2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Review

Pros & Cons

  • High fuel economy and respectable all-electric range
  • One of the more affordable hybrids in the segment
  • Conventional SUV-like styling
  • Batteries under the rear seat don't cut into cargo space
  • Interior cargo volume smaller than a true SUV
  • All-wheel drive isn't available despite crossover styling
  • Sluggish acceleration in default driving mode
Other years
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$17,842 - $20,048

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Which Niro Plug-In Hybrid does Edmunds recommend?

The Niro PHEV comes in three trim levels. The LX is a particularly good deal because it comes with plenty of standard features. But consider stepping up to get the midgrade EX. Its heated seats and blind-spot and cross-traffic monitoring will be valuable to have over the course of ownership.

Edmunds' Expert Review

Overall rating

6.9 / 10

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is a new addition to Kia's Niro lineup. It's just like the regular Niro Hybrid, but it comes with a bigger rechargeable battery pack that allows you to drive an estimated 26 miles on pure electric power before the vehicle switches over to normal hybrid operation. At that point you're looking at a still frugal 46 mpg. And it costs less than most rival plug-in hybrids.

Kia describes its Niro as a crossover SUV. But without an available all-wheel-drive system and only 1 more inch of ground clearance than Kia's own Optima sedan, it's better to think of the Niro as a four-door hatchback rather than a true SUV. Also, take note of how the Niro allocates interior space. Compared to its mechanical sibling, the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro has a significantly smaller cargo area behind the rear seats. In return, though, the Niro has slightly more legroom and headroom in back, and much of that space can be converted to cargo room when the rear seatbacks are folded.

The 2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid joins a growing selection of plug-in hybrids this year that includes the Chevrolet Volt, the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid and the Toyota Prius Prime. If you want an easy-to-drive and efficient car with understated SUV-like styling, you'll find a lot to like in the Niro.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid models

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is available in three trims. It starts off with the LX, which comes with a nice set of features, including a 7-inch touchscreen display and many advanced driver safety aids. The EX provides more convenience-oriented and safety features, while the top EX Premium adds luxury items such as leather upholstery and premium audio. All three trims are powered by the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder hybrid electric powertrain (139 horsepower, 195 pound-feet combined output) that sends power to the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Note that the regular 2018 Niro Hybrid is reviewed separately.

The base LX comes standard with 16-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, 60/40-split folding rear seats, keyless entry and push-button start, a 7-inch infotainment display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, two USB ports, and a four-speaker sound system with satellite radio. Also standard are a rearview camera, front collision warning and mitigation with automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.

Niro Plug-In Hybrids in the EX trim level add blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear air vents, leather and cloth upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat and heated front seats. The EX Premium also has LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a bigger driver information display, an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, a Harman Kardon eight-speaker surround sound system, a wireless phone charger and ventilated front seats.

Trim tested

While we have yet to fully test the Niro Plug-In Hybrid, the following evaluation is based on the functionally similar 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid (1.6L inline-4 plug-in hybrid | 6-speed dual-clutch automatic | FWD).


The Niro's biggest weakness is its everyday driving demeanor. It accelerates tepidly unless you floor it; the steering is vague yet well-weighted. Its emergency braking performance is subpar.


When driven in the default Eco mode, the Niro feels wholly unmotivated. Sport mode sharpens it up so that it feels more like a normal driving car. It's less efficient, though. We need an in-between mode.


The braking feels completely natural under normal conditions, and the switchover from electric regeneration to conventional braking is imperceivable. Under panic braking, however, the pedal goes to the floor and the test's best stopping distances are subpar.


The steering is direct and responsive with a good level of assist. And there's a clear difference in the degree of assist when you switch between Normal and Sport mode. But this car lacks a clear sense of on-center feel or feedback, which can be disconcerting because it demands constant attention.


The Niro handles more like a car than a crossover because it's essentially a hatchback. It stays planted through turns better than expected, and it carries its weight lower thanks to batteries mounted beneath the rear passenger seat.


Driving in the default Eco mode reveals some unpleasant characteristics. Its anemic takeoff power and lazy first-to-second shift are only remedied by driving in Sport mode.


At the very least, crossovers should have the option of all-wheel drive and decent ground clearance. The Niro unfortunately has neither, and people expecting otherwise will be disappointed.


The Niro Plug-In Hybrid may not feel luxurious, but there's a good level of comfort for the daily commute. The seats have sufficient support and powerful heaters, with ventilation available at the Touring level. The biggest strike against it is road noise, which could get tiresome on long drives.

