The Kia Niro may look like a pretty conventional small wagon or crossover, but it's notable for being this Korean brand's first car designed around exclusively electrified drivetrains.
For 2019, Kia expands the Niro's powertrain options with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant that joins the standard hybrid model. And without giving anything away, we can tell you that a fully electric Niro is coming for the 2020 model year, but that's a story for another buyer's guide entry.
Getting back to the Niro PHEV, its main distinction compared to the standard hybrid model is its ability to go about 40 km on a full charge of its battery pack. That takes close to nine hours on a regular, 120-volt power outlet, or 2.5 to three hours when hooked up to a dedicated 240-volt charger.
Otherwise, the Niro PHEV is little different from its linemate. A 1.6L four-cylinder engine and electric motor combine for 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, which goes to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
There's a wide range of vehicles to which to compare the Niro in terms of body style and interior space. The number dwindles if you're specifically interested in a plug-in powertrain, though. Mitsubishi makes a PHEV version of its Outlander, which is a bit larger; Mini sells a plug-in hybrid Countryman, which is a bit smaller; and Hyundai is about to roll out the Kona Electric, a battery-only version of its wildly popular compact utility. Ford was first to the plug-in utility party years ago, but stopped making the C-Max Energi after 2017.
Audi and Mercedes-Benz will soon have plug-in variants of their respective small crossovers, but they're not here yet; and Lexus makes a hybrid NX compact crossover now, but it can't be plugged in.
Kia offers the Niro PHEV in EX Premium and SX trims, positioning it a step up from the standard Niro, which also comes in lesser L and EX trim levels. The PHEV carries a price premium of about $4,300 compared to the hybrid when similarly optioned.
Niro PHEV standard features include 16-inch wheels, automatic headlights, fog lights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, a sunroof, heated and power-folding side mirrors, cloth-and-leather combo upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power driver's seat adjustments, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, dual-zone automatic climate control, 7.0-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, wireless smartphone charging, cruise control, passive keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 7.0-inch LCD gauge cluster display, LED interior lighting, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and rear parking sensors.
SX trim adds LED headlights, leather seating, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 8.0-inch infotainment screen with navigation, an eight-speaker stereo with satellite radio, 110-volt power outlet, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, driver attention alert and front parking sensors.
Kia's fuel consumption estimates for the Niro PHEV are 2.2 Le/100 km when running on electricity, and 4.9/5.3 L/100 km (city/highway) in gas-electric hybrid mode.
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