2020 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium Test Drive

2020 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium

Niro PHEV Receives Mid-Cycle Refresh


The Kia Niro was unveiled at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show appearing as a 2017 production model. The Kia Niro debuted as an all-new, compact, near midsize, urban crossover hybrid that serves up a bold, athletic crossover design, combined with functionality and versatility as well as outstanding fuel economy.

It is a four-door, five passenger plug-in hybrid compact crossover that is approaching mid-size. A limited-production Graphite Edition Niro PHEV model appeared in 2018.


The new for 2020 Kia Niro PHEV is available in three levels of trim: the new entry point LXS; EX and EX Premium and it comes with several exterior enhancements, including redesigned front and rear fascias, a new diamond-pattern grille and dual chevron-shaped LED daytime running lights, new fog lamps, and updated projector-type headlights. A new, chiseled rear bumper design and lower bumper trim. The faux rear skid plate is wider and more pronounced and the rear LED combination lights display a more appealing look. Roof rack rails now standard.

Interior changes include: a new instrument panel with new audio displays; a re-styled 7-inch instrument cluster with improved drive mode graphics, a standard 8-inch touchscreen display, or optional 10.25-inch screen with navigation. New Synthetic leather seat upholstery now available.


Visually, the 2020 Kia Niro PHEV is unmistakably recognizable as a member of the Kia family, with styling cues borrowed from the larger Kia Sedona and smaller Kia Soul. In many ways, it loosely resembles a reduced version of the Sedona’s overall form, but with its own contemporary personality.

The Kia Niro displays wide and low proportions with its long wheelbase and short overhangs yielding an athletic stance, while aggressively shaped headlights and a new execution of Kia’s tiger nose grille, defining the front theme. The Niro’s profile showcases strong shoulders, defined wheel arches, rocker-panel cladding, and roof rails. The sporty rear image is enabled by its wide stance, rear skid plate, and multi-element horizontal LED tail lamp graphic. In essence, the Kia Niro doesn’t mimic other hybrids in the marketplace. It features its own appealing design, delivering an appearance that is strong and athletic, as well as sculpted and modern.

Moving to the interior, the instrument panel is uncluttered and clean, with colorful and informative gauges at the forefront and perfectly positioned primary and secondary controls falling readily to hand. The utilization of traditionally simple, “old school” round knobs is a delight.


Despite its diminutive size, the Niro provides a comfortable and spacious cabin for five occupants and their gear, while delivering a full array of driver assistance features including: an advanced high-strength steel structure, seven airbags, available Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, and Lane Departure Warning. There’s also Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go, steering wheel-mounted paddle controls (for shifting in Sport mode, and regen braking in Eco mode), 7-inch LCD instrument cluster, wireless phone charger, cloth and leather seating with heated front seats, and 10-way power driver’s seat. The EX Premium trim also adds a standard sunroof and a10.25-inch touchscreen display.


The motive force for all Kia Niro models is provided by a 1.6-liter DOHC, 16- valve four-cylinder Atkinson cycle Gasoline Direct Injection engine that delivers 104 horsepower at 5,700 rpm along with 109 pound feet of torque. The gas engine joins forces with an Electric Motor – a 240 Volt AC Synchronous Permanent Magnet Motor, 240V / 43 Horsepower /125 pound feet of torque from a compact and lightweight 1.56-kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery located beneath the rear seat. And because the high-voltage battery is both power and energy dense, it is smaller and lighter than other hybrid batteries, allowing the engineers to downsize the gasoline engine to further maximize fuel economy and reduce emissions. The power produced by the combined hybrid system is 139 horsepower and 195 pound feet of torque. Energy is geared to the front driving wheels, not by a CTV transmission, but rather via a conventional second generation, six-speed Dual Clutch Transmission with standard Sport Mode and dry, multi-plate hydraulically actuated.


My test 2020 Kia Niro was a PHEV model in EX Premium trim. The base price was set at $36,390 with the final sticker totaling $37,790 after factoring in the Carpeted Floor and cargo mats and net and Inland Freight and Handling charges. The exterior was sprayed Horizon Blue metallic with neon blue hybrid accents. The interior was done primarily in Black with Charcoal trim elements.


The 2020 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium provides a very un-hybrid-like driving experience. The system is not obvious or intrusive. It accelerates quickly off the line and continues with a smooth delivery of power. Handling characteristics are sporty with a spot-on steering feedback and instantaneous response. Brake feel is also positive thanks to Niro’s regenerative system seamlessly blending in with the hydraulic friction braking system, providing a more consistent and linear feel than most other hybrids.

Special attention is also paid to brake feel. Applying lessons learned through development of two generations of Optima Hybrids as well as the fully electric Soul EV, Kia engineers designed the Niro’s regenerative system to seamlessly blend in hydraulic friction braking. Consequently, deceleration feels more consistent with a more linear feel than in most other hybrids.

An Eco-Driver Assistance System features Kia’s Coasting Guide and Predictive Energy Control, which use the navigation system and analysis of the driver’s route to improve driving efficiency. The Coasting Guide aims at maximizing fuel economy by coaching the driver on when to coast and brake. Predictive Energy Control anticipates topographical changes on the road ahead to actively manage energy flow, determining when it’s best to recharge the battery and when it’s best to expend stored energy to optimize overall efficiency.

Niro was the first Kia to make use of an all-new, dedicated eco-car platform and is an important next step on the path to nearly tripling the brand’s global EcoDynamics line-up.

EPA mileage estimates for the Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium are 105 MPGe with a range of 560 miles. The all-electric range with a full charge is 26-miles. Charging time is 2.25 hours with a 240V system.


Bottom line, the 2020 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium is an eye-pleasing, compact, wagon-like, urban hybrid crossover that is not only affordable, but also versatile and practical, it is also one of the most efficient hybrids available in today’s marketplace.


Base Price: $36,390.
Price as Tested: $37,790.

Engine Type and Size: 1.6-liter DOHC, 16-valve Inline 4-cylinder Gasoline Direct Injection.

Horsepower (bhp): 104 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 109 @ 4,000 rpm

Electric Motor: 360 Volt AC Synchronous Permanent Magnet Motor, 240V / 60 Horsepower /125 pound feet of torque.
Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery

Combined System performance combined power?
139 horsepower
195 pound feet of torque

Transmission: Six-speed Dual Clutch Transmission with standard Sport Mode and dry, multi-plate hydraulically actuated.

Drive Train: Transversely-mounted front engine / Front-wheel Drive.

Suspension: Front – Independent MacPherson struts, with gas twin tube shocks and stabilizer bar.
Rear – Independent Multi-link with gas twin-tube shocks.

Brakes: Power-assisted Active Hydraulic Boost system four-wheel discs (vented front) with regenerative braking with motor polarity reversal, ABS,

Tires: Michelin Energy Saver A/S 205/60 R18 91Y mounted on 5- spoke machine face alloy wheels with painted inners and spare tire mobility kit.

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length Overall: 171.5 inches
Width: 71.1 inches
Height: 60.8 inches w/ roof rails.
Curb Weight: 3,161 lbs.
Turning Circle: 17. ft. 5 inches

Ground Clearance: 6.3 inches

Approach Angle: 15.9 degrees

Departure Angle: 27.6 degrees
Fuel Capacity: 11.4 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 105 MPGe 51 mpg city / 46 mpg highway range 560 miles. Max speed=106.9 mph
Drag Coefficient: 0.29
0 – 60 mph: 8.6 seconds

# # #


More from Our Auto Expert