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Why drive a plug-in-hybrid Niro, and not the all-electric e-Niro? It's a good question, with a simple answer: there are none to be had.
At the start of 2019 Kia UK's allocation of e-Niros sold out within weeks, leaving 3000-odd customers on a waiting list – including us. So rather than wait an age, we opted, like many would-be e-Niro buyers, to go for the next best thing, and sign up for a Niro plug-in hybrid until all-electric Niro supply resumes.
Electric vehicles may be the automotive sector's current hot topic – part of environmental evangelist Greta Thunberg's stark climate-change landscape – but let's get some perspective here. The latest available figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that year-to-date car registrations for 2019 were 2,162,143. Petrol cars accounted for the bulk of that, with 1,404,389 registrations, followed by diesel at 549,793 – a 22 per cent slump over the same period in 2018. By comparison plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles – cars that need to be plugged in to recharge their batteries – amounted to just 30,254 and 32,911 respectively. Non-plug-in hybrids and mild hybrids accounted for the remaining 144,796 registrations.
So, at 2.9 per cent of market share, plug-in sales look modest. But with total vehicle registrations slumping 2.7 per cent, a 20 per cent sector jump certainly bucks the trend. Kia is confident it will have a plentiful supply of e-Niros to be part of that continuing growth.
Don't, however, think that we're just drumming our fingers in the Niro PHEV, waiting for the e-Niro to arrive. Far from it. The hybrid is interesting enough in itself, and plenty of buyers won't be treating it as a stop-gap. If things turn out as well as we hope, it should slip seamlessly into our busy daily routine. Its ability to cover up to 35 miles on a full charge means we will be able to complete the vast majority of local trips and commutes on silent and cheap electrical power.
It's no looker – not one of Peter Schreyer's best – but the high-riding Niro is spacious, swallowing children, dogs and the odd cello without complaint. And its mid-range '3' spec means it comes laden with safety and convenience equipment. The only option we've picked is the £585 Horizon Blue paintwork; the total is £32,530.
I've only had the car two days and covered just 55 miles. First impressions are positive, though. Drawing on a combined 139bhp and 195lb ft of torque from the 1.6-litre direct-injection naturally aspirated petrol engine and electric motor, the 1490kg Niro's performance is peppy enough; the two powerplants work seamlessly together; economy has hovered around 73mpg; the seven-speed double-clutch 'box is smooth enough; and we've all enjoyed the intuitive connectivity, thumping sound system and comfortable heated leather seats. The miles will clock up quickly.
By Ben Oliver
Logbook: Kia Niro PHEV 3
Price £31,945 (£35,530 as tested)
Performance 1580cc hybrid four-cylinder, 139bhp, 10.4sec 0-62mph, 107mph
Efficiency 202mpg (official), 73mpg (tested), 29g/km CO2
Energy cost 8.2p per mile
Miles this month 55
Total miles 55