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Is the Kia Niro a hero?

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

danlisahall
Two-Year Veteran

After offering advice to many buyers here, I feel the need to tap into the collective car wisdom of my fellow car addicts.

While don't drive enough miles to make it pay, I've been desiring some sort of EV for my city / short trip car for years. Most of our days we drive less than 20 miles, mostly on Seattle's arterial streets. A couple of times a month we drive 40 miles to Whidbey Island. An EV is illogical financially, but the idea of not having to gas up several times a month has great allure for me despite that fact! I've been flirting with the Nissan Leaf and Kia Soul EV for 3-4 years. But I want all the modern safety nannies that these have previously lacked. Also, while 100 mile range would work for 90% of my driving, I appreciate the flexibility of a hybrid and don't want to be stuck with such short range of earlier EVs. Up till recently, the available hybrids didn't appeal to me due their lackluster driving characteristics, form factor, or just general quirkiness. Last but not least, I've been driving wagons or hatchbacks for 40 years as I'm a sucker for their utility. Currently I'm currently driving a VW Golf Wolfsburg which I love but with a growing granddaughter & gear it is just a tad small, Add to that the fact that it is getting tad too tight and low slung for my increasingly creaky 70 year old skeleton. So I have been longingly looking the Kia Niro PHEV for the past year. It seems to tick off all the right boxes for me: Great mpg (49 -77+ mpg according to Fuelly); size and utility similar to the Golf, but a bit larger in every dimension & easier egress and ingress, has all the safety features (automous braking, blind spot detection, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, smart cruise), is not quirky looking, has a comfortable, well laid out interior & controls, plenty of cargo space?). Despite a few glitches with the 1st year of production it seems to be pretty well screwed together and Kias in general seem to be trending toward the top tier for reliability. I've test driven a PHEV EX Prem, Touring, & EV EX Prem. As expected the EV acceleration was better than the PHEV, but when shifting to Sport in the PHEV, I felt that the PHEV it was no slouch and not that far off from the EV. The PHEV EX-P ride comfort and noise level on its 206/60R16 Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires was much, much smoother & quieter than the EV on its P215/55R17 Michelin Primacy MX tires (Touring HEV with 18" 245 series Primacy MX was similar) ? amazing how much better the 16 inchers are! Also, The EV has an odd, annoying pitched whine at idle that goes away after the car reaches ~ 10 mph. Pedestrian warning I think that probably one could get used to it. Last EV gripe is that the top end EV (@ $45,000 +) didn't have memory function for the driver's seat. The PHEV EX Prem has that and every time the car is turned off, the seat automatically moves as far back as it will go. Not a big deal for many but if one is struggling with, hip, knee, back or weight issues, it definitely would make ingress & egress easier. Besides the acceleration, the only thing I liked better about the EV was the shifter and the larger center console. When I do the math, even with the reduced WA sales tax and greater Fed Tax Credit, the PHEV comes in about $4,600 less than the EV. Since I drive only about 7,000 / yr, I wouldn't come close to recovering the cost differential in 10 year unless the gasoline takes a huge jump. So even though the EV's lack of moving parts / maintenance is a draw, I'm likely to go for a PHEV as its electric range matches our daily drives. I simply don't need the longer electric range of a pure EV. If we want to go 200+ miles, we would take our 2015 Outback as it still is more comfy than the Niro. So after reading all this you may be wondering, so what's the question? I have two

  1. It is why shouldn't I by a Niro? Even Michael (True Delta's founder) seemed to think it was a pretty good little hatch.
  2. Realizing that the car market and fuel prices are a moving target, do you think that there is likely to be a significant difference between the retained value of a Niro PHEV vs Niro EV 5 years from now.
Thanks!

Priorities: Fuel economy / Ride smoothness / Feature availability

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider new cars only

Maximum price: US $ 35000

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Response from AcuraT

10:41 am August 16, 2019

As I would expect from you - you well researched what you want and have valid reasons for wanting it. As you stated the second year of production (2018) got rid of the first year concerns.

