The 2017 Kia Niro has been unveiled as the Korean automaker’s first dedicated hybrid crossover.
Making its global debut at the Chicago Auto Show, the Niro’s targeted fuel economy is an optimistic 50 mpg. Looking a lot like a subcompact version of the new Sportage, the Niro looks like a regular crossover, and Kia takes pride in the fact that its design doesn’t shout its hybrid status to the world.
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Although Kia has an Optima hybrid and the funky Soul EV, the Niro is the brand’s first dedicated hybrid, and it’s built on an all-new eco platform. Kia wants to triple its green car lineup in the next five years, and the Niro is the first step. Kia has already announced that a plug-in hybrid will be added to the Niro lineup later in its lifecycle.
ALSO SEE: Full 2016 Chicago Auto Show Coverage
Kia says a lightweight structure, good aerodynamics, and a new six-speed dual clutch transmission will help it achieve the 50 mpg target. That’s right; this hybrid will not have a CVT.
Power comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine making 103 horsepower and a 43-hp electric motor for a combined output of 146 hp and a strong 195 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a 1.56-kWh lithium-ion battery that will help reduce the load on the gas engine and increase efficiency.
The Niro’s batteries are stored underneath the rear seats, which means that it won’t take up any cabin or cargo space, and allows for a flat load floor.
Further increasing mpg, the Niro will also have a system that coaches the driver when to coast and when to brake for maximum efficiency. There will also be something called Predictive Energy Control, which uses the navigation with cruise control to anticipate changing road conditions. The system manages how energy is expended by determining when it is best to recharge or pull power from the battery.
Kia is quick to point out that it promises the Niro will have a very “un-hybrid” driving experience. Special attention has been paid to the regenerative braking so that it feels more like conventional brakes.
Of course, the Niro will come packed with all the latest safety tech like blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, lane change assist, smart cruise control, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking. There will also be Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and other telematics systems that can be accessed through a seven-inch touchscreen.
The 50 mpg figure is a very optimistic goal; that’s Prius territory. But if Kia can make 50 mpg happen, the hybrid world is about to see a shakeup. No pricing information is available yet, but you can expect the Kia Niro to hit the streets later this year.
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