By on December 4, 2017

2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid, Image: Kia Motors

It’s strange that the Kia Stinger — an aggressively styled, rear-drive, twin-turbocharged sport sedan — would get so much limelight when there’s a new Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid to drool over. All right, that’s the one and only joke we’ll have at the well-regarded Niro’s expense. Obviously, there’ll be little cross-shopping between these two models, as both vehicles fulfill very different missions.

The Stinger’s all about letting your hair down and performing a smoke show in your old high school parking lot. The Niro Plug-in is for the rest of the week, when you’re shuttling your kids around and displaying your green bona fides to your upstanding suburban neighbors. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Recently unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show, the plug-in Niro takes a competent package (one we hesitate to call a “crossover”) and endows it with a healthy dose of all-electric driving range.

Unchanged except in powertrain, the 2018 Niro PHEV boasts a much larger battery than its conventional hybrid sibling. With a capacity of 8.9 kWh, the battery pack provides enough juice for the 60-horsepower electric motor to give the vehicle a gas-free driving range of 26 miles. That’s one mile more than a Toyota Prius Prime.

2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid, Image: Kia Motors

Besides the extra battery capacity, Kia left everything else pretty much the same. Once a driver depletes the battery, the Niro PHEV reverts to basic hybrid operation. A 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder provides the hydrocarbon-based motivation, coupled with the electric motor and a battery now partly replenished by regenerative braking. Total system output is 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque.

While the vehicle’s electric efficiency rating stands at 105 MPGe, the Niro PHEV actually consumes more gasoline than the stock Niro when running in hybrid mode. Kia claims a rating of 48 mpg city, 44 mpg highway, and 46 mph combined. Compare that with the rating of 51 city/46 highway/49 combined for a 2017 Niro. The Niro PHEV stands to save the owners gas money only if it’s used heavily for local trips and commuting, which most buyers no doubt will.

2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid, Image: Kia Motors

Kia claims the Niro PHEV receives a full charge after 2.5 hours at a 240-volt (Level 2) connection, or 9.5 hours on a 120-volt outlet. The enlarged battery, located under the rear seat and cargo floor, does not impinge on cargo volume. There’s one useful, model-specific feature to mention: in order to prevent battery drain, the Niro PHEV comes with a driver-only air conditioning option, which reduces power consumption by keeping everyone but the driver roasting.

The 2018 Niro should roll onto dealer lots before the end of the month, appearing in LX, EX, and EX Premium trims. There’s no pricing listed as of yet, but expect to pay a premium over a standard Niro.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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13 Comments on “As Promised, a Plug-in Kia Niro Arrives Before the New Year...”

  • avatar

    I like the Niro.

    There – I said it.

  • avatar

    Given rebates of up to $14,000 in the socialist utopia of Ontario, it will be interesting to see if the plug in Niro will actually cost less than the hybrid.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I test drove a Niro a few weeks ago and was very impressed with its driveability, spaciousness, and ergonomics. Every control falls easily to hand. All four of us (6’3″ and above) fit easily.

    It’s not a powerhouse, but its electric/ICE transition was very smooth (especially considering it has a dual-clutch 6-spd transmission), and the displayed fuel economy was well into the 40s.

    The plug-in version is certainly heavier than the standard hybrid, hence the lower ICE fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar

      Twenty-six miles of pure EV driving might not sound impressive, but it works out in Many days, that’s all you’ll drive. So the proportion of EV driving you get can be large, depending on your travel habits and the number of long roads trips you make.

      What’s not impressive to me is these numbers. Why would this take almost ten hours to charge off a 120-volt cord, when my Ford C-Max Energi, with just about 20% less EV range, does the trick in half that time? Five hours of charging fits into the workday, or the sleep time of most everybody. Ten hours does not! And it all adds up to a measly 139 HP? My C-Max claims 195 HP, and it drives like it has every one of them.

      One of these cars is fresh and new. One of them is an outgoing, supposedly obsolete model. From these numbers, you might guess wrong about which is which!

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Looks like Kia is using a relatively small on-board charger – likely about 3.0 to 3.4 kW according to my math. So their only using about half the current capacity available to them in the 120 and 240V lines. Probably a cost-cutting measure.

        Your C-Max must have a bigger on-board charger.

  • avatar

    Only 139 total system horsepower and 60 from the electric motor? This could be a nice candidate to replace our C-Max Energi at lease end, if only it wouldn’t be a major step down in quickness. (The C-Max has 188 total system hp and 95 from the electric motor.)

  • avatar

    Just buy a new C-Max. Besides the power, you’ll get Ford’s precise handling and ride, not Kia’s sloppiness. The 2017s are much improved over earlier models, and the closeout sales are now. I just saw a new Hybrid Ti offered on an $89/mo lease with $4K down. I don’t like leasing,but that’s hard to refuse.

  • avatar

    Yet another fine piece of engineering and environmental bliss that will sell in the hundreds unless its given huge subsidies.

  • avatar

    So is this the California model or will I be able to buy it in flyover country?

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty sure it’s a 50 state model. I will definitely check out the PHEV Niro next year when it’s time to replace my car. I haven’t even considered a C-Max Energi due to the lack of cargo space due to the batteries but since the Niro was designed to be a hybrid, the same amount of cargo space as the regular hybrid is a big deal.

      Hopefully my local Kia dealer doesn’t make the test drive process too greasy.

      • 0 avatar

        C-Max Energi has been discontinued. That battery box was definitely a limiting factor, and also appears in the Focus Electric. You can tell the electrification was a total afterthought on those cars.

  • avatar

    Looks a lot like a Honda HR-V. If I didn’t see the front, I could mistake them for the other.

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