When I got to the car park in Ballinasloe, both the car-park charging points I could detect off Society Street were occupied. I wasn't in desperate need of power replenishment. I just wanted to fulfil my side of the bargain and charge my Kia XCeed plug-in hybrid at every available opportunity. That is why plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are relevant, after all; they let you travel 35km/45km on cheaper (electric) power than petrol. As I had a lengthy wait, I went for a great walk around the famous town. When I came back there was a charger free.
I've risked boring you with the details of my itinerary to make the point that I was conscious, with the plug-in, that I was not solely reliant on electricity. I still had half a tank of petrol and there were pumps within easy distance.
But what if I had an all-electric car and was down to a few kilometres of range? I know you should never let it get to that, but it has happened me before so I'm justified in citing it as an example. I'd have had to find one somewhere near or wait my turn without the option of going without. Most likely it would have been to wait two hours, as I did with my test car.
Now that we are about to be charged for using the national network, I think it stands to reason that we need ever wider, quicker availability of charge if we are going to cater for the anticipated hundreds of thousands of new EVs over the coming years.
They say you can't beat experience, and on the basis of my past few plug-in test cars I see the logic behind state subsidies for these PHEVs. My charging added the guts of 80kmh on electric-only driving. It would have topped that had I driven more around Dublin rather than heading down country, where we relied mostly on petrol power. Of course, normal hybrid activity continued - regenerative braking, deceleration and so on all pump power back into the battery.
The XCeed is a car I liked as a fossil-fuel-powered crossover when last I drove it. I am a fan of its low-slung, sleek design: styling is a top priority for buyers of cars like this, research has found. While it is based on the five-door Ceed hatch, the front doors are the only shared body panels. I was also taken by the sporty handling and nicely judged cabin.
Unfortunately, handling and ride in the plug-in were not as good. Maybe it had to do with the larger battery pack. I also felt the ContiSportContact tyres on the smart 18in alloys didn't offer enough absorption of rougher road surfaces or tyre noise. They also reduced the level of steering-wheel feedback - a standout element of the non-PHEV version.
Boot space is not great but because the larger plug-in 8.9kW battery pack is slotted under the rear bench next to the 37-litre fuel tank, it isn't invaded to the extent as some rivals but is down to 291 from 426 litres in the petrol/diesel models.
The powertrain combines that 8.9kW battery pack, 44.5kW electric motor and 1.6-litre petrol engine to produce a lively 141PS - especially in Sport mode (though I kept it in Eco most of the time). The on-board computer calculated I drove 'economical' 60pc of the time, 38pc 'normal' and 2pc 'dynamic'. Overall I got 5.1-litres per 100km; excellent.
I liked the idea of an automatic/manual mix of transmission. I think I prefer it to continuously variable transmission (eCVT).
Back-seat room was not as generous as I'd like but there is no disputing the style of the cabin. The infotainment system, and straightforward interactivity it permits, is a good example of how to make it simple for a driver.
You get a good deal of spec for your euro. Key rivals include the Hyundai Kona HEV and Toyota CH-R hybrid, so competition is keen and shopping around recommended.
Would I buy it? Yes, with a couple of provisos. I'd want a home-charger sorted - not feasible at the moment, I'm told - so I wouldn't have to rely on public charging roulette; and I'd look to change the tyres for something a little more forgiving. Overall, I enjoyed this smart urban crossover. It is unintentionally well-named. It's one of many of its kind crossing us over the next few years to the full-electric era. Let's hope our government can match the switchover: starting with as continually good and varied a charging network as our tax money can buy.
KIA XCeed Plug-in hybrid
From €28,945 (incl. grants/ VRT relief); 8.9 kWh battery pack, 44.5kW electric motor, 1.6-litre petrol engine; output 141PS. Claimed electric driving range up to 54kms (NEDC). Equipment includes 6spd double-clutch auto transmission (6DCT), 18in alloys, dual zone auto aircon, 8in Android Auto/Apple Car Play, rear privacy glass, rain sensors, lane keep assist.