2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Review: Five Hundred Miles on Twenty Dollars

by Morgan Carter

Affordable and economical are the first two words that spring to mind when thinking of plug-in hybrids, and, luckily for the Kia Niro, this is where it excels. First introduced as part of Kia's foray into the hybrid market in 2018, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid remains a strong competitor to the likes of the Honda Clarity, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Subaru Crosstrek hybrids. While it has received a mid-cycle facelift, the Niro hasn't changed in any significant way. It is still powered by a four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor to develop a combined 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. Unlike many of its rivals, though, the Niro isn't offered with an all-wheel drivetrain, relying solely on front-wheel-drive, instead. Still, Kia's offering is appealing to those who want to go green without breaking the bank.

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Niro Plug-In Hybrid?

The Niro PHEV is still quite new to the market, but it has received a mid-cycle refresh for 2020. Most of the changes are aesthetic, though. The front and rear fascias have been redesigned, and the front grille gets a new diamond pattern. The LED daytime running lights are now dual chevron-shaped, and the fog lamps are all-new. There are also new wheel designs for the 16-inch alloys. Inside, an eight-inch touchscreen is now standard, with the option to upgrade to a 10.25-inch model. Steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles are now offered, which can give the driver control over the PHEV's regenerative braking.

Pros and Cons

  • Well-appointed cabin
  • Long list of standard features
  • Quite practical
  • Affordable price tag for a hybrid
  • Excellent warranty plan
  • Front-wheel drivetrain only
  • Mediocre ride quality
  • Unimpressive acceleration

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Plug-In Hybrid LXS
1.6-liter Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$29,490
Plug-In Hybrid EX
1.6-liter Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$33,290
Plug-In Hybrid EX Premium
1.6-liter Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$36,390

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Exterior

Sporting a new look for 2020, the Niro PHEV is bolder and more high-tech than ever. The new diamond-pattern grille is eye-catching, but it's the redesigned headlights and foglights that really take the cake. Dual chevron-shaped LED daytime running lights also come standard, and the taillights have been modernized, too. The front and rear bumpers are body-color, but the wheel arches and side sills are lined in black plastic. The sleek curves of the side profile are accentuated by small wings positioned just above the side sills.

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Front View Kia
2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Right Side View Kia
2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Three Quarter Rear Left Side View Kia
See All 2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Falling within the compact crossover segment, the Niro PHEV isn't overly large, measuring only 171.5 inches long with a 106.3-inch wheelbase. The SUV stands 60.8 inches tall and can fit into pretty tight spaces with a width of 71.1 inches. Curb weights have not been released for 2020 at the time of writing, but every Plug-in Hybrid weighed in at 3,274 pounds last year. This will likely change a little with the Kia's facelift.

  • Length 171.5 in
  • Wheelbase 106.3 in
  • Height 60.4 in
  • Max Width 71.1 in
  • Front Width 61.6 in
  • Rear Width 62.2 in

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Exterior Colors

  • Runway Red
  • Aurora Black Pearl
  • Snow White Pearl
  • Deep Cerulean
  • Silky Silver
  • Platinum Graphite
  • Horizon Blue

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Performance

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Three Quarter Front Left Side View In Motion Kia
2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Rear View In Motion Kia
2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Fuel Tank Cap Open Kia

Engine and Transmission

Every model in the Kia Niro PHEV gets the same powertrain. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine develops 105 hp and 109 lb-ft on its own, but it comes paired with an electric motor that develops 60 hp and 125 lb-ft. Together, they deliver a combined 139 hp and 195 lb-ft to the front wheels. No all-wheel drivetrain is offered, but where many rivals equip their hybrids with CVT transmissions, the Kia gets a dual-clutch six-speed automatic gearbox.

Despite this, the Niro Plug-in doesn't really impress. Acceleration is particularly disappointing when you're expecting the kind of kick we've come to expect from high-torque electric vehicles. Sure, the SUV will get you around town without too much fuss, but highway maneuvers will require some planning.

  • Engine
    1.6-liter Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Despite its small size and torquey powertrain, the Kia Niro PHEV is not an athletic driver. Acceleration is uninspiring and relies too much on the gasoline engine than the electric motor. The compact SUV quickly loses its breath when pressed to go beyond the most sedate of cruising speeds. Keep to the speed limit, though, and the Niro is actually quite pleasant. It handles more like a hatchback than a crossover, with a little body roll and a firmer ride than you might expect. Nevertheless, steering is light and responsive, which is ideal for the hustle and bustle of town living.

