is tough. Once you do, the 139hp atkinson-cycle 1.6-liter kicks in, with a fairly raucous 4-cylinder buzz.
All that adds up to a pretty advanced drivetrain, coupling the electric motivation with the gasoline power quite seamlessly. We would have liked to have seen some adjustable regenerative braking, but otherwise, we are pleased. Starting at just $24k the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid combines all that tech with the best warranty in the business, including a 10yr/100k mile powertrain warranty, including the battery. Given that major competitor Prius will likely fall out of that range and need a battery, you have to factor that into the overall cost of ownership. It’s a compelling reason to choose the Kia.
Another reason to choose it is that it looks modern without looking weird. The Prius and others in the class look increasingly like they are just going for odd. Odd can be good, but in this case, I think the restraint in the design of the Kia wins out. You don’t need to look like you’re in an episode of The Jetsons to be driving something futuristic. The Kia gives you all of the tech you want without the drama you don’t. Tech available includes heated front and rear seats, forward collision and lane assist along with radar cruise. It’s really a comprehensive set of options that can push the price well up into the mid $30k’s. The plug-in can be eligible, however, for as much as a $5k tax credit depending on where you live.
The interior and finishes are not too much to write home about, but it’s handsome and funky where it counts. Some nice materials clash with other cheaper ones, but the end result is admirable for the price point. The infotainment system is simple and easy to use and has both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The hi-fi Harmon Kardon option does a great job kicking out accurate tunes as well. Even a wireless charging cradle makes short work of your charging without any tangling cords.
Further advances include a very well integrated mobile app that allows you to control vehicle conditions and features remotely. You can turn on your AC 15 minutes before you get to your car, or unlock it for a buddy. You can even set charging schedules and monitor your battery’s condition.
With the availability of plug-in options only increasing, that means they will need to stop being trendy and gaudy to do well. Some of us might want to save fuel, but not stick out like a sore thumb doing it. The Niro does that and manages to also be very versatile with an almost wagon-like lengthy luggage compartment. The combination of convenience, technology, and value is just hard to beat. Throw in the best warranty in the business and you have a winner.
Special thanks to Kia Motors Corporation for providing the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid for review.