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2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid first drive: Open-world environment
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By: AutoweekUSA On: 12-28-2017 Model(s): The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In joins the Niro Hybrid compact crossover in the company’s new electrified lineup. 2018 Kia Niro
Author Experience: Expert review

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In joins the Niro Hybrid compact crossover in the company’s new electrified lineup. It has a range of 26 miles on electricity alone before the gasoline engine takes over, with a total gas/electric driving range of 560 miles. It takes just 2.5 hours to charge fully on a level 2 plug, and Kia claims that driving one would cut the average commuter's fuel costs by half, as long as he or she charged it daily.

That’s all well and good when you’re trying to save the planet. But when you’re slogging through mud more than ten miles from a paved road, and hundreds of miles from a charging station, you’ll be glad this Niro is a plug-in hybrid, and not an EV.  Then again, there’s no spare in the Niro, just a “tire mobility kit.” Fortunately you have more ground clearance than a Prius Prime in this front-wheel drive, non-off-roader, and it turns out that's all we need for clearing deep ruts and muddy puddles in the backwoods of Northern California.

One of the main knocks on EVs is that you can’t do a road trip. Tesla aside, if you need to stop every couple hours for an hour to charge, your 20-hour trek to Florida from the Mitten is as good as doubled. Not so with the plug-in, which can go to work and back silently and electrically, yet still handle a spur-of-the-moment trip to Reno, the biggest little city in the world.

The Niro Plug-In doesn’t scream EV -- it just has little blue aero accents in front and an eco/plug-in badge on the back. The 60-series tires that look tall (which helped off road) look even taller next to other cars on the road. The side profile of the vehicle is cool, but the front end looks a little plain, especially compared to the rest of the handsome SUV/crossover sheetmetal coming out of Kia designer Peter Schreyer’s shop.

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