It's hybrid-matic!

Blog post posted on 25/08/20 |

For the past two years, I’ve been driving a hybrid Kia e-Niro and thought it was about time I shared the experience with you all.

As a brief overview the car is a nice place to be. While not dynamically the most engaging vehicle I have ever driven, the cabin is comfortable, the technology is up to date with all of the functions we expect from a modern infotainment system and the heated seats are a blessing on chilly morning.

The heated steering wheel, which I laughed at when the car was delivered, has proven to be a fantastic feature and should be one of the first ticks on the specification sheet when purchasing any new car.

The car will travel a distance in all-electric mode and in the case of the Kia, the range is shown as 35 miles - this has proved to be generally accurate.

I charge the car overnight at a cost of around £1.60, well this is what I am told. This allows the Kia to carry out the basic trips like popping to the shops and various family necessity runs on battery alone.

When using this mode, it is not unusual to see 999mpg for a period and the eerie silence of the car can be reminiscent of a milk float, just without the chinking bottles. Slowing down is mostly achieved with regenerative braking, with assistance from the mechanical system when required.

The only anomaly to this is that with a fully charged battery the re-gen braking is lacking; I suppose if it doesn’t need any power it won’t try to make it.

The car is a regular visitor to the delights of the A1M on the commute to Welwyn Garden City and with a fully charged battery on setting off will happily do the first 35 miles at motorway speeds on full electric mode.

When the battery depletes the propulsion, mode changes to hybrid and the ICE (internal combustion engine) starts.

The Kia then becomes a straightforward petrol engine driven through the front wheels via a six-speed DSG gearbox and it performs as you would expect a modern 1600cc petrol car.

Slowing down will still use regenerative braking in the first instance but only to keep the hybrid part of the battery topped up. Another bonus is the fact that I can save the 35 miles to use in town by manually selecting hybrid mode (HEV) from the off and the battery will remain fully charged until I select electric mode (EV).  

I have noticed some little glitches in the system that can be annoying until you learn to overcome them. A slight hesitation is often present in EV mode (apparently designed to prevent maximum torque pull away destroying the tyres), the transition from re-gen braking to the mechanical system sometimes lacks smooth progression and can be a bit grabby - but most would argue that is me not the car.

As you can expect the mpg figures vary considerably depending on the way I drive. A spirited session making use of the available acceleration and progressing to the speed limit at every opportunity can see the mid-40s achieved, where a more restrained style with judicious acceleration can return mid-60s. In either instance it’s better than a petrol-only car of a similar size.

As a useful everyday vehicle, the hybrid has been an excellent choice. The performance and economy have been good and so far, the reliability has been excellent, except for the aircon which has a mind of its own.

It is a shame the government seems not to value the technology as it would appear hybrids are demonised in the same way as petrol and diesel cars. The fact that they too are being banned by 2035 in new vehicles will likely mean the development of the HEV has gone as far as is likely.

I now wonder if I can get the Mustang MACH-E on the company car list? Before anyone says it, I know it’s not a Mustang, although ‘Battery Pony’ would be a great name for a car.

Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart.