Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV 2 5dr DCT
We’ve been driving the PHEV - which is quite unlike most other PHEVs. It only has two modes – HEV or EV. The former basically functions as a hold mode, using a bit of e-power but reserving the majority for whenever you want it, while EV mode prioritises battery-power over internal combustion. There is no inefficient ‘Charge’ mode that keeps the PHEV’s engine spinning to top up the batteries – once you’re out of charge, you’re out and you need to plug-in.
That said, it’s impossible to fully deplete the Niro PHEV’s battery, regardless of how you drive or the modes you use. The system doesn’t let charge drop below around 10 per cent – in such circumstances, and indeed in HEV mode, the Niro PHEV drives like a normal parallel hybrid, like the normal Niro Hybrid. And its commitment to keeping the internal-combustion engine out of it admirable. The engine is inactive whenever you’re stationary or coasting – basically whenever your foot isn’t on the throttle. It can even do short, sustained bursts of electric drive at 30mph or so.
See where, say, a BMW 330e lets itself run totally dry, then effectively becomes a conventional petrol car with a significant amount of dead weight, the Niro PHEV is always a hybrid, trading ICE and e-power for max efficiency and regenerating like mad. So even when you haven’t charged it, it’ll still do big mpg. Kia claims 201.8mpg (and 29g/km of CO2) - on a 70-mile mixed commute we found the Niro PHEV did 52mpg. The next day, after a charge, that increased to 75.6mpg.
The 1.6-litre petrol engine isn’t the quietest or most refined thing – at low-speeds, when charge is low, you tend to notice when it fires-up. Happily at higher speeds the hum fades into the background, as the Niro seamlessly switches between power sources. The six-speed DCT is smooth too – it makes the Niro feel much more conventional to drive than any hybrid equipped with a CVT, such as all Toyota and Lexus hybrids.
Different levels of regenerative braking are selected by paddles on the wheel. Even the strongest setting won’t bring the Niro to a complete halt – it works down to about 10mph, at which point you’ll need to prod the spongy brake pedal to stop. Accelerative power is limited – the PHEV is slightly faster than the Hybrid, but even so you’re looking at 0-62mph in over 10 seconds. Which presents its own issues.
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