Considering its slightly firm ride and absolutely average interior, the Niro provides only adequate ride comfort. But, while it doesn't stand out in any way, the Kia doesn't actively disappoint, either. It's an unobjectionable SUV that will suit most driver's needs.

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Gas Mileage

Fuel economy is certainly the crux of the matter when it comes to purchasing a hybrid vehicle. Knowing that you're alleviating some of the strain on the environment is nice, sure, but seeing the strain lifted from your own wallet is even nicer. In this regard, the Kia Niro PHEV makes an excellent case for itself. It doesn't get a particularly large tank, with only 11.4 gallons of fuel available but, thanks to its impressive mileage figures of 48/44/46 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, the little SUV can cover an impressive 560 miles between visits to the gas station. The all-electric range is a little limited, though, with only 26 miles covered without gas. The overall hybrid combined mileage of the Kia Niro is around 105 MPGe, which stacks up very well against rivals like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which only gets 74 MPGe.

Charging the battery from a standard household outlet (Level 1) takes around nine hours, while installing a Level 2 charging station (240 V) drops this to two hours and 15 minutes.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    11.4 Gallons
* 2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid LXS FWD

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Interior

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Infotainment System Kia
2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Infotainment System 1 Kia
2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Gear Shifter Kia
See All 2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

While it offers seating for up to five within the cabin, the Niro PHEV probably isn't suited for more than four people if you're going to be driving for longer than fifteen minutes. But, despite the lack of shoulder room, there is plenty of headroom in both rows of seats. Legroom is also excellent up front, but particularly tall adults will feel the strain in the back. The tall roof makes getting in and out of the SUV quite easy, and it also improves side and rearward visibility when driving. The upper trims offer a ten-way power driver's seat for an even better driving position, and the front seats come heated, too. The standard upholstery is cloth, while the EX gets cloth and leather upholstery. The top-tier EX Premium gets full leatherette upholstery.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.7 in
  • Front Head Room 40.1 in
  • Rear Leg Room 37.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.1 in

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Trunk and Cargo Space

While the standard cargo capacity of 19.4 cubic feet isn't overly impressive for a compact SUV, the Kia Niro compares quite well with other hybrid vehicles, which generally sacrifice some back-seat or trunk space to accommodate the hybrid components. As is common in most crossovers, the rear seats can be folded down to free up more space. In this case, the Niro PHEV is able to swallow up to 54.5 cubic feet of cargo. This can be increased to a pretty impressive 63.2 cubic with the available cargo tray.

Small-item storage is also pretty average. There is a standard glove compartment, and the center armrest cubby is modestly sized. Each of the four doors presents passengers with a pocket, and there are cupholders in both rows of seats.

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Full Luggage Space Kia
2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Side View Kia
2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Side View 1 Kia

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Infotainment and Features

Features

Considering its pretty affordable price tag, the Kia Niro PHEV comes extremely well-equipped for the segment. Standard features on even the base model include automatic climate control, cruise control, and keyless entry and ignition. Kia Drive Wise also comes standard, with the suite on the entry-level LXS including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, driver attention assist, a rearview camera, and forward collision avoidance. The upper trim levels upgrade the standard features with adaptive cruise control, a seven-inch digital instrument cluster, heated front seats, and a ten-way power driver's seat. The safety suite also gets additional front sensors, a lane following assist feature, and adaptive cruise control. The top-tier EX Premium rounds out the standard offering with rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, and ventilation for the front seats. A power sunroof is also added on the top trim.

Infotainment

The infotainment suite has been touched up for the new year, with the base LXS trim coming equipped with a larger eight-inch touchscreen. The standard suite supports AM/FM Radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Six-speakers make up the sound system on the entry-level trim and USB ports are available for charging or streaming media. The top trim level gets the larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, which comes programmed with voice-command navigation, SiriusXM, and HD Radio. The sound system is also upgraded to an eight-speaker Harman Kardon set-up with an integrated subwoofer.

