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Car And Driver Thinks You Too Will Like The 2023 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

In what I sincerely hope is a thinly veiled U2 reference, the headline of Car and Driver’s recent review of the 2023 Kia Niro plug-in hybrid (PHEV) proclaims that they have found what they’re looking for in this PHEV and that it now “makes a lot more sense”.


While I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For isn’t the U2 song C&D is channeling, that would be Two Hearts Beat As One, this makes me wonder: what exactly do they mean by “more sense”? Are they possibly talking about practicality and penny pinching fuel economy (one of the virtues of almost any type of hybrid vehicle, afterall)?

Nah, this is Car and Driver we’re talking about here! It makes more sense because it’s got more motor! The new 2023 Niro PHEV indeed gets a bump from 139 hp to 180 hp thanks to a more powerful electric motor, though it still has the same 195 lb. ft. of torque. This additional power, as C&D puts it, “rethinks the model’s powertrain hierarchy…” and “positions their importance by performance”. Or in other words, you pay more money, you get more motor! Imagine that.

One thing that interests me about C&D’s review, as they always do, is what kind of results the writers and testers get from driving vehicles that are clearly oriented toward efficiency. I know in my heart of hearts that to be a writer for C&D one must have lead feet (but still love a Red Light). Sure enough, in their testing C&D manages to get worse all electric range and fuel economy than the Niro PHEV is capable of. That’s because of how they drive it of course (like they stole it)! But really, that is the whole reason I appreciate their write ups; not because I drive like they do (well, not all the time anyway), but because they drive like so many other people do, which is fast(er).

I may joke and say they’re out there hooning their rides again, but there are plenty of places in the U.S. where the speed limits are above what they are in my part of the country (the west coast) or where the police just don’t pursue people speeding with quite as much devotion, perhaps. In their 75 MPH testing, the Kia Niro PHEV falls short of both its EV only range estimate (33 miles, but they only got 25) and its average MPG (49 MPG, but they only got 37). So yeah, those lead feet make a significant difference. I estimate (not having had a chance to drive the 2023 Niro PHEV yet, but based on my experience driving other Kia PHEVs including the 2022 Niro PHEV), that if one were to drive the plug-in hybrid more gently it would be easy to meet and significantly exceed it’s EPA estimate for both EV range and MPG.

If I simply apply the figures I am able to achieve in my Kia Sorento PHEV after over a year of driving it, I estimate that I could get an average of at least 52 MPG and 38 miles of EV only range from the Niro PHEV (and better still when the conditions are right, like slower moving freeway or two lane highway traffic on a warm day, etc.). But I drive a PHEV because of its efficiency and utility. I drive my EV (a Tesla Model 3) when I want to have fun (and not burn any gas while doing so).

Since most of us aren’t driving 75 MPH all the time, I would humbly suggest that anyone who might drive 75 MPH often could still get better efficiency results (than C&D) from the 2023 Niro PHEV as long as they 1. Remember to charge up their PHEV regularly and 2. Do at least a quarter of their driving on roads and streets that do have names.

What do you think about the new Niro PHEV? Would your efficiency be better than what C&D’s writers got? Do you even care that much about the handling and speed of this small crossover anyway? Please leave your questions and comments below.

Image courtesy of Kia.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.


Ginelle (not verified)    January 1, 2023 - 11:43AM

I drive a 2019 kia niro and I love it! The only 2 drawbacks are in winter driving, the car doesn't produce interior cabin heat until its driven for 30 minutes; And it really struggles (down to 45 mph) when going over steep mountain passes.

Justin Hart    January 4, 2023 - 3:03AM

In reply to by Ginelle (not verified)

It slows down that much? That’s surprising with the amount of horsepower and torque, but even ore surprising to me is how long it takes to provide heat! All of my EVs were actually able to produce plentiful cabin heat in a matter of a few minutes (faster than my gas powered cars in fact). I wonder if there is a setting you can put it on that produces heat faster? I know in my Volt, if the care was in “Eco” mode, heating would take longer… if I put the HVAC in “Max” setting, it heated up in about 2-3 mins. I hope it is something as easy as that for you!