This week I am reviewing the 2023 Kia Niro PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle). Kia Niro has been around since 2017, but this year it is longer, wider, and taller than in the past.
You can get the Niro as a regular hybrid, a plug-in hybrid like this one, or as a full-electric.
The exterior looks are unique for sure. Black trim runs over the front wheels, down the sides, and abruptly stops. Above the rear wheels is a wide, boomerang-shaped Black wedge that actually has a function.
Wind can go between the wedge and the car to cut wind resistance. I actually find it kind of cool to look at. 18” alloy wheels and a rear spoiler really enhance the cool factor of the Niro.
The Niro is powered by a 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder engine and two electric motors that get power from an 11.1 kW hour battery pack. All total they are putting out 180-horses and 195 pound-feet of torque. That is really good horsepower for a small car and you can feel it when you heavily accelerate.
Inside, you find mostly recycled materials and a very uncluttered, clean interior. Seats are made from Vegan materials, and the center of the seats is made from eucalyptus leaves. My only complaint is the large amount of gloss black materials on the doors and the center console. It is very difficult to keep clean.
As you sit behind the steering wheel, there is a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster that you can configure from the steering wheel. It will show you your battery range, gasoline range, speed, and there is a tachometer.
On the steering wheel you can change drive modes from Eco to Sport. Moving to Sport will put you in all gasoline mode.
Center dash is a 10.3” digital screen that handles the Harmon/Kardan sound system that has SiriusXM and HD radio, navigation, Blue tooth, and a lot more including Quiet Mode, which turns off rear speakers if there are sleeping children. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The center console has USB-A and USB-C ports, a wireless phone charger, a rotary dial for the shifter, and buttons to turn on the heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, park assist, and auto hold, which I always love. You can also push a button to put the Niro into pure EV mode, running 100% on battery as long as it holds out.
Back seat room is very good, both for head and legroom. Rear passengers get their own air conditioning vents and there are USB-C ports built into the back of the front seats. There is also a fold-down armrest with cup holders.
In the rear, there is a very good amount of cargo, with more room underneath. The lift gate is power, always a nice touch. The rear seats fold down if you need additional room.
My tester came loaded with nice features. Besides what I already wrote about, you get remote start, power driver’s seat, a power sunroof, rearview camera, aluminum pedals, LED headlights and fog lights, and parking distance warning.
On the safety side, you get automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, forward collision avoidance, safe exit warning, rear cross traffic alert, and driver attention warning.
Gas vs Hybrid vs Pure EV
Let’s walk through how the drive modes work. You can run on all-gasoline if you wish and when you do, it sends a charge to the hybrid battery. I was amazed how quickly the hybrid battery replenished. I was picking up one mile of EV range for about every three gasoline-only miles driven. So, if you wanted to switch back and forth between gas and electric, you would not need a charger.
Or, you can drive on EV only for 33 miles, then it will switch over to gas and you can drive it across the country if you wish. You can add more charging by using regenerative braking, and you can change how much resistance you want using paddles on the steering wheel.
However, the way to maximize your fuel economy, is to charge the EV battery, drive the 33 miles on electric, then let it go to gasoline. If you have a round trip commute under 33 miles, you’ll never go to a gas station to get to work and back.
Ride and Drive
The Niro rides, drives, and handles great. As with most EVs, it is super quiet when driving in EV mode, and the acceleration is fantastic.
The EPA rates fuel economy at 108 MPGe when driving on EV then switching to gasoline. To put it in perspective, I drove roughly 300 miles and only used six gallons of gas, and I never charged it with my Level 2 charger, but if I had, I could have gotten a full charge in 2 ½ hours.
What You'll Pay
MSRP as equipped is $41,635. I reviewed the all-electric Niro over a year ago, it had an MSRP of $45,000. For me, this plug-in version is a much better choice.
I will say that although I am more of a larger car guy, and the more power it has the better, but in all sincerity, I had an extremely pleasant week with the Niro plug-in electric hybrid.
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