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Problems and Reliability

While it hasn't received a dependability rating from J.D. Power, the Kia Niro Plug-in has not been subject to any recalls. There have been some minor complaints, though, such as the vehicle moving forward when set in reverse. If you do run into any issues, the Niro has an excellent warranty plan. The limited warranty is valid for 60,000 miles/60 months inclusive of 24-hour roadside assistance, while the powertrain and hybrid components are covered for 100,000 miles/120 months.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Hybrid/Electric Components:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Safety

The latest iteration of the Kia Niro Hybrid has not yet been rated for safety by the NHTSA or IIHS. We don't expect the NHTSA to test the vehicle, as it never has in the past, but the IIHS gave the 2019 model top marks in every category and even awarded the Niro its Top Safety Pick+ award. Standard advanced safety features available across the range include forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and high beam assist.

Verdict: 🏁Is 2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid a good SUV?

The Kia Niro Plug-in is a bit of a mixed bag, getting as many things right as it does wrong. The powertrain is uninspiring, which, coupled with middling handling, doesn't make for a very engaging driver. The lack of an available all-wheel drivetrain is also disappointing on a modern crossover. Add to this the Niro's relatively low cargo capacity, and it feels more like a hatchback than an SUV.

But, much like a hatchback, the Niro PHEV delivers extraordinary fuel economy. When you take into account that it has a starting price of under $30k where most rivals start in the mid-30s, the Kia is certainly appealing to shoppers on a budget. It certainly doesn't hurt that the car comes well-appointed for that price, with a modern infotainment suite and plenty of standard safety features.

There are certainly better options out there, if you don't mind paying a bit extra upfront and in the long run, but the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is a solid offering in a market already saturated with average vehicles.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid?

While the Niro PHEV range has undergone some minor changes and rebranding, the overall price of the respective trims hasn't changed all that much. The new entry-level model is the LXS, with a starting MSRP of $29,490. The EX and EX Premium each return for the new year, with prices of $33,290 and $36,390, respectively. These prices do not include tax, registration, licensing, or Kia's destination charge of $1,120. It is worth noting that the hybrid does qualify for federal tax credits or other rebates. You'll need to check your state's specific terms and conditions regarding this.

See All 2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Trims and Specs

🚗What Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Model Should I Buy?

The Kia Niro is extremely well-priced, so it won't actually hurt you much to splurge a little on one of the more well-appointed trims. The power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, and wireless charger that come standard on the mid-tier EX are quite appealing, as is the added lane following assist. But whether or not that is worth the extra $4k is up to you. Even the entry-level LXS has a lot to offer, with the same infotainment suite as the EX and more than enough standard safety features like blind-spot monitoring and forward collision avoidance. The upgraded infotainment suite on the EX Premium may tempt some buyers, but at that price tag, you could pick up one of the Kia Niro's better-value rivals.

Check out other Kia Niro Styles

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Comparisons

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Mitsubishi
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid Subaru
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid139 hpTBC$29,490
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 190 hpTBC$36,295
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid 148 hpTBC$35,145

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid vs Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Quite a bit bigger than the Kia Niro, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV also boasts an extra inch of ground clearance. Paired with the available all-wheel drivetrain, this gives the Outlander some genuine off-roading capabilities. This is a nice feature on a crossover when many rivals only look capable but fail to deliver when asked to. The Mitsubishi also has quite a few extra ponies under the hood, with 190 hp developed by its combination hybrid engine. However, it isn't quite as torquey as the Niro, which hurts the heavier vehicle quite a bit when accelerating. The extra overall size does give the Outlander some advantages in terms of passenger and cargo space, offering 30.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats. But, considering the pretty hefty starting price of $36,295, the Outlander certainly doesn't offer the same level of high-tech features as the Niro's similarly priced upper trims. If you don't intend to go off-road, and the smaller 19.4-cubic-foot trunk doesn't bother you, the Kia Niro is the smarter buy here, and it runs a lot cheaper, too.

See Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Review

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid vs Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Much like the Mitsubishi Outlander, the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid is a bit bigger than the compact Niro, and it gets more ground clearance, too. Once again, this means the Kia's rival has some legitimate off-roading capabilities. However, with only 152 hp on tap, the Crosstrek isn't much stronger than the Niro PHEV, although it does offer an all-wheel drivetrain. Subaru has equipped its SUV with more standard features, but these will cost you quite a bit extra, with the Crosstrek Hybrid starting at $35,145 compared to the Niro's $29,490. The Kia Niro gets considerably better fuel economy, too, so unless you plan on going off the beaten path, the Subaru Crosstrek isn't quite as appealing.

See Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid Review

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Popular Comparisons

2020 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Video Reviews

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$29,490 - $36,390
Price Range (MSRP)
Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid