The Kia Niro is a relatively new model for the automaker, but the South Korean brand has already come out with a three-pronged lineup for the nameplate. The 2019 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is a combination of the other two models – the regular hybrid Niro and the upcoming fully-electric variant. Besides giving you the ability to travel on electricity and gasoline when the need arises, the Niro Plug-In Hybrid's unique crossover size brings an extra level of versatility to the segment, which is dominated by compact vehicles. If compromise isn't in your vocabulary, the Niro Plug-In Hybrid brings it all without the need to make concessions.

Best Value

Kia's become synonymous for value, and despite the added complexity of the plug-in hybrid powertrain, it's the same case for the Niro Plug-In Hybrid. Prices for the vehicle start at $29,140 (including destination) for the LX trim. The entry-level model is the most value-packed offering, as it comes with a good set of standard features, including high-tech, driver-assist ones. Higher up the ladder, pricing for the Niro Plug-In Hybrid can reach $36,540 for the EX Premium trim with the EX Premium Sunroof Package.

Power for the Niro Plug-In Hybrid comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that's paired to an electric motor. The vehicle also features an 8.9-kW lithium-ion battery pack. Combined output for the system is rated at 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Unlike other electrified vehicles, shifts are handled via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The LX trim may be the entry-level model in the lineup, but it's handsomely equipped. Standard features include roof rails, LED daytime running lights, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a six-speaker audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cloth upholstery, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Safety features for the trim are also impressive, as the LX comes with a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

Here's how we'd spec our Niro Plug-In Hybrid.

  • Model: 2019 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid LX
  • Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine / 44.5 kW electric motor / 8.9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
  • Output: 139 hp / 195 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG:105 MPGe combined / 46 mpg combined
  • Options: None available
  • Base Price:$29,140 (including the $940 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$29,140

Performance

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

It may be a plug-in hybrid, but the Niro Plug-In Hybrid brings a sporty ride along with the efficient powertrain. On a windy road, the crossover is surprisingly enjoyable to drive, with little body roll, and, considering its intended purpose, a relatively stiff suspension setup. The vehicle, though, manages to be comfortable and refined for daily use. At higher speeds, the plug-in hybrid powertrain operates smoothly, but at low speeds, the system can be jerky, struggling to provide power in an agreeable manner at times.

While its cornering performance is admirable, the Niro Plug-In Hybrid is aimed at helping drivers trade gasoline for clean electricity. The crossover has an electric range of 26 miles and a total range of 560 miles. While 26 miles doesn't sound like a lot, it's enough to dart around town or get to work and having an extra 534 miles of range helps with long-distance trips. With the push of a button, drivers can choose between having the vehicle operate as a hybrid or as an EV until the battery runs out of juice.

When the time comes to charge the Niro Plug-In Hybrid, a Level 2 (240-volt) charger will do the job in 2.5 hours. A Level 1 (120-volt) charger will fully charge the vehicle in roughly nine hours.

Style

Large hatchback? Crossover? The Niro Plug-In Hybrid blurs the line between the two, but looks good while doing so. The curvy exterior design is handsome and the little exterior touches that differentiate the model from its other Niro brethren add some extra spice to the vehicle. With black body cladding and roof rails, the Niro Plug-In Hybrid has a rugged touch that other fuel-efficient vehicles don't offer.

The cabin of the Niro Plug-In Hybrid features an attractive design that focuses on usability. While cabin materials don't feel stellar, everything's accessible and the buttons and gauges are easy to read with a flair toward being bright and colorful – two design cues that have become commonplace on fuel-efficient vehicles.

Because of the Niro Plug-In Hybrid's crossover body style, visibility out of the driver's seat is excellent and being able to place the vehicle on tight urban roads is a breeze.

The Best and Worst Things

With a spacious cabin and cargo area, the Niro Plug-In Hybrid combines fuel efficiency in a handsome and tall package that nearly every consumer is looking for in a vehicle now. Having 26 miles of electric range to use is better than nothing, but it's not exactly a class-leading figure. Low-end interior materials may also turn some off.

Right For? Wrong For?

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

Few competitors have the same cargo capacity, high-riding body, and spacious cabin as the Niro Plug-In Hybrid. When you pair that with the vehicle's excellent list of standard features, affordable price tag, and handsome styling, it's a great option for consumers looking to get into a vehicle that can save you money on gas, while providing you with a tall-seating position.

If your commute is longer than 26 miles or you do a lot of miles on the highway, some of the Niro Plug-In Hybrid's competitors, including the regular Niro, might be better options. Taking 2.5 hours to get a full charge on a Level 2 charger isn't exactly speedy, either.

The Bottom Line

The plug-in hybrid segment is filled with compact vehicles, but few can compete with the 2019 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid when it comes to versatility, courtesy of its crossover styling. Great fuel economy is the cherry on top of an excellent package.