The Kia Niro crossover, the brand’s first dedicated hybrid, has been unveiled ahead of the 2016 Chicago auto show.
Not only is this final production Niro larger than the 2013 concept that bore its name, the transition to market has seen the Niro lose its gullwing doors (that much is no surprise), along with its smoothly sculpted sides and bulging wheel arches, contrasting grey roof, and neon yellow highlights.
About the only elements carried over from concept to the showroom-ready model are the name, triangular headlights, and the shape of the tail-lights. In the interests of practicality, the production Niro is a five-door, not a three-door.
Under the bonnet the Niro is powered by a 77kW 1.6-litre direct-injection Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine. This is coupled to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission that incorporates a 32kW electric motor.
When the two motors work together the maximum system output is 109kW of power and 264Nm of torque.
Energy for the electric motor is stored in a 1.56kWh lithium polymer battery pack located underneath the rear seats.
According to the US testing standard, the Kia Niro has a fuel economy rating of 4.7L/100km. Kia has also fitted an on-board electronic coaching guide to help the person behind the wheel drive more efficiently.
The Niro’s predictive energy control system, which uses the cruise control system and topography information from satellite navigation system to intelligently manage battery recharge and discharge cycles, is said to one-up the systems available in luxury German brands by taking into account both ascending and descending scenarios.
Available tech on the Kia Niro, at least the States, includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assistance, smart cruise control, lane departure warning, and autonomous emergency braking.
In the centre of the dashboard there’s a 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen for the Uvo3 infotainment system, which is compatible with both the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring technologies.
The Niro will go on sale in the US as a model-year 2017 offering, but an Australian launch is, for now, not on the cards.
According to Kevin Hepworth, Kia Australia’s general manager of communications, “Every new Kia product is under consideration for Australia, but as yet there is no specific planning around [the Optima hybrid and plug-in hybrid, and Niro hybrid]”.
Kia Australia has long been keen on a compact SUV option, but, for now, it will have to keep waiting.