Unfortunately, both PHEV and EVs don't keep their value particularly well. There are many reasons but the key one among them is all the government tax discounts and price cuts by the manufactuers mean when you buy the car, the actual cost is depreciated from the start. Since you are buying it for less, it is worth less - and it just drops from there below the MSRP. Changing technology also kills the value. Just look at the difference in value of a used Nissan Leaf Generation 1 and Generation 2. So in that itself is the only reason I see why you would not want to get one - because IF you plan to replace the car in a few years and not keep it for the life of the car. You did not mention how long you plan to keep it, so I have to bring that up.

There are a couple of sites I like that give a good overview of why these types of car depreciate.

https://cleantechnica.com/2016/09/03/depreciation-electric-cars-today-tomorrow-2020/

https://www.befrugal.com/tools/electric-car-calculator/

The first gives a very good detailed explanation behind the many reasons of depreciation. The second tells you how to calculate how much you can save over a regular gas engine.

When I bought a car last year I was tempted to buy a PHEV but massive discounts on a light hybrid (that just turns off at red lights) made the break-even on the initial cost over a 21 year period. It just cost me too much to not go with the light hybrid as I would never get that back (I keep cars as long as 14 years but not 21). Best of luck!

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Response from danlisahall

3:39 pm August 16, 2019

Thanks Lectrofuel. The befrugal site looks fun. Unfortunately I couldn't find the Niro there.But I know that there is no way that I can make an EV pay financially with our annual mileage.Probably true of most folks unless they drive their EV or Hybrid at least 15-20K yr. Let's face it, with rare exceptions its very unusal for any car to be a good financial decsions

So while I tend to be quite frugal, even in car choices, getting any sort of an EV would be an emotional / physological decision, not a financial one.

I would plan on keeping a Niro 5 years, perhaps even 10 if I could control my car buying impulses. I'm not convinced that the cost of new EVs is going to trend downward dramatically any time in the next 5 years not that there will be any great leaps forward toward abondoment of the ICE . My guess is that EV range will continue to improve and that the safety features will be fairly static until an exceptable, safe automomous vehicle becomes a reality.

I also don't see the majority of the general car buying public abandoing ICE cars for EVs en mass anytime in the next 5 years unless gas prices more than triple or they are forced to legislatively. Witness the continued popularity of gas guzzling pick ups & the ongoing, strong resistance to Fed fuel consumption regulation. I think the next major breakthrough in vehicle tech is going to be the automomous car which will also be resisted by many. We do love to drive and hate to be told what we should drive!

Philsophical musings aside, maybe I'll come to my senses before signing on the dotted line. I could chuck the notion I need all the safety nannies and get a 3 yr old Leaf or Soul EV for about what I could sell my Golf for. That might actually be a good car financial investment!

Would love to get more options on the Niro in BEV or PHEV format.

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Response from AcuraT

5:47 pm August 17, 2019

Actually, I am not Lectrofuel but I would be interested in his opinion - the three of us spend time on here answering questions when we can.

It depends on your driving to make the economics of the surcharge paying for an electified car work in your favor. You are right, you lose money on any car you buy - you just lose a little more according to the sources including that first link I sent going the EV or PHEV route. You are also right, going slightly used on one of those cars you get a huge markdown as the resale market is terrible.

Totally agree with you - the next big advance coming in the next 5 to 15 years is the self driving car as well as those who won't even own a car and just use Uber/Lyft/Name your driving service. Time is running out for those who like to drive unmonitored/unautomated but not all that soon. Future generations will look in the history books of those who drove their own car - probably in 100 years or so. I do think it is going to take some time to get to that fully automated point because the technical difficulties involved as well as the cost right now to make such a self-driving car work. Surprislngly GM with SuperCruise is the forefront of what you can buy right now, and it is a $10,000 option only on a couple of Cadillacs so far. Tesla is trying as well and they are even more expensive.

