People often curse electric utilities when they receive their monthly bill. When it comes to the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid and the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, consumers might praise electric utilities instead. That’s because these are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) with sport/utility styling cues. But just one of ‘em provides true SUV capabilities.
Good thing for Kia that there’s more to a compelling plug-in hybrid that going off-road. Sized and, when comparably equipped, priced about the same, the Kia Niro PHEV and Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid distinguish themselves with key differences that could sway you in one direction or the other.
New for 2019, the Crosstrek Hybrid is Subaru’s second attempt to sell a greener version of its entry-level crossover SUV. Available in limited quantities, and sold only in top-level trim, this Crosstrek Hybrid is better than the original. But is it better than the Niro PHEV, which offers greater diversity in terms of price, equipment, and availability?
Let’s find out.
The best things about the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid
Both the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid and the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid receive Top Safety Pick+ ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (Photos: Kia and Subaru)
Characterized as a crossover by Kia, due to its 6.3 inches of ground clearance, gray body cladding, and undeniable utility, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid lacks nothing more than all-wheel drive (AWD) to firmly cement its superiority in this contest.
It offers nine more miles of electric driving range than the Subaru, goes 80 miles further on a full charge and tank of gas, and supplies as much as 11.4 more cubic feet of cargo space. And let’s not forget about Kia’s legendary warranty and roadside assistance coverage plans, which best Subaru by years and tens of thousands of miles.
Kia offers more choice, too. The Niro Plug-in Hybrid comes in three trim levels, and the base price is $6,495 less than the Crosstrek Hybrid, which comes one way: fully loaded. The Kia’s federal income tax credit is also bigger by $41.
The best things about the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
When it comes to cargo space, the Kia reigns supreme. That’s because the Subaru’s battery pack takes up space under the Crosstrek Hybrid’s trunk floor. (Photos: Kia and Subaru)
In this comparison, the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid’s primary benefits are AWD and 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which is a whopping 2.4 inches more than the Kia. That extra clearance is great both for blizzards and bouncing around in the boonies, so if you’re living that lifestyle, the Kia won’t work. Plus, Subaru says you can tow 1,000 pounds of trailer with the Crosstrek Hybrid. Kia doesn’t recommend towing with the Niro PHEV.
Subaru also offers several features for the Crosstrek Hybrid that are unavailable on the Kia. Among them, the PIN code vehicle access function allows you to lock the keys inside of the Subaru while you’re hiking, biking, kayaking, and otherwise actively living your life. And if you have kids, the Crosstrek Hybrid’s Wi-Fi hotspot and slick iPad-based rear-seat entertainment system are compelling.
Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid vs. Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. Which is better?
This photo says it all. The Kia is best on pavement. The Subaru is best on dirt. (Photos: Kia and Subaru)
As is often the case, your choice between a Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid and a Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid boils down to how you live your life.
The Subaru goes off-road, and the Kia doesn’t. If you don’t explore the world beyond the pavement, the Niro PHEV is going to serve you best. It offers more electric and total driving range, more cargo space, and more long-term peace of mind.
If you’re an adventurer and can live with the Crosstrek’s puny cargo area (because battery), get the Subie. You can always add utility to the Crosstrek through the roof-mounted carriers available through the dealership.