By on December 5, 2018

2018 Kia Niro PHEV front quarter

2018 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium

1.6-liter inline four with 60 hp electric motor (139 hp, 195 lb-ft combined)

Six-speed dual-clutch transmission, front-wheel drive

48 city / 44 highway / 46 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

105 (EPA rating, MPGe)

81.5 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $35,440 US

As Tested: $35,575 US

Prices include $940 destination charge in the United States.

Life gets in the way. No matter how much you plan, there will always be circumstances that, at the very least, interfere with that plan — if not throw it completely out the window.

For instance, when I test a car that specifically touts efficiency, I always plan a relatively rigorous regimen of fuel economy measurements, including filling and refilling the tank at the same pump, and maintaining a consistent driving style. But then a school bus is late and I have to rush to the office, keeping me from the fuel pump before the car goes away — and keeping my foot to the floor a bit more than ideal. Or a charging plug falls out of the wall socket you’ve been meaning to replace for a decade.

But this time, as I tested the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV, everything went right. I was able to drive and charge this plug-in hybrid like a normal person who has to keep it for more than a week. Full charges greeted me each morning. And, at the end of my test, some seriously impressive fuel economy blew my mind.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV profile

No, that’s not a typo in the fact box up top. I drove the Niro PHEV a total of 253.2 miles, and topped off the tank with 3.107 gallons of regular unleaded. 81.4934 miles to the gallon very nearly doubles the mileage I observed last year in the standard Niro. 26 miles of all-electric range makes a serious difference — there were many days where the gasoline engine never fired.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV dashboard

Yes, I know that I’m just offloading my energy use to my residential electric service (which is, around here at least, produced mostly by coal or natural gas). Let’s leave that discussion for somewhere else. The impact at the fuel pump is what matters here. Spending eight dollars or less every week to drive to and from the cube farm is incredibly appealing.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV gauges

The number on this photo is a little misleading. 337 mpg! I think I shot it after having the car for about ten minutes, nearly all of it without using the petrol engine. Still, it’s a nice little tease for any friends riding along.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV interior

Driving the Niro PHEV is a better experience than the standard Niro — when I drove that hybrid, there were a few stumbles with the dual-clutch transmission when cold. It seems the larger, more powerful battery and motor combo smooth out the rough edges of this transmission. The greater electric torque makes getting off the line brisk, almost fun.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV front seats

It’s neither a sports car nor a hot hatch — it’s just a tall hatchback masquerading as a crossover. It handles a bit better than most commuter appliances, due to the 258 pound battery mounted low in the chassis. Imagine strapping me, Keanu-under-the-bus-in-Speed style, to the undercarriage of a car. That would let the car hug the road a bit more (and seriously wound your favorite bearded auto writer, so let’s keep this hypothetical).

2018 Kia Niro PHEV rear seats

Remarkably, this big battery doesn’t affect the utility of this not-a-crossover. Interior dimensions, including the 100.9 cubic foot total passenger volume and 19.4 cubes of luggage capacity, matches that of the standard Niro. That picture of the cargo hold shows a small bag that carries the charging cable, but it’s removable and fastens anywhere on the floor with hook-and-loop fasteners.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV cargo area

Styling of the Niro is barely distinguishable from the standard car, save the door covering the charge port and subtle teal accents inside and out that indicate to the outside world that this is slightly more eco than everything else. And those eco signifiers tend to be either green or blue, so why not blend them into Nineties-Fantastic Teal?

2018 Kia Niro PHEV front

I adore the Gravity Blue finish on this tester — it’s a welcome change from the sea of grey, silver, and white that fills every damned parking lot. More blue/green here again.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV rearThe rear seats are nearly as roomy as the fronts , which is an incredible achievement for such a compact car. Never did the kids knee my seatback.

[Get new and used Kia Niro PHEV prices here!]

Obviously, I enjoy having the Kia Niro around, either in plug-in or standard hybrid variants. It’s not a driver’s car by any means, but for a geek who likes plotting fuel spending in Excel, this would have me dancing in my spreadsheets. This Niro PHEV has me studying what it would take to wire a dedicated charging station in my garage in place of that worn 120v socket.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV rear quarter

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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21 Comments on “2018 Kia Niro PHEV Review – A Spreadsheet Nerd’s Dream...”


  • avatar
    Scott_314

    I’m renovating my basement, and putting in a 240V line to my garage. Just for something to do, as I don’t have an EV.

