Kia’s very first stab at a dedicated hybrid model is the Niro sub-compact crossover that was introduced today at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.
It might share its same name with the Niro Concept from the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, but there’s nothing else in common between the two, with the production model that Kia calls a "hybrid utility vehicle" or HUV, adopting a modern but inconspicuous exterior design, something that Kia says was a conscious choice.
“The Niro hits the sweet spot by offering the best combination of outstanding mpg, an engaging driving experience, utility, and most importantly, a stunning design that doesn’t shout ‘hybrid,’” said Orth Hedrick, vice president product planning at Kia Motors of America.
The sub-compact model rides on the Hyundai-Kia Group’s new dedicated eco-car platform also found on the new Hyuindai Ioniq, but unlike the latter that offers a choice of electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid powertrains, the Niro will launch with a single hybrid powertrain, a 103hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline direct-injection unit working in tandem with a 43hp electric motor to produce a combined 146hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.
That power is transmitted to the front wheels through a newly developed, second-generation six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), while the system is completed by a lightweight 1.56-kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery located underneath the rear seat.
While it hasn’t been certified yet, Kia says that it’s targeting a combined fuel economy of 50mpg, equal to 4.7l/100km and 60.1mpg UK, which is very close to the new Toyota Prius’ 52mpg combined.
To help the driver achieve better fuel economy numbers, the Korean maker has fitted the Niro with what it calls Eco-DAS(Driver Assistance System) incorporating the brand’s first application of Coasting Guide and Predictive Energy Control that utilize the navigation system and cruise control to anticipate topographical changes on the road ahead and actively manage energy flow.
Prices for the new Niro are expected to be released closer to its sales launch in the fourth quarter of the year.