It’s easy to be sceptical of plug-in hybrids (PHEV). The allure of ultra-low tax and added performance creates a strong case for drivers to choose one, but the impact for fleets can be a challenge with fuel consumption and overall running costs often much higher than advertised.
With the Kia Niro the tables are slightly turned. It doesn’t offer lightning fast performance or premium brand desirability, but it does offer a compelling alternative to a diesel for higher mileage drivers.
Powering the Niro PHEV is the same 1.6-litre petrol engine as the regular Niro hybrid, except this time it is paired with a more powerful electric motor and a larger battery.
Unlike some plug-in hybrids, the combined powertrain doesn’t result in a mighty pulling force. Instead, the Niro makes do with a modest 139PS.
Performance is exactly as you’d expect from a mainstream family car, there are no thrills but it’s got enough power to perform overtakes, if needed, and it will happily cruise on the motorway.
The resulting fuel economy is impressive, to say the least.
Kia quotes 217mpg which, unless the car is only used for short trips and kept fully charged, is not realistic.
We drove the Niro some 700 miles while we had it on test. We covered varied types of roads and completed some journeys with an empty battery.
Overall we averaged 70mpg, with a number of trips achieving more than 90mpg.
Considering the cost price of the Niro PHEV, the benefit-in-kind (BIK) advantage and the fact that petrol is cheaper per litre than diesel – even those who cover longer distances should find the car cost effective.
Zero-emissions range is roughly 30 miles – ideal for short commutes and running errands. The Niro manages its two power sources well, switching between battery and petrol seamlessly as load dictates.
Interior space is excellent with plenty of leg and head room for all passengers.
In the boot, the larger battery takes up around 70 litres of luggage space when compared to the standard Niro, but the loading lip is low and the cargo space is square making it ideal for dogs or suitcases.
Officially the Niro PHEV emits 29g/km of CO2, meaning monthly BIK payments of £65.
Drivers also benefit from a high level of equipment. Leather seats, heated steering wheel, satnav and a 320-watt sound system come as standard along with a suite of safety systems such as autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
Big door mirrors and large windows offer good visibility and the Niro’s light controls and automatic gearbox make it easy and pleasurable to drive.
As a practical family car the Niro may not tug on the heartstrings with its inoffensive styling, but it does look a lot better when you consider the financial savings.