The stuff being done by Cruise (GM and Honda self driving division in California) and Google (Waymo starting testing in Arizona later this year with the public) is so expensive and experimental you cannot even buy it right now. And the PR disaster for Uber in this area because they were rushing to catch up forced them out of this catagory for now. Even Apple gave it up because they saw no hope of catching up - or doing something different that made sense. The European companies are banding together to try to make a run at it but they are way behind the American firms and surpisingly, the far east is even further behind in this catagory as the only news I have heard is that Toyota is investigating an all-electric car but is quite some distance away from selling one.

Let us know what you decide, I am sure it will be interesting. Like I posted, I took a small step in the hybrid car getting one that turns off at stop lights that has AWD. My trouble is I do live in CT on a mountain so getting a FWD battery car won't work in the winter even with snow tires since I tried that with my old Saab and I could not get up the unplowed road to my home. I am sure a battery powered car won't do it either. Whenever I leave CT I can reconsider.

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Response from LectroFuel

12:33 pm August 19, 2019

Personally, I would be scared if I needed to travel further than the EV range in the Niro EV because there is no supercharger network. I wouldn't be able to take road trips. My wife went three days without charging overnight last week and realized on her way to work she would need to stop at a supercharger to be safe and not get range anxiety. She only had a 40 mile estimated range and 30 miles of freeway to get home. There is no charging network except ChargePoint and a few smaller brands for non-Tesla EVs.

If you plan to not drive far everyday then both the PHEV and EV have their advantages: The EV will be all electric all the time and the PHEV will stay on EV mode for a short time, possibly meaning you won't have to fill up with gas nearly as often.

I would say this comes down to your preference. You can't really go wrong with either. The question is whether you really want a true EV and never have to fill up with gas, get instant torque, and pay a few grand more and miss out on memory seats.

EVs and PHEVs depreciate more than most gas cars as AcuraT said. However,Teslas hold their value 2 times better than the average gas car.

Also something to think about is your electricity rates and if you have time of use (TOU) plans. Here in CA we have special time of use electricity plans specifically for people with EVs. Charging at night costs 9 cents per kw/h and from 4pm to 9pm costs 54 cents per kw/h. Without these plans, it would be useless to own an EV as you would never get your ROI. I learned this the hard way after the first month of owning the Tesla because our electric bill was over $600.

I couldn't end this without telling you to test drive a Tesla Model 3 before your Kia purchase. There have been several posts online of people saying they were not in the market to purchase a car, and they unexpectedly driving out of the Tesla store with a new Model 3. I would describe the driving experience as otherworldly. It is such an amazing car. The only thing it is missing for you is it is not a crossover. It is pretty low to the ground, so that may be a deal breaker. It has some of the best seats I have ever sat in (many car reviewers have said the same). 12 way power seats for both front seats, so the lumbar adjuster has 4 ways of adjustment. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes by power and gets out of the way when the car is in "Easy Entry" mode. 240 miles is the base model's range. The base model also has Autopilot standard, so the car drives itself under supervision. Along with that is all the active safety features you expect. The car gets many software updates, so it always feels fresh and interesting. Cargo space is very good for a sedan because you get the frunk as well as the massive under-floor storage well in the trunk. It just feels like the future, but in a really good way. Delivery time is only 2 weeks now and their build quality problems are much less frequent. This video does a good job summarizing everything.

You can't really go wrong with either the Kias or Tesla. I just think the Tesla is a great deal at $39k before incentives. And it comes well equipped on the base model. The Kia EV is similarly priced, but with more incentives.

I would avoid the old Leaf. They have a problem with battery degradation. The old Soul EV might be good, but the range is short. I would recommend a Chevy Volt as well. GM hasn't embraced safety features much, but you may want to see if you can get a good deal on those before they are off the lots forever if they aren't already. Depreciation will be a problem with those I would guess.

