Kia has revealed the Niro, an all-new compact SUV that the Korean brand hopes will not only compete with the Nissan Qashqai but, thanks to a hybrid powertrain, green cars such as the Toyota Prius, too.
As part of the Kia’s EcoDynamics sub-brand, the Niro joins the Soul EV and Optima Hybrid as part of the firm’s ambitions to triple its green car lineup by 2020. Dubbed a Hybrid Utility Vehicle, the Niro aims to woo buyers with a mix of Crossover styling and promise of CO2 emissions as low as 89g/km.
Kia Niro styling
The Niro is the result of a collaboration between Kia’s design studios in Korea and California, which the brand has described as “a stunning design that doesn’t shout ‘hybrid'”. In terms of overall size, the Niro falls between the Cee’d hatchback and the Sportage SUV.
A variety of SUV styling cues – an upright profile, plastic cladding around swollen wheel arches and short overhangs are all features that aim to help the Niro appeal to buyers in one of the fastest growing segments of the market.
The front end bears a resemblance to the latter, but the combination of lower, sharper headlights mounted to a sleeker vehicle overall makes the Niro, to our eyes, appear more handsome. The raised ride height is typical of the crossover class, but the sloping roof lends it a sportier profile than some rivals.
Kia Niro interior
The basic design of the dashboard is very similar to the 2016 Sportage – which is no bad thing. The major change comes in front of the driver – the instrument panel is modified to display the hybrid functions.
Kia claims the ‘wheel-at-each-corner’ stance reaps benefits inside, too. A 2,700mm distance between the front and rear wheels – 70mm more than the Qashqai – allows comfortable accommodation for five. The battery for the hybrid system is mounted beneath the rear seats, so there is little compromise in terms of overall space.
Kia Niro driving
Kia promises that the Niro will offer “an engaging driving experience”, yet many measures have been take to ensure top-notch refinement, too. More than half the Niro’s body is formed from high strength steel, keeping rigidity high and weight low – the latter being important to achieving competitive fuel consumption figures.
Further weight-saving measures include the use of aluminium for the bonnet, bootlid and some suspension components, and a lithium-ion battery replacing the heavy standard 12-volt unit found in most cars.
In order to deliver a quiet, relaxing ride, sound insulation materials have been used extensively, limiting the amount of road and wind noise entering the cabin. Specially designed engine mounts, meanwhile, help to reduce vibration felt by occupants.
Kia Niro engine
The Niro’s hybrid system combines a small petrol engine with an electric motor. The 1.6-litre unit was designed with efficiency in mind so a host of eco-minded measures including a system to recover waste heat energy from the exhaust, helps reduce overall emissions. When teamed with an electric motor, the total system output of the hybrid powertrain stands at 146hp, 103hp of which comes from the petrol engine.
No performance figures have yet been released, but a 0-62mph time of around 10-second seems likely. Power is transferred to the road via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, chosen deliberately to provide a little more enjoyment than the CVT-equipped drivetrain of a Toyota Prius.
Kia Niro specs
The Niro gains a couple of smart pieces of tech to help drivers minimise the amount of fuel they use in everyday driving. A system known as Eco-DAS (Driver Assistance System) introduces a coasting guide – suggesting when a driver should coast or brake – while another, Predictive Energy Control, makes use of the satellite navigation and cruise control to judge the most appropriate opportunities to use or recharge the hybrid system.
In addition to the hybrid gizmos, the Niro is expected to be loaded with the latest safety tech. Among the standard kit will be autonomous city braking, adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection systems.
Kia Niro prices and release date
Kia is yet to confirm the exact release date for the Niro, but it’s predicted that deliveries will begin in the second half of 2016. With the Niro pitched to take on the Toyota Prius, expect it to be priced from around £23,000.
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Can’t wait for a new Kia, or is the hybrid tech not what you need? Take a look at the Kia Sportage deals page for a traditional SUV alternative. If you can’t quite figure out what your next car will be, our car chooser is here to help.