    Once you have the outlet, a level two fast charger is as little as $150 for 16 Amp, which gives 3.5 kilowatts, or $300 for 30 Amps, 7 kilowatts.

    Though they will try to market fancy and faster chargers to you, which you don’t really need.

    It’s not that expensive, nor that inconvenient.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      This ^^.

      I hard-wired my Level 2 charger into my main panel in 2012, using some 8-AWG wire from Home Depot and a double 40A breaker, plus some sundry clips, clamps, and screws. That stuff cost about $50 then. But I’m comfortable with doing such work myself. It’s akin to installing a circuit for a range or a dryer. I recently moved the thing to better suit my new EV.

      As you allude to, the only charging smarts anyone needs are already in their vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      This.

      The UMC equipment included with the Model 3 LR can supply up to 32 amps. That’ll charge at a bit over 30 miles an hour.

      The car can accept up to 48 amps, if you purchase the $500 HPWC. Almost 50 miles per hour. Not needed for us.

      We drive about 30k miles/year, lots of long trips. After a trip, we usually pull in with 25-50 miles of range remaining. No problem – charging to the normal 80% is < 7 hours.

      I can only think of a single instance in the last six months where the HPWC higher charge rate would have made a difference for us, and even then it would have simply made leaving for a long trip slightly more comfortable.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    That. Console. Is. Disgusting. Reminds me of my PT Cruiser’s cheapest part: the single piece off-white console.

    A seam down the length— lower matching the carpet— would transform this interior. It would highlight the waterfall/separating element while lowering the visual height of the console.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    You need to factor in the kWh you used within the week (along with the cost per kWh). This will give people a better idea of actual cost to power this vehicle 253 miles.

    To tout that you’re rigorous about tracking efficiency data, you completely missed a very important statistic.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      True.

      If the car achieved its minimum 44 mpg and used 3.1 gallons, that means 136 miles were done on gasoline and 117 were EV miles.

      *My* electricity is cheap (~$0.065/kW), so that 117 miles would cost about $7.61. Gas in my area is down to about $2.70/gallon, so the total fuel cost for those 253 miles would be about $16. Other areas of the country might be higher for electricity and lower for gas.

      • 0 avatar
        jh26036

        Something about your calculation here doesn’t make sense to me. 117 EV miles, and I estimate a Niro like this will get roughly 3 miles per kWh (that’s what my Volt does roughly). That means 117/3 = 39 kWh used. 39 times your cheap electricity rate is $2.54, not $7.61.

    • 0 avatar
      auchkarl

      This!

      The plug-in Kia Niro has an 8.9 kWh battery (vs. 1.6 kWh in the regular car). You can quickly estimate the amount of kWh you used in the week as long as the battery was fully drained every time you plugged the car in (it’s fully drained if the gasoline engine kicks in) and you know how many times you charged the car.

      In this case, multiply the number of times you charged the car by 8.9 kWh for a low estimate of electric power consumed. For a better estimate, you need to know what the battery charging losses are. It takes more than 8.9 kWh to charge an 8.9 kWh battery – some of the power gets lost to heat. I can’t find authoritative data, but posters on Tesla forums claiming to have measured this report losses between 10 and 20%. If you assume it’s 15%, then it’ll take 8.9 / (1 – .15) = 10.5 kWh to charge the Niro’s battery.

      In San Diego (where I live) residential electricty rates start at 15 cents per kWh. Lower electric rates are available if you charge the car at night, but you have to agree to pay a crazy-high rate of 53 cents per kWh at other times. That wouldn’t work for me, but YMMV.

      If you’re buying electricty at 15 cents per kWh, then it’ll cost you .15 * 10.5 = $1.58 to fully charge the Niro’s battery, which will propel the car 26 miles, at which point the gasoline engine kicks in, which gets 46 mpg.

      Regular gasoline costs about $3 per gallon where I live, so it’ll cost (26 / 46 * 3) = $1.70 to propel the Niro the next 26 miles after the battery is depleted.

      So, for the assumptions I made here, it’ll cost about the same amount of money out of your pocket to use electricty to propel your Niro and it does to use gasoline. If electric rates are higher than 15 cents/kWh (easily possible, at least here), then it’s more expensive to use the battery. There may good reasons to get the plug-in version of the Niro instead of the regular hybrid version, but saving money doesn’t appear to be one of them.

