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Gareth Butterfield tests the plug-in hybrid Kia Niro PHEV

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Kia’s popular Niro is starting to show its age, and there’s a new model on the way later this year, but it still remains one of the best cars in the stable, especially in plug-in hybrid guise.

It’s a tricky thing to pigeon-hole too. Smaller than most SUVs, yet bigger than a hatchback. Shape and size-wise, it sits somewhere between the two segments, and it’s all the better for it.
While there is a standard hybrid Niro available, and even a fully-electric Niro, the plug-in hybrid is definitely the sweet spot, and it’s capable of some eye-watering fuel economy figures if used correctly.GB_TEM_180322_niro_04_result
In the urban sprawl, providing you can top up its battery from time to time, it’s at its very best. The plug-in system bundles in large batteries that give you around 25 miles of silent driving, which is enough for the average commute.
Its engine will cut in fairly readily, but it’s a 1.6-litre petrol engine which, combined with the electric propulsion is good for a healthy 139bhp.
That engine will be required for longer journeys, obviously, or motorway jaunts, but on a mixed run Kia claims you could reach 100mpg or so. And it’s possible to see how that could be achieved.GB_TEM_180322_niro_03_result
In practice, the sheer weight of the car means you’ll be more reliant on fossil fuel than you might have hoped, but in the town, it’s perfectly plausible to rely on the battery pack – which, incidentally, eats into boot space a bit.
It’s not exactly exciting in the bends, either, but that’s not really the point. The Niro serves its purpose as a low-emission, low-running cost family workhorse.
It’s comfortable, visibility is good and, true to form with Kia, equipment levels are very generous.
The current Niro has the latest version of Kia’s infotainment system, which works really well, but still leaves a refreshing array of physical buttons and switches, and smart cruise control and a reversing camera is standard across the range.GB_TEM_180322_niro_02_result
The basic Niro, the Connect, is just over £30,000 and the Niro 3, which bundles in a heated steering wheel and heated leather seats is only another £1,000 or so. Consider the fact you get a seven-year warranty with Kias and the Niro does make a very good case for itself.
In an era when fully-electric cars are still in their early phase, and relying solely on petrol and diesel propulsion is a bit taboo, plug-in hybrids make a lot of sense. It’s almost the best of both worlds.
And the Niro is one of the best of the bunch. Practical, economical and affordable, it’s a strong option if you’re looking to clean up your eco-credentials.