Hybrid wins as the one you want when you’re over plugging in cars
PLUGGING in a car to a power point, either at home or at a public charging station, seems to be heading down the road of inevitability.
If you’re looking at an electric vehicle (EV) or a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), then you’re going to lean to be very patient. For the rest of us who are in a hurry, a hybrid could be the best of all worlds - really low fuel consumption with no queuing and waiting.
Sound too good to be true? It is, although the only downside is the premium pricing of a hybrid over its additional petrol-fuelled rivals.
Most manufacturers have hybrids. Here’s one from Kia that is a beauty. But is the extra money and some extra new-found time away from electrical plugs worth the journey?
The Kia Niro Hybrid opens at $44,930 (plus on-road costs) for the ‘S’ version and rises to $50,580 for the better-equipped GT-Line version. Kia doesn’t make a petrol Niro as a comparison, but does offer it as a pure EV and a price range of $66,590 to $72,360.
The closest Niro-sized car is Kia’s Seltos that as a petrol costs from $29,500 and an equivalent ’S’ version is the Sport+ at $35,800. Do your sums as it may be more economical in the long run to use that price difference ($44,930 minus $35,800 is $9130 worth of ‘free’ petrol).
The Niro is classed as an SUV (no, I don’t know why) and sits in the same bracket as its sibling, the Seltos. The Niro is 35mm longer than the Seltos at 4420mm; 25mm wider (1825mm); 90mm lower (1545mm) and has a wheelbase that is a substantial 90mm longer (2720mm).
It is a comfortable four seater and has a boot that takes a decent 425 litres (rear seat up) or when the seat is folded down, 1419 litres.
In its favour, the boot is akin to a box in shape and will take a bulky item quite easily. In this regard it is a car that should be on the shopping list of young couples, especially those with (or planning on) children.
Think about a fuel-efficient car — like a hybrid — and performance isn’t the word that springs quickly to mind.
But the Niro is no slouch and has some rewarding dynamics in handling and engine response that is unlike most hybrids.
Much of that is attributed to the dual-clutch transmission that has rapid up and down shifts to maximise the power from the petrol engine and electric motor. Most hybrids have continuously-variable transmissions (CVTs) that don’t actually have seperate gears but a design that offers infinite gearing. The downside is an elastic feel to the gearing and engine ‘flare’ when accelerating as the CVT finds the optimum gear.
So, the Niro Hybrid uses the six-speed DCT gearbox that is also used by petrol Kias — and a lot of other manufacturers — for its better driving feel and response.
The gearbox is not the only component carried over from other models, with Kia’s 1.6-litre petrol engine making an appearance — in a slightly detuned form — with 109kW/144Nm in combination with the 32kW electric motor.
This model draws battery power for the electric motor for most low-speed tasks — initial acceleration, when reversing, when coasting, and so on — and automatically turns on the petrol engine when it needs more power or when the battery is low on charge.
You don’t plug this hybrid into any power source — it effectively makes its own — so no queueing for public charging and no worries about ‘range anxiety’ as this will go as far as a tankful of petrol. Which is actually a long way.
Kia claims an average of 4.0 litres/100km which gives it a theoretical range of a whopping 1050km. That’s made even more attractive by the need to only give it the cheapest 91RON petrol.
The battery is basically there for small-distance exercises like reversing out of your driveway or through a car park. If you want electric-only driving, buy the Niro EV or something else.
You get what you pay for and the $5650 difference between the ’S’ and the GT-Line shows that there’s a fair bit of extra in the more expensive version.
The ’S’ gets features including: Comprehensive safety equipment; six-speaker audio; 4.2-inch driver’s LCD screen; 8.0-inch central touchscreen; Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The more upmarket GT-Line adds two 10.25-inch displays; head-up display; mood lighting; paddle shifters; sat-nav; wireless phone charger; LED headlights; privacy glass; electric tail gate; and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Thee are air vents in the rear, bottle holders in the door, a fold-down centre armrest and USB-C points accessible for the rear passengers. Up front are USB-A and USB-C points and a 12-volt outlet.
How much room?
The Niro is a five-seater and despite it being a small-ish car, the long wheelbase helps with rear-seat legroom and brings it up to mid-size car class.
The boot can store from 425 litres (all seats in place) to 1419 litres (rear seats folded). The spare wheel is a space-saver but sits in a deep well that can offer some extra storage space if needed. Alternatively, it could possibly take a full-size spare wheel.
The Niro has eight airbags — including a driver’s knee bag and front-centre airbag — and recently received a five-star crash rating from ANCAP. This is one of the latest, and more stringent, five-star tests.
ANCAP gave it an 88 per cent score for adult occupants and 84 per cent for child occupants. Pedestrian safety was 76 per cent and its active safety systems are 87 per cent.
Safety features include autonomous emergency braking (AEB); lane-keep assistance and lane-follow assistance, blind-spot warning with collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert with collision avoidance, exit warning for occupants, and speed limit notification.
This latter feature is a great idea but it is incessant and chimes five times at every couple of km/h over the speed limit. Drive through an area with lots of speed changes and it seems like the chimes are competing with the radio. It can be turned off by going into the touchscreen system but it defaults every time the engine is restarted.
Kia has a seven-year, unlimited distance warranty that really is the icing on the cake. It boosts resale value and makes the brand highly sought after on the used-car market because the warranty can be transferred to the next owner.
Service intervals are 12 months or 12,000km. There’s a seven-year or 105,000km capped price service program. Prices are:
Niro Hybrid: $1299 (3 years) and $2645 (five years)
Alfa Romeo Tonale Hybrid: $49,900*
Hyundai Kona Hybrid Premium: $43,500*
GWM Haval Jolion Hybrid Ultra: $40,990 (drive away)
Mazda MX-30 Astina Hybrid: $42,110*
Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid GXL: $40,230*
* plus on-road costs
The Kia Niro Hybrid opens at $44,930 (plus on-road costs) for the ‘S’ version and rises to $50,580 for the better-equipped GT-Line version.
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