Want to know how much progress Kia has made with its Niro PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) in three years? Here's my review of the 2020 model.
We can start with the pictures. Suddenly, the last-generation model (sold right up through last summer) looks old-fashioned. The '23 has a ton more presence. The black C-pillar trim is controversial. Some love it, I don't and it's an extra-cost option you can just say no to.
There are changes under the skin this time, as well. 139 horsepower in last year's model is now a much more robust 180. The old 0-60 time of 8.6 seconds is now a much more respectable 7.3. The 26 miles of pure electric range per charge before the powerplant switches to a gasoline/electric hybrid is now 33. And the EPA fuel economy estimate when operating in hybrid mode has ticked up from 46 mpg to 48.
The change in interiors is more like a five-year leap. Much more contemporary in design. The test vehicle is a 2023 Kia Niro PHEV SX Touring. Top of the line. Base price $40,785 including destination. It also includes a ton of standard equipment---a comprehensive suite of active safety features, electronic stability control, a 10.25-inch center screen with navigation, a Harman/Kardon premium audio system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as a free three-month trial of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, smart key with remote start, wireless phone charger, heated and ventilated front seats, a power driver's seat with memory, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents, 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, rear privacy glass, rain-sensing wipers, a power sunroof, LED headlights and fog lights, LED interior lighting, power-folding outside mirrors, aluminum pedals and forward parking distance warning.
There were only three extra-cost options on our test car, the aforementioned black C-pillar trim ($195), the SX Touring Cold Weather Package (a supplemental cabin heater and heated rear outboard seats---$500) and carpeted floor mats ($155). Which brings the as-tested price to $41,635.
Put another win in the Kia column. The Niro PHEV is a terrific compact crossover SUV.