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2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid first drive: A fantastic gas alternative

  • January 01, 2018

It is a full-featured crossover

Looks wise, the Plug-In Hybrid looks just like the Hybrid and gas Niro variants except for a few new blue accents along the front and back bumpers. It’s still the same roomy four-door design with the rear hatch cargo compartment providing 19.4 cubic feet of space and 54.5 cubic feet of space when the back seats are put down.

Outside, the car looks spectacularly normal. Unless you check out the Niro PHEV with eagle eyes, it’d be hard to notice it’s not the normal gas variant. That’s a very good thing because car manufacturers got into the habit of making EVs, hybrids or PHEVs different just for the sake of it, and what you got was design atrocities like the Toyota Prius. Thankfully, the Niro PHEV is just like every other car you’ll find on the road.

There are three available trims for the Niro PHEV: LX, EX and EX Premium. The first two trims come with a standard 7-inch center console display and the high end version bumps that up to 8 inches that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Interestingly enough, only the low-end LX comes with cloth seats, which means if you wanted to go full eco friendly with non-leather seats, you’re going to have to sacrifice a lot of features. Kia doesn’t have any plans to offer this with this generation, but it may be an option that is added with next year’s model.

Having the option to use Android Auto and CarPlay is a big deal, because I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kia’s center console user interface. It was clunky and difficult to get around. There are a number of times I got lost using the navigation system because I wasn’t used to its direction delivery. That was my fault, but I’ve never had trouble taking directions from Google Maps.

I drove the EX Premium that comes with all the bells and whistles, including leather seats, wireless charger, Harmon/Kardon sound system and center digital display on the instrument cluster. Throughout my trip, mostly used it to display fuel and battery consumption.

As most cars tend to do, the Niro PHEV has a slew of available driving assist options, and the EX Premium is outfitted with every single one. The list includes Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Warning System, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Smart Cruise Control.

I turned on every safety feature I could have on, in particular, the Forward Collision Warning System, during my drive to make sure I didn’t get into an unwanted accident. It’s easy to lose your focus when you’ve been driving for hours on end.

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