Seat comfort

The seats aren't anything fancy but have good padding and decent lateral and lumbar support. The EX model comes with very effective seat heaters with three levels of intensity. The max heat level is hotter than most, which is really nice in freezing climates.

Ride comfort

Ride comfort for the most part is agreeable. While we didn't experience any harsh crashing over bumps, we wouldn't call the Niro Plug-In plush either. On the other hand, body movement felt well-controlled and carlike instead of floppy like a tall SUV or crossover.

Noise & vibration

Around town, the Niro Plug-In is pretty quiet when in all-electric mode. There is a fair amount of road noise and the occasional sound of loose gravel pinging against the underbody at higher speeds. Wind noise is better isolated.

Climate control

The dual climate controls are straightforward and easy to reach, with the usual assortment of buttons and knobs for fan speed, temperature, etc. The system performs well to maintain pleasant cabin temps.


The cabin of the Niro Plug-In Hybrid is easy to get in and out of and scores high marks for interior passenger space, driver accommodation and a simple user interface.

Ease of use

The touchscreen infotainment menus take a little familiarization but are easy enough to figure out and have shortcut buttons. When using the stalks to change headlight or wiper settings, a prompt appears in the gauge cluster showing your selection and others that are available. It's a nice feature.

Getting in/getting out

The doors open wide, almost to 90 degrees, with nice-size openings and comfortable seat heights. You still sit down into the seat rather than slide in because the bottom seat cushion height is around knee level. There's a small stepover, but it should be easy for most, including elderly passengers.

Driving position

The tilt-and-telescoping steering column has a lot of adjustment, and the optional power driver's seat has two-way lumbar adjustment and height adjustment. It's pretty easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to copious amounts of head- and legroom to suit a wide range of drivers.


There is good head- and legroom both front and rear, but the hard plastic front seatbacks don't leave much of a buffer if sitting behind an especially tall driver. The middle passenger will appreciate the relatively flat floor, but sitting three adults in back will be a little tight.


Even with the raked front roof pillars, forward visibility is pretty good. The thick rear pillars create a bit of a blind spot when you're looking over your shoulder, but the view directly back is decent and relatively unobstructed by the rear headrests. A rearview camera is standard on all trims.


A lot of hard plastic covers the lower half of the doors, dash and center console. In the light gray color scheme, it makes the interior look cheap. Even the soft-touch surfaces on the upper parts of the dash lack a quality feel. The armrest padding isn't bad but could be more ample on the doors.


Compared to a small sedan, the Niro offers an appealing amount of utility for its size. But when compared to other hybrid hatchbacks or crossover SUVs in the class, it doesn't offer quite as much cargo space or clever cabin storage for small items.

Small-item storage

There's convenient storage for personal items forward of the gear shifter, where you would charge your phone wirelessly if so equipped. The door pockets will hold a 16-ounce water bottle and a couple of other small items, but they are on the narrow side. The center armrest bin is average size.

Cargo space

The 60/40-split rear seats fold perfectly flat, and the optional underfloor storage adds a bit more utility. Yet, at 19.4 cubic feet with all seats in place (54.5 cubic feet with them folded), the Niro doesn't have as much space as most of the other hybrid hatchbacks.

Child safety seat accommodation

LATCH anchors are tucked away in between cushions where the rear seatbacks fold down, which makes access kind of difficult. Each outboard rear seat has a pair of anchors and an easy-access top tether on its back.


The Niro Plug-In is strong on the technology front, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included as standard equipment and a host of available advanced safety systems that aren't even offered on some cars above its class. The Uvo navigation system could use a design update, but it functions well.

Audio & navigation

The Uvo navigation system is the same as in other Kia models, easy to use but beginning to look dated compared to other systems on the market. The base stereo system won't impress the more musically savvy; the optional Harman Kardon system will.

Smartphone integration

With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard in all models, you likely won't miss the upgraded system with navigation. The EX Premium trim also comes with wireless charging for smartphones.

Driver aids

The adaptive cruise control (called Smart Cruise Control) works pretty well to maintain a distance between the Niro and the car in front, but it only brings the Niro to a complete stop for a moment before relinquishing control.

Voice control

Native voice controls are available for navigation, radio, phone and even Google search (if equipped). The prompts are straightforward, and voice recognition works pretty well. And with Apple CarPlay standard, you have the power of Siri through the car's voice control button.