A note on the Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires: I have those on my Prius and while they allow the car to get good MPG, they are pretty loud in my opinion. The amount of low rolling resistance tires on the market is kind of small, so there wasn't much I had to choose from. Tires can make or break your MPG. Again, I learned this the hard way with my first Prius.

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Response from danlisahall

6:35 pm September 21, 2019

Thank you all for suggestions. Everything I read about Tesla says its amazing (well, except for reliablity), but it just isn't the form factor I want. Honestly, I'm more into form factor & utility than speed, luxury, or cache. Great car for some folks, but not my style!

In the final analysis, the Niro is my hero -- at least for now -- ask me in 3 years! I purchased a 2019 PHEV Ex Premium w all bells n whistles.

Because of my low annual miles there is no way I am I gonna save money or getting a similar ICE such as a VW Gold Sportwagen. But I decided the Niro is my Goldilocks car for now. Not big, not too small, comfortable, practical (actually very much like a VW Golf Sportwagen with a little less sport, a little more passenger comfort and amenities, and whole let less gas). I confess that I am probably still scarred by the long lines & skyrocketing fuel prices from the 1973 Arab oil embargo and like really the idea of rarely stopping at the gas station. So far I have about 400 miles on my Niro including two 90 mile trips and have still have an estimated 390 miles of range on an 11.4 gal tank. Some owners report whose daily miles are less than 30 report getting over 900 miles / tankful.

Tire: I agree LectoFuel: I plan to replace the OEM Michelin Energy Saver AS tires with Continental TrueContact Touring for quieter, better ride, & improved wet weather (Seattle) performance. Another Niro owner who closely tracks his mileage swapped his OEM Michelins for the Contis and said noise was noticably reduced and he hardly noticed any mpg loss.

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Response from LectroFuel

2:05 am September 23, 2019

Congrats danlisahall! Good choice. Hopefully with more and more hybrids and EVs coming out we will see more tires focused on fuel efficiency while preserving ride, handling, quietness, etc. I have a friend with a 1st gen Volt and he didn't change his oil for the first 50k miles because he uses the engine so rarely. I told him he should change it because it isn't good for it to sit for too long (hence why we have 6 month intervals typically), but I could be wrong. I wouldn't recommend it.

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Response from danlisahall

4:55 pm September 26, 2019

Thanks Electofuel. It is true that Hybrid owners whose use is mostly short jaunts use their ICE very little. Some Kia Niro owners have estimated that their ICE miles account for only 25 -50% of their total miles driven.That leads to the quandry of when to change oil & whether or not one needs to put a fuel preservative in their gas tank as they may go for months without refilling.

My take is that oil changes are highly overrated except for keeping the engine warranty in effect. Most cars less that 20 years old can go 6,000 -10,000 miles between oil change (6K with dino oil, 10K with synthetic). That is backed up by multiple fleet endurance tests, manufacturer's waranties, and engine oil analysis. The length of time the oil sits in the crankcase is not an issue. For the past 20 years I have changed my oil once a year (I average about 8,000 miles/ yr and never experienced any engine issues. Actually, I think that may be overkill!

The fuel deterioration issue is a little bit less certain. My impression is that with modern, top tier gas, 6 months (perhaps longer) should be no problem.

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Response from AcuraT

3:28 pm October 2, 2019

Congrats on the good choice danlisahall. I hope you get what you want out of that choice, thank you for sharing.

I have a friend with a Volt who changes his oil every 7500 miles with limited engine use and it works fine after 100,000 miles. He owns the 2013 so now it is 6 years old and still going strong. I have another friend with a newer Volt (2017) who changes it at the same interval as recommended and has no issues. I don't take chances delaying the oil change on any car I own, but then again, I have never owned a full hybrid. I also don't feel the urge to replace any car before 10 years and 140,000 miles at minimum, unless it is having severe problems.

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