      By the way, the plug-in Kia Niro appears very similar to the now-discontinued plug-in Ford C-Max. I wish Kia better success with their product offering than Ford had with theirs.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        Thank you for that analysis.

        I’ve been complaining for years about similar inabilities to do math with respect to diesel fuel. “Oh, but look at the high number I can calculate!” they all cry–as they pump their tanks with a fuel that’s 33% more expensive than gasoline.

        People are so fixated by the calculation of amount of liquid per mile, they can’t–and won’t–figure it out on the basis of how much money it costs to drive each mile.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Peter Schreyer and Kia seem to be going from ‘strength to strength’.

    The Soul, Niro, Stinger being recent examples.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    PHEV is a lousy name for a class of cars, but what a good class they are. Most everything you say here could be said of my 2017 Ford C-Max Energi. It gets almost twice the MPG as my control car, a 2014 C-Max Hybrid. PHEV MPGs vary wildly according to your use patterns, but FWIW, mine is stuck on 65 cumulative MPG for its first 20,00 miles. At least half these days, I drove beyond the 20 mile EV range, and I drove over 100 miles on two or three days of the week, so I didn’t restrict my use to inflate my mileage.

    Add in the approx. 75 cents of AC shore power I pump in every night, and it works out in my head to about 5 cents per mile. Takes a lot of words and numbers to explain that figure, but the practical impact is that every day I drove over two hours, the car bought me lunch. I feel like I’ve patched a hole in my money pocket. This is half the running cost of any other car I’ve owned, including the TDI.

    With this kind of economy available, I don’t care a bit about all-electric cars. I’m having my cake and eating it, too. Any EV with a sufficiently large battery to meet my traveling needs would be carrying too much unnecessary battery weight (and expense and charging time) to suit my local shopping and errand needs. So the future is already here, and it’s bright. I haven’t felt the need to upgrade my home charging, either. The car recharges in five hours, and I try to get at least that much sleep every night.

    This Niro looks like a decent design with acceptable styling. I chose the Ford for its proven design and a good track record for reliability– plus about 40 extra HP, which is a well-kept secret.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      I really do like the C-Max, as it’s a compelling value, and it actually drives fairly well in my opinion.

      I didn’t buy one, largely due to some compromises in the plug-in version. The very high load floor in the cargo area was a big downside for me, as it really limits cargo space.

      This Kia Niro’s cargo area, in contrast, looks very nice! Interesting. Kia’s brand equity isn’t strongly convincing as a sound long-term value-driven purchase. I haven’t driven one, but it sounds like it isn’t great to drive.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    >>> rigorous regimen of fuel economy measurements <<<

    I'd like to know how this does around town and also on the highway (independently) when the battery is exhausted. Maybe we should get standard EPA measurements with the battery starting empty in addition to the eMPG test.

    If I take a long road-trip, with steady-state 75 MPH cruising, am I looking at 25 MPG or 35 MPG?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I can’t speak for 75 mph, but the EPA for the regular hybrid Niro is high 40s to 50 mpg highway. Since this car uses the same Atkinson cycle 1.6L engine, I’d expect about the same fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    It occurs to me that enormous subsidies have been expended to have put a handful of pure EVs on the road – still very expensive and not practical for a lot of people.
    I think a better carbon reduction bang for the buck wold be to incentivize PHEVs or even “conventional” hybrids.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I like these more and more. Good size for my needs, and handsome styling. Standard hybrid probably makes more sense for me, but I’d have to give it a look.

  • avatar
    jatz

    Suddenly it’s 2006. Meet the Rio5.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Ah yes, the typical “Let’s leave that discussion for somewhere else” when the downsides of EVs are pointed out…

    Like if you bury your head in the sand those truths might just go away…

  • avatar
    z9

    My son replaced a C-Max with the regular hybrid version of a Niro recently. I would not use “reliable” and C-Max in the same sentence as it needed a new transmission at 77K miles (fortunately covered under a hybrid warranty), had a leaking engine (not covered under warranty), a Sync system that failed twice (covered under a special warranty extension that was about to expire), and numerous other problems mostly electrical in nature. We’ll see about the long-term reliability of the Kia but fuel economy has been in the high 40s (versus 35 for the C-Max) and all-around the Niro just feels like a much nicer car for less money. Personally I will definitely take a look at the plug-in version when I am next looking for a new car and it would be in the color of the one reviewed here so I hope it doesn’t get discontinued as Kia seems to like to do fairly often.

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