Overall6.9 / 10

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Great car for San Diego; Flawed Heating System;
LX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM)
We live in Olympia, Washington. This is a great car for our needs. It's a small city, so 26 miles electric is plenty for our in-town driving. We just passed 3,000 miles, and have used 24 gallons of gasoline. We really like the ease of entry and exit. Upright seats, high enough off the ground so you don't crawl out of it like a Prius, and doors that open super wide. There is one clear bit of lazy engineering: the heating system only works when the engine is running. The Prius Prime (the heads up competitor) has a heat pump system, that runs using electricity. The Niro does not, even though an air conditioner is essentially the same device as a heat pump running in reverse. In Olympia, where we have cool weather and dampness, we do need to run the heat all winter. That forces on the engine (but the car still is propelled as an electric; this big four-cylinder 1600cc engine running just to provide heat and defrost. This is why I say it's a great car for Phoenix or San Diego, where you don't need heat much of the time. Around here, the Prius Prime is probably a better value if it meets your needs. It does not meet our needs. I am a big 300# fella. This car fits me reasonably well. The Prius does not. Update at two years and 23,800 miles: We've had the Kia Niro Plug-in for two years now. We still like it. The E-Niro has become available, with 240 miles of range. If were were buying today, we would probably buy the full-electric. We've carefully tracked how many times we would have needed to charge "on the road." Three trips, for a total of about 10% of our total miles. Each time, we had overnight charging available to us close to where we stayed. Even if we had to pay a premium price for a fast charge, it would still be a great value to be all-electric -- charging at home is the equivalent of $1.20/gallon. No squeaks or rattles at the 2 year mark. Just entering winter, the frustrating season when we cannot run all-electric because of the heating system engineering flaw mentioned in the original review.
Excellent Car! Plug-in Hybrid
EX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM)
Excellent car, and value. Most importantly for us is that it seats 5 "real size" people: Even with front seats moved all the way back, there is sufficient leg room and headroom for adults in back. We are able to fit two adults and a car seat across the back seat. "CarPlay" will present phone navigation on the car's screen, even without buying the navigation option.
30K+ nice car, well adapted for efficiency...but k
Robert MacLaughlin,12/06/2018
EX Premium 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM)
Pretending this is an SUV is the worst thing you can do...it is not; not even close... This is a very comfortable, tech-ladened, economic, environmentally friendly, tall wagon or large hatch-back. Almost the perfect car for California. 25 miles of gas-free electric range every time you unplug and get in. And, a good 55 mpg in hybrid mode. And...you can select ‘sport’ mode where you will have exclusive internal combustion-only propulsion and spirited performance which charges the battery as you drive giving you extra EV range. And...a real auto transmission! 6 speeds! Not a moaning Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). However...you may NOT have a sun-roof...ever. And, you may NOT have an electro chromatic (self dimming) rear view mirror...ever. And...you may NOT have a garage door opener (home link) incorporated into your car like EVERY. OTHER. CAR! But, you may have ventilated seats, navigation, car-play, and wireless charging. (I understand all these features are available on newer units) Handling is clumsy at best. Road noise is substantial. But for freedom from gas stations, the trade-offs are acceptable. It’s quite utilitarian, you can stuff a lot of stuff or a few people into it easily AND comfortable, cues up my music seamlessly, voice commands are easy. We had two returns to the dealer upon buying the car for a mysterious check engine light. That was 3000 miles ago. The headlights are adjusted too high and oncoming traffic gets irritated by that. Everything else seems OK.
Kia Niro Plug-in Gas/Electric Hybrid
Dan McGill,02/11/2019
EX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM)
I love that most of my driving is now powered by solar energy that I buy from PG&E, that the vehicle is a lot of fun to drive, it has great cargo space compared to Volt, Clarity, and Prius Prime (it's main competitors), and it lets me rest easier knowing I did something about global climate change (which is very real in the area I live). This car replaced a 2005 Toyota RAV4 which was averaging around 22 mpg as opposed to between 53 mpg and 92 mpg so far. The performance is similar, except the safety features are much better on the Niro and I now only go to the gas station to fill a smaller tank once a month.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid features & specs


Our experts like the Niro Plug-In Hybrid models:

Blind-Spot Detection
Detects and alerts you with visual and audio warnings when a vehicle in the adjacent lane is in your blind spot.
Smart Cruise Control
Maintains a set speed and distance to the car ahead and will bring the car to a stop briefly before relinquishing control.
Lane Departure Warning
Identifies lane markings and alerts you if you begin to drift out of your lane.

More about the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

Used 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid Overview

The Used 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is offered in the following submodels: Niro Plug-In Hybrid SUV. Available styles include EX Premium 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM), EX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM), and LX 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6AM).

What's a good price on a Used 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid?

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Which used 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrids are available in my area?

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Should I lease or buy a 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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