2020 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid review: price, specs and release date

The Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid has received a spruce-up inside and out for 2020. Is it enough to trouble the class leaders?...

2020 Kia Niro PHEV front 3/4

On sale Now | Price from £30,850

The Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) is part of a triumvirate of rather forward thinking  SUVs. After all, you can have a Niro any way you like… so long as it is in some way electrified.

There’s fully electric (the e-Niro, a former Car of the Year), a hybrid which uses electricity to boost the economy of its petrol engine, or plug-in hybrid, as tested here. This allows you to charge its battery from the mains for a far greater electric-only range than the ‘regular’ hybrid.

The Niro has always been a decent, if not class-leading, family SUV, but the three low-emission models make it very on-point for increasingly environmentally and cost conscious buyers.

What’s more, the Niro’s designers have also recently given it a minor overhaul inside and out, most significantly adding redesigned headlights, an upgraded infotainment system and a smattering of new trim finishes to add a little more lustre to the interior. Is this enough to put the Niro plug-in hybrid among the class-pacesetters?

2020 Kia Niro PHEV rear

2020 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid on the road

The Niro PHEV’s party trick is undoubtedly its electric-only range; in official tests it was capable of running for 30 miles before the engine was called into action.  Statistically, that means that it can tackle the majority of journeys without ever using fuel, as well as offering the calming benefits of smooth, instant power delivery and near-silent running much of the time.

Whether you get 30 miles depends very much on how and where you drive the Niro. Run it predominantly in town and you may even see more, while motorways will drain the battery far faster. Either way, there’s undoubtedly an enduring and addictive appeal to starting up and pulling away on electric power.

To an even greater extent, the official claimed economy figure of 201.8mpg needs to be treated with caution. Drive short journeys all day every day, plugging in at every opportunity, and you’ll likely eclipse that  - but drive 150 miles in one hit and 40mpg is more realistic.

The benefit of electricity continues in reduced form if you elect to run on combined engine and electric power too, with the Niro’s systems automatically selecting which is most efficient at any given time. Unlike all such cars, the switch between the two power sources is impressively smooth, too, although the petrol engine can quickly sound gruff if you call upon it for brisk acceleration. 

2020 Kia Niro PHEV dash

Many cars today generate electricity as you slow down, and the Niro is no different. At the top of the pedal’s travel you’re effectively operating the ‘regenerative’ braking that tops up the battery, with the regular brakes coming in on the move as you push harder.  Like many hybrids, in practice it means an inconsistent response from the brake pedal that isn’t a huge issue, but does require some getting used to. 

Beyond that, the Niro is a decent but uninspiring car to drive, eclipsed by more conventional rivals such as the Skoda Karoq for outright composure but delivering generally satisfactory ride comfort, especially at higher speeds, and good refinement unless you really push the petrol engine hard. While the battery pack does add weight, you’d be hard pressed to notice in the way the Niro handles. Like the regular hybrid model, it feels surefooted but never engaging or fun.

2020 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid interior

In truth, the interior upgrades for this latest model probably belong in an I-Spy book, as they are so minor. However, that’s no bad thing as the Niro’s interior - as with almost all modern Kia’s - is actually very smart.

The materials and fit and finish are excellent, with leather, soft plastics and coloured trims abounding and hard plastics only used low down where you won’t see or touch them.

2020 Kia Niro PHEV screen

The upgraded infotainment system is usefully larger in 3 trim and remains easy enough to navigate for a touchscreen but with graphics that aren’t quite so sharp as those found in the Skoda Karoq SUV or Superb iV plug-in hybrid. The Kia has neat touches, though, such plenty of physical shortcut buttons and a display that encourages you to drive as economically as possible.

The driver’s seat has loads of adjustment, and in anything but base trim comes complete with electric eight-way movement to ensure that anyone can get comfortable. Visibility is also excellent, and enhanced by standard reversing cameras.

Inside space is comparable to that offered in a Nssan Qashqai, but the battery pack does impinge on boot capacity, reducing it by 49 litres from a standard Niro’s. It’s a minor compromise, but one worth checking you can live with prior to purchase.

For more information on the Niro’s interior space and the other versions available, have a look at our thorough four-point review.

Next: 2020 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid verdict and specs >>

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