- Doors and Seats
5 doors, 5 seats
1.6i/45kW Hybrid, 4 cyl.
- Engine Power
Petrol (91) 1.3L/100KM
6 Spd Auto (DCT)
7 Yr, Unltd KMs
- Ancap Safety
5/5 star (2016)
The Kia Niro S Plug-in Hybrid is the ultimate middle ground for consumers wanting to make the move to an electric vehicle, with the security of long-way-from-home petrol back-up. But, how does this small SUV fair against some stiff competition?
- Switch between petrol and electric power is seamless
- Practical and spacious interior
- Backed by Kia’s seven year warranty
- Styling is dated
- Long charging times
- When considering other options, it’s costly
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is an ideal option for consumers who may not be quite ready to commit to the next step, this being a pure electric vehicle.
This way buyers get the best of both worlds – fuel for familiarity from a petrol engine, along with a more efficient alternative derived from the electric motor.
So, if you’re not quite ready for the fully electric experience, a PHEV could be the perfect solution and there are a plethora of choices in the Australian market – good ones too.
The one we tested was the 2022 Kia Niro S PHEV – the base spec of that Niro range that’s available with hybrid, PHEV, and fully-electric powertrains. The plug-in models shown here starts from $49,990 drive-away. Our test model was finished in Snow Pearl White premium paint for $520, bringing the total on test cost to $50,510 drive-away.
In terms of competitors, it’s got some pretty stiff competition, and not just in its own small SUV segment. It’s also in a battle with plug-in vehicles alike.
In the crowded small SUV class it crosses paths with more traditional non-hybrid small SUVS like the Hyundai Kona, which will set you back $47,500 plus on-road costs for the N Line. It packs a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, but unlike the Kia Niro, is all-wheel drive.
The Kia Seltos GT-Line, a consistent seller in this class, will cost you $45,290 drive-away. It’s not a PHEV, rather it shares its turbo all-wheel drive mechanicals with the Kona.
While the options are endless in this category, some food for thought, with similar money you can also get yourself into something premium like a Audi Q2. This starts at $43,600 for the 35 TFSI. All prices exclude on road costs.
The margin isn’t major, however, if you’re on a budget then pricing will no doubt be on the top of your wish list. Kit will surely be important too.
It’s standard inclusions are pretty decent with 16-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights with dusk sensors, LED daytime running lights, roof rails, reversing camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 8.0-inch centre touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android auto, part cloth and leather trim.
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The Kia Niro contains a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, capable of running on 91RON unleaded fuel. This produces a fairly lackluster 77kW and 147Nm. The electric motor contributes an additional 45kW, with combined outputs totalling 104kW and 265Nm. More on this later.
See it on the road and it’s not anything you may turn your head for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s simple and modern but doesn’t compare to Kia’s latest, fresh creations in the Sportage and EV6.
|Key details||2022 Kia Niro PHEV S|
|Price (MSRP)||$49,990 drive-away|
|Colour of test car||Snow Pearl White|
|Options||Premium Paint – $520|
|Price as tested||$50,510 drive-away|
|Rivals||MG HS PHEV | Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross|
Similar to the exterior, don’t open the door and expect to be blown away. This isn’t a fully electric, futuristic vehicle so you’re not getting a Hyundai Ioniq 5 interior, but you will be greeted with a well built, comfortable and practical cabin.
There are flashes of quality in the leather-wrapped steering wheel and partial leather seats, plus the white stitching and frosted silver accents make elements pop – like the dash, steering wheel and door handles. Plus, the front seats are power adjustable which you don’t always get in a small SUV of this price bracket. However, something to be expected is the hard plastics, which you will easily notice throughout.
The cloth and partial leather seats are comfortable and well positioned, while the up front storage is pretty decent. It excludes an additional storage cubby near the gear lever which you may miss as a spot for your phone or key, but the centre compartment is generous as are the door bins.
Back seat passengers have more than enough head and leg room, but you’d want to stick to two adults, unless you want to cosy up with three. Air vents, a seat back pocket and door bins can be found in the back row also, but no access to connectivity.
The boot measures in at 324L, with 1322L of cargo space when the rear seats are folded. It’s small when you consider its competition with the Kona providing 361L and up to 1143L. While the Seltos is the big winner here with an extra large 433L and a maximum of 1393L.
The Kia Niro doesn’t get a space-saver spare tyre, which you might expect as its hybrid variant includes this, instead there’s a tyre repair kit.
|2022 Kia Niro PHEV S|
|Boot volume||324L seats up / 1322L seats folded|
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Kia Niro is equipped with an 8.0-inch centre touchscreen, which doesn’t look large at first glance but the fact that it’s integrated into the dash somewhat blankets its size.
