It's not the first time you've heard it from us, and it won't be the last: Crossovers are hot. It seems customers can't get enough of the combination of economy, practicality, and style of these car-based SUVs. The hottest segment globally and in Europe is the B-segment crossovers, a niche currently populated by such offerings as the Nissan Juke, Mini Paceman and Countryman, and Ford EcoSport. While it hasn't officially thrown its hat in the ring yet, Kia is strongly hinting it may be the next contender in the segment with the Kia Niro Concept.
Much as the Nissan Juke is not the brand's most practical offering, sacrificing some measure of utility for style, the Niro balances style and practicality, with the scale tilting predominantly on the side of style. The "dihedral" butterfly doors were definitely chosen for stylistic flair and will most likely not make the production cut in the price-sensitive B-segment. The word "muscular" was used multiple times in the press release describing the Niro, and while "muscular" may be an appropriate descriptor for the Niro's chunky styling and proportions, the motivating force is a little more tame, but still respectable for the class. A hybrid powertrain combining a 158-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4 powers the Niro’s front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with a 44-hp electrical motor boosting the rear wheels, and providing added grip when needed.
Among the most interesting features of the Niro's interior is its one-piece front seat cushion, which wraps over and above the center console. To ensure a safe and ergonomic fit for all drivers, the pedals adjust for proper control orientation. The extra-wide center display screen allows the driver to view and record live pictures from the front, rear, and side video cameras, as well as displaying vehicle altitude, attitude (pitch) compass, telephone, and entertainment information. The two metal struts running from the dashboard to the console tunnel look purely decorative at first glance, but in fact house the stop-start button, transmission controls, and audio volume.
Dimensionally, the Niro is close to another well-known B-segment car, the Kia Soul. Its wheelbase and overall length are within an inch of the Soul’s, with its 61.3-inch height about 2 inches lower. Kia maee no iron-clad commitments in Frankfurt about putting the Niro or something like it into production, but readily acknowledged the B-segment is white-hot, and that if consumer response and demand to the Niro concept were strong enough, something like it for the European market could show up in the near future. As far as U.S. sales for something like the Niro, Kia is selling Souls as fast as it can make them, and even potential variants such as a turbo, and a full electric have reportedly been delayed just to prioritize production of the regular Soul.