With the launch of the hybrid version of the Niro CUV, a new report suggests that Kia is considering an all electric version of the Niro in a bid to help it nab sales as well as increase Kia’s reputation and pedigree in the growing green car segment.
This comes from a statement released by Kia Motors operating chief Tae-Hyun-Oh who revealed in an interview with the British publication Car Dealer magazine that the Niro’s size, utility, as well as stricter emissions laws could force the Korean firm to build a Niro EV. Kia’s sister company Hyundai already sells the Tuscon Fuel Cell crossover in limited markets, as such Kia could also be considering a fuel cell car in order to further expand the brand’s experience in this segment even further.
Currently the Niro has done relatively well for Kia with the brand selling roughly 1,000 units to customers since it made its formal debut in dealer lots back in August. The all-electric version of the Niro would be underpinned on the same platform as the Kia Ioniq. The Ioniq was designed to feature hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric variants with all three part of a unified “three pronged attack” that was designed to help maximize the Ioniq’s exposure in the marketplace. The all electric version of the Ioniq made its debut in South Korea and is expected to make its way to the U.S. before the end of 2016. When it eventually arrives, the car will feature a 28 kilowatt-hour battery pack that provides a driving range of about 110 miles on a single charge.
At the moment, Kia sells an all electric version of the Soul crossover in select markets. That model has a 93 mile driving range but it could increase thanks to a 2018 refresh that Kia has planned for the Soul. This boost would allow the Soul EV to better compete against rivals like the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3.
Look for the momentum of this project to hinge on sales of the Niro hybrid and whether they are high enough to justify expanding the Niro family especially as an all electric vehicle which tends to make development expensive.
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.