The functions all work well using the touch display or the steering wheel controls on the move. But, as this model isn’t fitted with inbuilt satellite navigation, you will have use the wireless connection to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
It’s convenient to have access without the need to plug in, and I rarely had any hiccups, though there were a couple of momentary connection drop outs. There’s also a six-speaker sound system, digital radio, bluetooth connectivity along with two USB ports up front.
What’s more, the multifunction instrument cluster is high resolution and modern, displaying your driving range and efficiency information to the left corner of the cluster. A really neat, intuitive inclusion.
Safety & Technology
The Kia Niro was awarded a five-star ANCAP, based on 2016 crash data obtained though Euro NCAP system. Under the ANCAP system, five-star requirements are continually updated, so the Kia’s older score doesn’t automatically translate to a 2022 five-star result.
Safety features in the entry level Niro S include seven airbags, ISOFIX and top-tether points, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, forward collision warning, leading vehicle departure warning, lane departure warning, plus keeping and following assistance.
Missing in the S model but included in the higher-grade Sport, are blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, high-beam assist and auto dimming mirrors.
|2022 Kia Niro PHEV S|
|ANCAP rating||Five stars (tested 2016)|
|Safety report||Link to ANCAP|
Value for Money
The Kia Niro is backed by Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Servicing costs total $3540 over the first seven years and range between $286 for the first service and $871 for the fourth year.
As mentioned, the Kia Niro has a large pool of competitors and they haven’t excatly been selling like hotcakes. In February, Kia managed to sell just 199 units. To put this into context, the top selling small SUV for the month was the MG ZS (petrol and EV combined) with 3541 vehicles.
|At a glance||2022 Kia Niro PHEV S|
|Warranty||Seven-years, Unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1128 (3 years) / $2321 (5 years)|
As an overall package, this car offers plenty in the way ownership, efficiency and practicality. However, given it’s a small SUV, not premium and not a fully electric vehicle, 50k is expensive. In comparison, other PHEV’s in the MG HS PHEV and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross have more space on offer for a lower price-point.
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||1.3L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||3.6L/100km|
|Fuel type||91-octane unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||43L|
As mentioned, the upside of a plug-in hybrid is the beauty of choice. While offering a more economical way of driving, it’s still not a hybrid or fully electric vehicle, so the electric driving range is limited – to 58km. That’s enough for a full week’s worth of driving to and from work, for me.
But I opted to keep the vehicle in automatic mode for the majority of the time, this way it decides whether to switch between hybrid or electric modes based on the availability of battery remaining and the on-road conditions.
The 58km, I have to say, does slip away within the blink of an eye and before you know it you’re burning fuel again. And this is when the fun begins for me as there’s still no quick and convenient means for me to charge a car that I’m reviewing.
Even though I live in a new apartment complex, there are no ports to be found anywhere, it’s really frustrating!
So, I often find myself heading to one of the very few convenient fast charging stations in Melbourne which is located in Airport West. Yes, there are more and more being built, but this one has quite a few on offer, in case something goes wrong, which often happens. Plus, not all outlets are rapid.
I didn’t get to test this myself but I am told that charging the Kia Niro at home should take you just under four hours. If you are charging at home on a wall box on a 15-amp socket or at the DC-fast chargers, it will take two hours and 20 minutes. I know, it sounds like a long time for 58km of range, but unfortunately the Kia Niro can’t top up any faster.
On the road this car isn’t built to blow your mind in the way of performance, nor will it startle you with power, but it is a comfortable and easy ride. It’s certainly not punchy off the line and it will take some time to get up to speed, but it’s fast enough to get you in and out of urban traffic and a seamless ride along the highway.
When on petrol power you do get the option of Sport mode which offers a bit of extra kick. Keep in mind if you opt for this setting then your consumption numbers will rise quickly.
The ride in the Kia Niro isn’t perfect. It can get busy and you certainly get knocked around over the bumpers and hardsher roads, while cabin noise is also noticeable. One thing to note is that Kia didn’t put the Niro through its usual local suspension tune. Thankfully, turning into corners and making higher manouvers isn’t that hard a task despite the vehicles weight of 1539kg.
While behind the wheel we returned a reading of 3.6L/100km, which is a very reasonable figure. When using petrol power we switched between normal and sport mode. The added bonus is that you shouldn’t filling up often at the bowser frequently, plus the Kia Niro consumes 91RON unleaded fuel.
|Key details||2022 Kia Niro PHEV S|
|Engine||1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power||77.2kW @ 5700rpm petrol
|Torque||147Nm @ 4000rpm petrol
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Six-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||66.5kW/t|
|Tow rating||1300kg braked, 600kg unbraked|
A plug-in hybrid is a great first taste for consumers to get a taste of the electric vehicle market. While the Kia Niro isn’t the best one you can buy on the market right now there are glimpses of brilliance. It’s practical, spacious, well-equipped and is backed by Kia’s seven year warranty.
If you are leaning towards this as an option, hold tight as a new model is expected soon.