2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

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2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Review: High-Value Motoring

by Aiden Eksteen

Eco-friendly crossover SUVs are currently the in-thing in the USA and automakers are beginning to introduce more advanced and affordable offerings into the space as EV and hybrid technologies become more accessible. The 2021 Kia Rio Plug-In Hybrid is one of these cars, and not the electrified model offered by the Korean brand. While it is a fairly good-looking compact crossover that's packed with value, the Rio PHEV SUV doesn't offer the best performance drive-wise. It's equipped with a 1.6-liter inline-4 unit that's been augmented with an electric motor, but it's rather underpowered with only 139 horsepower at hand. The ride comfort is also not quite up to scratch with the rest of the PHEV crossover segment, at least in its price range. Despite not being the most pleasant 5-door car to drive, its comprehensive list of creature comforts, conveniences, and safety elements, and overall practicality make it quite pragmatic. Alternatives on the market include the Honda Clarity, Mitsubishi Outlander, and the Subaru Crosstrek. Does the Niro PHEV crossover have anything special to offer in comparison, or is it just another vehicle trying to cash in on the plug-in hype?

Read in this review:

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2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2020 Niro Plug-In Hybrid?

This year, the Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV) receives a few new standard features but remains mechanically unchanged. As standard, the Niro now ships with rear occupant alert. If the eight-inch display is equipped, then wireless operation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is included.. Niros with the Smart Key now come with remote start and those with navigation benefit from a MapCare program that consists of free map updates for a period of 10 years. Finally, Niros with navigation and smart cruise control now have navigation-based curve and smart cruise control functionality.

Pros and Cons

  • Modern and very well-appointed interior
  • Comprehensive list of inclusive features
  • Spacious cabin and expansive trunk space
  • Fairly affordable for a plug-in hybrid
  • Good safety rating and reassurinreliability
  • Gradual acceleration responses
  • Offered in front-wheel drive only
  • Ride quality is just middling

Best Deals on 2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Trims and Prices

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Plug-In Hybrid LXS
1.6L Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Plug-In Hybrid EX
1.6L Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
Plug-In Hybrid EX Premium
1.6L Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Exterior

2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Front Angle View KIA
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Top View KIA
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Aft View KIA
See All 2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Exterior Photos


  • 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

Exterior Colors

  • Runway Red +$295
  • Aurora Black Pearl +$395
  • Snow White Pearl +$395
  • Deep Cerulean
  • Silky Silver
  • Platinum Graphite
  • Horizon Blue

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Performance

2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Rear Perspective Driving KIA
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Driving Back View KIA
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Wheel KIA

Engine and Transmission

Beneath the modish hoods of all three the 2021 Kia Rio Plug-In Hybrid models is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gas engine that works together with a single electric motor and continuously variable automatic transmission to power the front-wheel drivetrain with a combined 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. While you'd expect some level of brisk acceleration from the Rio PHEV considering its electrified torque output, it's actually quite lackluster. Driving around suburban settings is fine, but getting up to highway speeds and commencing overtakes can feel rather tedio.

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

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Gas Mileage

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    11.4 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 44/48 mpg
* 2021 Kia Niro LXS FWD

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Interior

2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Dashboard KIA
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Gauge Cluster KIA
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Infotainment System KIA
See All 2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
  • 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

2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Trunk Space KIA
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Underfloor Storage KIA
2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Trunk Space with Seat Folded KIA
  • Trunk Volume
    19.4 ft³

Niro Plug-In Hybrid Safety and Reliability


  • 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

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.

Verdict: Is the 2021 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid A Good SUV?

While there are many qualities that make the 2021 Niro Plug-In fairly appealing, it's just not the best PHEV one can buy at its price. Its powertrain is really uninspiring and handling is rather lousy, resulting in a bland driving experience. The fact that Kia doesn't offer the Rio PHEV with an all-wheel drive system at all is quite disappointing, too, considering it's a modern crossover. These flaws, coupled with the Rio's relatively limited cargo capacity, make it feel more like a hatchback than a crossover SUV.

On the other hand, the 2021 Rio PHEV offers buyers an easy driving experience and exceptionally thrifty fuel economy returns at a really affordable price for a PHEV. It also comes outfitted with a really nice infotainment system and an extensive list of inclusive driver assists. Along with a good safety review, the 2021 Kia Rio Plug-In Hybrid also upholds a good reliability record.

There are certainly better crossover PHEVs out there and many aren't that much more pricier than the Niro PHEV crossover, but if you're looking for something simplistic and highly frugal, it remains a viable option.

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

The 2021 Kia Niro PHEV's affordable price is on of its greatest strengths, so we would suggest sticking to the mid-to-lower end of the lineup. The mid-spec EX comes outfitted with a few extra desirable features over the base-model LXS, making it our pick. These include a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, front-seat heating, and a wireless charging pad. Its advanced driver-assist suite is also expanded upon with the addition of adaptive cruise control and lane following assist. The upgraded infotainment system in the top-level EX Premium and other luxury features may tempt some shoppers, but at that model's price, one may as well go for one of the Niro PHEV's higher-value competitors.

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