IT seems only a few short years ago that the very first electric and hybrid vehicles appeared on our roads and, having tried some of the early versions, I can tell you they did not get off to a promising start.
Very short electric only range and prohibitive up-front costs were two of the main stumbling blocks as well as overall MPG figures for hybrids, which did not seem to justify the investment for many.
However, how things have come on… suddenly we have electric cars which can do hundreds of miles on a single charge and the power points to keep them juiced up are also popping up all over the place.
A good example of those leaps forward is the new Kia XCeed PHEV sports crossover which combines the best of both petrol and electric power. A plug in hybrid it is capable, say Kia, of returning a shade over 200 mpg and can be driven in electric only mode for up to 36 miles.
Both motors work together to give performance of 0 to 60 in a respectable 10.4 seconds in Sport mode with the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 104bhp, topped up to 139 by the electric motor meaning a top speed of 107 is also possible.
We got our hands on the top of the line XCeed ‘3’ version which has a long spec sheet in line with Kia’s push to move upmarket. This included 16” alloy wheels, LED lights all round, auto lights and wipers, heated front seats and steering wheel, smart cruise control, keyless start/stop, 10.25” touchscreen sat-nav and infotainment system, reversing camera and a raft of safety systems with features such as lane assist, driver attention warning, collision avoidance and pedestrian warning.
Designed in Europe for the European market the XCeed is compact, good looking and well put together with the kind of quality materials and finishes we’ve come to expect from Kia all backed up by their industry-leading seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
But back to the PHEV’s USP – that hybrid capability. There are three driving modes, EV, which shuts off the petrol engine while the battery lasts, automatic which chooses the power mode that best suits the circumstances and Hybrid which takes over when battery is low and collects power when the car is braking or slowing down. There’s also a Sport button that boosts throttle response with the petrol engine running all the time and power coming from both sources.
Ride and handling are also more European coping well with different driving surfaces and giving a quiet smooth journey. Steering is effortless and the brakes sharp without much evidence of that regen system harvesting energy during braking.
So with that full charge 36-mile range most regular journeys are possible on environmentally friendly electric power, which also costs a fraction of the internal combustion stuff. Kia say the car will fully charge on a domestic socket in a few hours and it certainly did so overnight outside Howarth Towers.
The Ceed range starts from £18,855 with the PHEV models towards the top of the price list. Our high spec model was £30,695 on the road.
I would say the hybrid has now come of age and as prices drop nearer to conventional power trains (and the fact that the Government has banned new internal combustion engine vehicles from 2035) electric power will quickly become the norm on our roads.
As a total petrol-head that comes as a sad reality – but I suppose we’ve all got to give something up to save the planet.
More information at www.kia.co.uk
By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth