KIA’s New Niro PHEV – ‘Get Connected’.

KIA launched its first dedicated hybrid, the Niro, in late 2016 to much acclaim. Unlike many of the brand’s current models, the Niro was designed for electrification from the outset. It arrived only as a hybrid, before a plug-in (PHEV) version was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March of this year.

The Niro PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) has an 8.9kWh lithium-polymer battery teamed up with an economical 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine – providing a combined 141PS of power and an impressive 265Nm of torque for swift acceleration. The Niro’s new platform has been engineered in isolation from existing KIA models, and is designed to accommodate a specific set of environmentally conscious technologies and next-generation powertrains. The latest addition to KIA’s hybrid crossover range substantially reduces emissions over the more conventional Niro hybrid – CO2 emissions fall to 29 g/km (combined – New European Driving Cycle) – and the car offers a zero-emission, pure-electric driving range of 58 kilometres. Annual road tax is just €170 per annum, while fuel consumption as low as 1.3l/100km is possible when making the most of the cars petrol engine and electric motor in unison.

Available in just one trim level the Niro PHEV is generously equipped for both comfort and connectivity including leather upholstery with heated front seats and steering wheel, dual air-con, reversing camera, Satellite Navigation with Tom-Tom services and Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility. The Niro PHEV also comes with a 5 star Euro NCAP safety rating thanks to standard safety equipment that includes smart cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist and driver attention warning.

The styling of the Niro was led by KIA’s design centres in California, USA and Namyang, Korea and incorporates the practicality and aesthetic allure of a compact crossover, with a sleek, aerodynamic body and subtly sculptured surfaces. With its aerodynamic, crossover-inspired silhouette, subtly sculptured surfaces and sharp, modern lines, the Niro is nevertheless instantly recognisable as a KIA. The car bears the latest evolution of KIA’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille, as well as the brand’s characteristically wide C-pillar and a series of other signature design cues. Optional new full-LED headlamps, with LED turn signals, are also available. The KIA Niro Plug-in Hybrid is available with a choice of four colours, and rides on 16-inch alloy wheels.

The cabin of the KIA Niro has been designed to give an impression of space and modernity, with a wide dashboard and defined horizontal lines. The Niro follows the most recent KIA models in offering high quality, soft-touch materials throughout the interior. The interior of the Niro PHEV is upholstered in single-tone grey leather seat trim, finished with blue stitching, and features a two-tone dashboard with a new blue air vent surround. The Niro PHEV’s battery reduces boot space from 382-litres in the standard Niro hybrid to, a still respectable, 324-litres in the PHEV. The rear seats fold down for added practicality – leading to a very generous (and class-leading) 1,322-litres of usable space.

Power is applied to the road through the Niro’s six-speed double-clutch transmission (6DCT), allowing drivers to shift gear for themselves for a more immediate, more entertaining drive than other hybrid models equipped with a traditional electronic continuously-variable transmission (e-CVT). The 6DCT is paired with a Transmission-Mounted Electric Device (TMED), which allows the full output of both the engine and electric motor to be transferred in parallel through the transmission, with a minimal loss of energy. This differs from the power-split systems typical of an e-CVT hybrid, which converts a portion of engine output for delivery through the electric motor, resulting in power losses from energy conversion.

A series of measures have been adopted in the new KIA Niro to ensure low levels of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).

As a hybrid, it is important that the Niro remains as refined as possible when the 1.6-litre GDI engine is running. The car therefore features a range of measures to reduce the penetration of engine noise into the cabin. These include specially designed asymmetric engine mounts to manage powertrain movements at each point in the front sub-frame, high density under-bonnet insulation, and a sound-deadening acoustic shield with a special support structure to improve the sound of the engine accelerating across the most used range of engine speeds.

My test car was a new Niro PHEV finished in Metal Stream metallic grey paintwork for maximum impact. On the outside, the Niro PHEV gains blue highlights and a satin-finish grille. Plug-in badging completes the look and apart from that, the only other feature that sets the Niro PHEV apart from its standard hybrid sibling is a flap on the passenger side front wing, which opens to reveal the charging point for the cars battery. This battery can be charged by way of a 3-pin plug inserted into a domestic socket, or by way of charging from an ever-increasing number of on-street and car-park located charging stations.

On the road, the Niro PHEV performs similarly to the standard hybrid and is a very easy car to drive, control and manouvre. Road imperfections are smoothed out very well in the Niro and the car never feels unsettling.

The development of the Niro, with an all-new platform and bespoke powertrain, will contribute to KIA’s ambition to becoming a leader in the low emissions car market by 2020. In the next five years, KIA will expand its current green car line-up from the four current models to 11 – including the Niro Plug-in Hybrid and Optima Plug-in Hybrid model line-up – and is targeting a 25% global improvement to average fleet fuel efficiency over 2014 levels.

The new KIA Niro PHEV is now available in KIA dealerships at a price of €35,995 (ex-works). This price includes a €2,500 VRT reduction, with a further €5,000 reduction available as the Niro PHEV also qualifies for the SEAI grant for environmentally friendly vehicles. KIA’s seven year warranty comes as standard for complete peace of mind motoring.