$10bn Kia plan spawns Niro hybrid for Chicago launch

Images of Niro HUV illustrate ‘sporty, versatile design’
Launch Chicago auto show February 2016
Dedicated hybrid powertrain, all-new model

KiaKia Niro
OUT LATER in 2016: Kia Motors now iconic ‘tiger’s eyes’ grille is morphing flatter and wider but even without it the new Niro hybrid for launch this year is still identifiable as a Kia shell. Image: Kia Motors

SEOUL, South Korea – Kia has released images of what it calls “the sporty and versatile Niro – an all-new hybrid UV that’s set to add a fresh dimension to the global compact utility market”.

Some sources say the car is aimed at Chevrolet’s Volt and Toyota’s Prius – each a hybrid, the latter an early model that’s been around since 1997 but only reached South Africa in 2005. US motor industry website edmunds.com reports it was told by Kia America’s chief operating officer Michael Sprague: “Niro will be very competitive with the Prius in terms of size, capability and functionality.”

Toyota, meanwhile is about to launch the fourth generation of the Prius…

WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE CHANGE THE NAME ‘SUV’!

The Kia Niro was first shown as a concept at the September 2013 at the Frankfurt auto show and I published a report back then when I still edited the Wheels24 website under the headline ‘Kia goes radical for Frankfurt‘ and included the first pictures of the car in an image gallery.

Pity that ‘sport utility’ name brings to mind the Australian ‘ute’ – bakkie – image that has been perpetuated not only by Kia but other automakers, especially Chevrolet which has a Ute half-tonner pick-up, and the abbreviation SUV is now so entrenched that no automaker has the balls to change it. /cont. below

Kia Niro
MUCH OF KIA’S SUV STYLE STILL THERE: Visible door releases and roof-rack rails have been added to the Niro since the concept version was revealed in 2013. Image: Kia Motors

Anyway, the streamlined outline of the new Kia reminds strongly of its existing SUV, the Sportage, and sister company Hyundai’s ix35 – indeed, Hyundai will launch its own hybrid, the cleverly-named Ionic, at the New York auto show in April this year. Wonder how much it will be like the Niro?

The car’s styling, the automaker says, was led by Kia’s design centres in California, the US and Korea and “incorporates the practicality and aesthetic allure of a compact SUV with a sleek, aerodynamic body and subtly sculptured surfaces”.

HIGH DIODE LIGHTS, SLIM CHARACTER LINE

And, car fans, don’t confuse it with the Dodge Nitro SUV launched at the 2005 Chicago show as a concept, was still selling in 2011, and can be bought used in South Africa.

The teaser images also reveal high-mounted diode tail lights that, Kia says, complement an uncluttered tail while a slim character line and rear windows emphasise the car’s sleek profile while allowing greater room for muscular wheel-arches”.

The Niro, the automaker says, is the first model to be based on the brand’s new eco-car platform and is aiming for a sub/90g/km CO2 emissions rating

for its all-new petrol/hybrid power train, reported to involve a conventional 1.6 engine and a 32kW electric motor powered by a lithium-polymer battery.

FIVE-YEAR, $10bn ‘GREEN’ PLAN

Like the Nitro, the Niro will also be launched in Chicago at that city’s February 2016 auto show and later may come a plug-in electric version – part of a “green space” programme that, Kia says, will cost it $10-billion over the next five years”.

*Kia notes that technical data is still under development and homologation so figures such as the CO2 emissions could change.

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