Kia used the Windy City to debut the production version of its Niro concept. More than just a mere model family, the Niro also heralds the eventual proliferation of an all new eco car platform that will be used in other models.
As for the Niro itself, the exterior styling is a textbook exercise in Kia’s brand of distinctiveness though subtle influences from the larger Sorento are also present especially near the D-pillar. The front fascia features swept back headlights, a lower front bumper, and Kia’s familiar “tiger nose” grille. The rear fascia is a bit more conservative, but it does feature over sized tailights that help add some excitement to the otherwise bland backdrop. The interior of the Niro also features many of the recent innovations that Kia has made in cabin quality. While there is some noticeable hard plastics, I did like the high driving position which is reminiscent of the Kia Soul as well as the ergonomically friendly button arraignment. A 7.0 inch captive touchscreen is standard equipment, and comes equipped with the firm’s UVO3 infotainment system.
Performance for the Niro comes from Kias 1.4 liter Kappa four cylinder engine which is typically good for 103 horsepower by itself. However, overall output grows to 146 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque when you factor the Niro’s electric motor into the equation. Kia claims that a plug-in version of the Niro will be offered but it’s unknown when that model will be unveiled.
The Niro will arrive with the second generation of Kia’s six speed dual clutch transmission. Kia revealed that the reason why they chose the DCT was because they wanted the Niro to still deliver a solid driving experience to go along with its fuel saving prowess. The Niro’s electric motor is powered by a lithium ion polymer battery pack that is located under the rear seat. The Niro’s new platform was designed to be lightweight, with aluminum being used for the hood, tailgate, as well as several suspension components. The conventional 12 volt battery was pitched in lieu of a lightweight battery that further aides efficiency. The Niro will arrive with two new fuel saving technologies that will help boost mileage. The first is the all new Eco-Driver Assistance System that features a built in Coasting Guide and Predictive Energy Control. The first bit of technology boosts economy by teaching the driver when to brake, while the latter item uses the Niro’s navigation system to anticipate the road ahead, and adjust throttle or brake inputs accordingly.
“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” stated Orth Hedrick vice president of product planning for KMA. He also elaborated further claiming “The subcompact CUV market continues to be one of the fastest growing segments in the world, and the Niro offers a uniquely alluring yet practical package that consumers haven’t seen before.”
Kia has not formally announced when the Niro will make its way to dealer lots, but look for the tiny CUV to eventually go on sale by the end of the year where it will compete with the Honda HR-V, and the Mazda CX-3.