IN a world where the idea of electric vehicles is all the rage, plug-in hybrid’s (PHEV) are the evolution from internal combustion to EV. Vehicles like the 2021 Kia Niro S are bringing petrol and power points together.
Offering efficiency, SUV versatility, and environmentally friendliness in one tidy package, the Niro features a nicely contoured bonnet, matched by wing-like headlights. The colour of our test vehicle (Runway Red) further enhanced to look.
The lovely deep rich red highlights lines and shape to standout in sunlight. Less impressive is the plastic looking gloss black tiger nose grille. The sporty 16-inch alloy wheels look the goods though, and the whole car presents well.
Thanks to grey roof rails that are tastefully paired to the front and rear lip of the car, and chrome door handles, it really is an SUV with character. The back end feels a little oddly stretched in the spacious Niro, but it’s quite the unique design.
Colour options are vast, with Clear White, Snow White Pearl, Aurora Black Pearl, Silky Silver, Runway Red, Platinum Graphite, Sunset Orange, and Deep Cerulean Blue to choose from.
Jumping inside the 2021 Kia Niro S PHEV is effortless too. The interior is incredibly roomy for both front and rear passengers, with plenty of leg room. The seats are nice and comfortable, and are upholstered with cloth and leather trim.
A leather-appointed steering wheel is also a nice touch, complementing the similarly-wrapped automatic shift knob. For the uninitiated, plug-in hybrids tend to start in EV mode, silently, which can throw you, if you’re new to the platform.
Kia has thoughtfully considered this by providing a message on the instrument cluster to let you know you can drive. This may seem like a small win, but you’ll notice over time just how much it avoids a lot of frustration.
The Kia Niro S PHEV is incredibly fuel efficient, as you might expect, thanks to its combined use of electric and combustion engines, with a claimed fuel economy of just 1.3-litres/100km. In testing, we managed 3.9-litres/100km. Still remarkably impressive.
Power comes from a 1.6-litre Kappa GDI DOHC DCVVT combustion engine, paired with an electric motor, and a 6-speed dual clutch transmission. It’s no speed demon, but it definitely moves when you put your foot down.
For the number crunchers, the petrol engine offers 77.2kW of power and 147Nm of torque. It’s electric counterpart delivers 44.5kW of power and 170Nm of torque. The 24.7Ah 360V lithium-ion polymer battery is located below the rear seats and boot floor.
The beauty of the Niro PHEV is you don’t always have to charge it. When the car is running on its combustion engine, it’s also charging the battery. Likewise, the same occurs when braking, via the included regenerative braking system.
Do not rely solely on this form of charging though, as try as you might, you’ll never fully charge the battery this way. At some point, you will need to plug it in. When you do, the charge time from empty to full is stated as 2.15 hours.
Clearly it’s not as quick as filling up a petrol tank, but there are a growing number of fast chargers at shopping centres, and other locations, creating convenience for PHEV owners who choose to plug-in and shop.
On the road, the 2021 Kia Niro S PHEV handles wonderfully and has one of the best active cruise controls in its class. It does an amazing job of detecting traffic ahead and adapts well when slowing traffic is detected.
Maintaining the pre-set cruise speed was spot on. Handling was smooth and agile, with amazing wheel turn. The transition between electric and combustion happens seamlessly too, and doesn’t disrupt your driving experience.
The safety list is long too, and includes such things as ABS, ESC, lane keep and lane follow assist, forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and multiple airbags, just to name a few.
It’s family friendly too, with three top tether child seat anchor points, as well as two ISOFIX. To top it off, the Kia Niro PHEV has been rated with 5-stars from ANCAP.
On the technology front, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. You do also have the option of a wired connection. An 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system delivers everything you might need, including an impressive reversing camera.
There’s also a 6-speaker audio system, which we have to say is average, but adequate for everyday use. It’s not going to produce concert hall sound, but it does okay. There are three USB ports within easy reach as well.
Overall, the 2021 Kia Niro S PHEV is a well-rounded SUV, providing the consumer with all the modern touches and inclusions you would expect, and at a reasonable price ($50,586 drive away). And there’s a 7-year warranty to boot.
Our test vehicle was provided by Kia Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Kia Niro S Plug-in Hybrid, contact your local Kia dealer.