Just as with the Hyundai Ioniq, the Kia Niro SUV is available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric forms. Both the hybrid and the PHEV mate a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 43bhp electric motor for a peak 139bhp and 191lb ft of torque, and both are front-wheel drive, using a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
The only meaningful difference that the plug-in hybrid offers, besides a socket via which to charge it, is a bigger drive battery (8.9kWh versus 1.6kWh) – so there’s no extra electric performance associated with the PHEV here.
Being a crossover SUV, the Niro offers good practicality and convenience compared with a regular five-door hatchback, although its drivability and handling aren’t as polished as those of other hybrids we’ve tested, and its real-world economy isn’t a match for the best, either.
The fully electric e-Niro, by contrast, is one of the most compelling and convincing affordable electric family cars on the market – so if you were considering any Niro, the full EV is the one we’d recommend.
Subaru is not a company you’d expect to make a typical hybrid powertrain, and its new eBoxer system doesn’t disappoint on that score. Intended to be lightweight and compact, to slot into its existing boxer-engined cars without major re-engineering and to allow them to maintain the off-road capability and towing and carrying capacity for which Subaru has built a reputation, the eBoxer system is currently available in both this XV and the larger Forester SUV.
In both cars, the eBoxer set-up adds only limited electric-only running and low-rev torque into the mix of the driving experience. It’s quite a challenge to be gentle enough with the car’s accelerator pedal in order to keep the combustion engine switched off at low speeds. However, the system’s contribution of mid-range torque during intensive off-roading and towing is more telling.
The XV was an unusual and unconventional crossover hatchback before its hybrid powertrain came along, and anyone hoping that this would make it more suitable to everyday motoring, or that it might transform the car’s fuel efficiency, will be disappointed by the reality of running one. But if you really do need a dose of ruggedness and true off-road capability in your petrol-electric hatchback (rather than an entirely electrically driven rear axle like rivals offer, which becomes pretty useless once the car’s drive battery is flat) the XV might just have been made for you.