2017 Kia Niro First Look
Hybrid Economy, Crossover Cool
Crossovers have taken the automotive market by storm, causing the automakers to shift their future product plans in favor of the tidy-sized trucklets. However, CAFE targets loom unrelentingly, calling for an ambitious 54.5 mpg by 2025. How do you reconcile the seemingly contradictory demands of consumers’ insatiable appetite for crossovers, yet still satisfy regulators? Kia thinks it has hit the sweet spot with the 2017 Niro crossover. Positioned in the white-hot compact crossover segment, the Niro departs convention for the category with a hybrid powertrain and a targeted 50 mph combined fuel economy.
Unlike most hybrids which utilize a stepless CVT, the Niro has a six-speed dual-clutch transmission providing drivers with a more familiar, engaging driving experience compared to the typical disengaged, “rubber-band” feel of hybrids with CVT transmissions. A 103hp 1.6L GDI Atkinson-cycle I-4 is mated to a 43hp electric motor in place of where a torque converter would go in a conventional automatic to yield a combined system output of 146 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Powering the hybrid system is a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.
A generous 106.3-inch wheelbase, 5.1 inches longer than the Soul, ensures the Niro provides ample passenger and cargo space. The Niro also features Kia’s latest-generation UVO3 system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, UVO eServices, 8 gb of built-in music storage.
Although styled and positioned to appeal to a broader customer base than traditional hybrids, part of the Niro’s appeal is in its economical operation, and to help drivers eke the most miles out of a gallon, the Niro features an Eco-DAS (driver assistance system) to prompt drivers when to coast and brake. Predictive Energy Control uses the navigation system and cruise control to anticipate topographical changes and actively manage system energy flow to optimize economy. Kia claims its use on the Niro is a segment first. A smart air intake for the HVAC system is designed to minimize drag, and an auto defog system that monitors cabin humidity to actively manage the air conditioning compressor.
To minimize weight, the Niro extensively utilized hot-stamped steel, industrial joint adhesive, and an aluminum hood, tailgate, and suspension control arms. The Niro is also one of the first vehicles we’re aware of that completely eliminates the legacy 12V lead-acid battery to power the vehicle’s entire electrical system using the lithium-ion hybrid battery.
As of this writing, neither pricing or release date were given. We’re expecting the Niro to hit U.S. showrooms sometime in the fall, with a starting price of around $25,000.