The second-generation Kia Niro is here and it can travel a much farther distance than before. Our PHEV (Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) enables the five-passenger compact crossover to now go 33 miles (previously it was only 26) without using gas. The charge port, located in the driver’s side front fender, uses a 240-volt system that can take about three hours or a 120-volt consuming nine hours. You can effectively go well over 500 miles on a tank (9.7 gallons) with its gas, hybrid and plug-in electric features.

A 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline engine is mated to an electric motor, which is powered by an 11.1 kWh (previous was 8.9) lithium-ion polymer battery weighing 245 pounds. That is adequate enough to put out a total of 180 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque while paired to a laudable 6-speed dual clutch transmission. The crossover offers a regenerative braking system for additional fuel savings. When the ride is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric power functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes. Instead, it converts the energy into useable electricity for recharging the battery.

A boost in wheelbase, length and width opens up more cabin and cargo space, i.e., 22.8 cubic feet behind the second-row seat. The signature “tiger nose” grille meets up with LED headlights and fog lamps to create a sleek and eye-striking appearance. Black door cladding and wheel arches are a standout also. Two 19.2-inch screens, one for the digital instrument cluster (cool LCD hybrid gauge showing charge, eco and power readings, as well as EV mode) and the other for infotainment, float to sync as one. Standard amenities include 10-way power heated/cooled driver and six-way manual passenger seats, leather steering wheel, dual auto a/c, power tilt/telescopic sun roof, aluminum pedals, 8-speaker Harman Kardon audio and push-button start. A rotary dial serves as the transmission shifter. The 60/40 rear seat folds down to open up 54.6 cubic feet of space.

Kia should be commended for offering several standard safety features, which are optional in competitor vehicles. Some are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, driver knee airbag, rearview camera, lane keep/follow and forward-collision-avoid assists, blind spot and rear-cross traffic collision warnings, four-wheel antilock brakes, rollover sensor, electronic stability and traction control, smart cruise control and a tire pressure monitoring system.

It may not have loads of power (sport mode is offered) but the Niro is an outstanding gas/electric/plug-in hybrid effort from Kia. It is sharp-looking, sporty, practical and sips gas (we averaged over 50 mpg). That it comes with a 10-year or 100,000-mile power train and a five-year or 60,000-mile basic warranty is a plus. Lest we forget, the lithium-ion battery is also covered for 10-year/100,000 miles.


Tires: P225/45R18

Wheelbase: 107.1 inches

Length: 174 inches

Width: 71.8 inches

Height: 60.8 inches

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multilink rear

Steering: motor-driven power assist

Weight: 3,336 pounds

Gas only: 48 mpg

Comb electric/gas: 108 MPGe

Base price: $39,490

Price as tested: $41,635

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