Following a successful debut early last year, the folks at Kia added a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle (PHEV) to the 2018 Niro.
A compact crossover sport utility vehicle, the Niro doesn’t have a huge range – 26 miles is the maximum mileage in EV mode. But that does extend the Niro’s overall range to around 600 miles in combined gas/electric. And the 26-mile range could last a couple of days for drivers who don’t venture too far. Equivalent gas mileage ranges from 99-110 mpg in EV mode.
The battery is located under the back seat. It’s a 360-volt lithium-ion polymer battery that weighs 258 pounds and has an energy rating of 8.9 kilowatts. The Niro comes with a 110-volt charger that takes nine hours. With a 240-volt charger the time is much less – 2.5 hours.
Even without PHEV availability, the Niro had a good first year with U.S. sales of 27,237 in 2017. One of its main rivals, the Hyundai Ioniq with EV capability, had sales of just 11,197 a year ago. And the Niro’s first-year sales were still better than the top year that the Honda Insight ever had in the U.S.
The Niro EV has a 1.6-liter Atkinson cycle inline-4 that will generate 104 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. It’s been clocked going 0-60 mph in 10 seconds, which is more than a second slower than the other Niro models.
Aside from the Niro EV, all other trim models have identical 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engines that produce 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The power lies in the front wheels via a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. They go 0-60 mph in 8.7 seconds.
The basic Niro model (FE) gets approximately 49-52 mpg. The mileage dips to 40-46 mpg for the Niro Touring model.
The engine shifting is smooth and rather fast, adding to the drivability of the Niro. It handles challenging turns very well, is fairly quiet, and the braking is responsive.
2018 Kia Niro
- Performance: 1.6-liter Atkinson cycle inline-4, 104 horsepower; 1.6-liter, four-cylinder hybrid, 139 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 99-110 mpg (electric mode); 40-52 mpg
- Price estimate: $24,300 to $32,700; $28,900 (plug-in hybrid)
- Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles; drivetrain: 10 years/100,000 miles; roadside assistance: 5 years/60,000; corrosion: 5 years/100,000
The Niro interior receives high marks. It has ample space – head and leg room – for driver and four passengers. The doors are wide and easy to enter and exit. We love that the door handles and center armrest are made of soft material and add to the Niro’s overall comfort. Kia smartly kept the hard surfaces for the dash.
There is 19.4 cubic-feet of space in the back area that expands to 54.5 cubic feet when the 60-40 rear seat folds down flatly. The Niro employs Kia’s UVO system that oversees the navigational and multimedia system. Unlike some systems, this one is relatively easy to master.
Not only is the Niro a gas-saver, it also features a stylish exterior, smartly designed interior, and provides a pleasant ride. It enjoyed a good first year in sales and adding PHEV capability will likely increase those numbers for 2018.
Jeffrey Weidel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel. His “Weidel on Wheels” auto reviews are featured periodically on this website at www.tahoeskiworld.com.