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2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle revealed

Practical Motoring logo Practical Motoring 14-02-2016 Isaac Bober

Boasting a dedicated, eco car platform, the 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV) “hits the sweet spot by offering the best combination of outstanding mpg (fuel efficiency), an engaging driving experience, utility, and most importantly, a stunning design that doesn’t shout ‘hybrid’,” said Orth Hedrick, vice-president product planning Kia Motors America (KMA).

“The subcompact CUV market continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the world, and the Niro offers a uniquely alluring yet practical package that consumers haven’t seen before.”

Following from Optima Hybrid and Soul EV, the Niro, Kia said, “is an important next step on the path to nearly tripling the brand’s global green car line-up by 2020”.

Kia Niro © Provided by Practical Motoring Kia Niro

Designed at both Irvine, California and Namyang, Korea, Kia claims it intended to produce a hybrid that was atypical of the breed. You can clearly see the family resemblance to Sportage and Sorento, although the front-end look of the Niro is much more attractive than the new Sportage.

On the inside there are gloss white or black accents while the instrument cluster, like the new Sportage is uncluttered and easy to use. The Niro’s wheelbase of 2700mm is only marginally smaller than the Sportage, so room inside should be good.

Kia Niro © Provided by Practical Motoring Kia Niro

The battery for the hybrid drivetrain is hidden underneath the rear seats, which mean the boot still offers a float load floor. “Copious insulation in the Niro’s front structure, optimized suspension bushing stiffness, careful body sealing, and application of expanding foam inside the A- and B-pillars all prevent road and tire noise from entering the cabin. Furthermore, acoustic windshield glass and carefully shaped side mirrors mitigate wind noise,” Kia said. And if the result is anything like that achieved by the new Sportage, then this really will be a quiet car indeed.

“Engineers also worked hard to address the innate issues often associated with hybrid powertrains. They minimized system noise and vibration at the source with specially designed engine mounts, equal-length driveshafts, and even added a damper inside the steering wheel hub to minimize vibrations felt in the steering wheel”.

Weight reduction, without losing strength was a critical Niro development aspect, and in addition to the body, high-strength steel was also used to engineer other elements, including novel lightweight seat frames. Engineers, Kia said, were also able to bring down the overall weight by using aluminum for the hood, tailgate and several suspension elements including the front lower control arms, front and rear knuckles, and in the brake calipers. Even the parking brake pedal contributes to the weight savings through the use of fiber-reinforced plastic construction.

Kia Niro © Provided by Practical Motoring Kia Niro

Finally, the engineers eliminated the traditional 12-volt battery to reduce weight, instead, utilizing the high-voltage lithium-ion polymer battery.

The Niro runs a Kappa 1.6-litre GDI four-cylinder engine, engineered specifically for hybrid applications. Making 76kW, the new engine marks the first combination of the Atkinson Cycle, cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), GDI and a long-stroke-narrow-bore specification “to maximize efficiency”. A 32kW tractive motor, known as the transmission-mounted electric device (TMED), works in tandem with the gasoline engine to produce a robust 109kW and 264Nm of torque. This is mated to a new-generation six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Combined fuel consumption is 4.7L/100km.

Bringing the whole system together is a compact and lightweight 1.56-kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery located underneath the rear seat. Because the high-voltage battery is both power and energy dense, Kia said it could use a smaller petrol engine to keep fuel consumption and emissions in check. 

All-new Eco-DAS (Driver Assistance System) features Kia’s first application of Coasting Guide and Predictive Energy Control. “The Coasting Guide aims at maximizing fuel economy by essentially coaching the driver on when to coast and brake,” Kia said.

Predictive Energy Control, meanwhile, uses the navigation system and cruise control to anticipate topographical changes on the road ahead and actively manage energy flow, seamlessly determining when its best to recharge the battery and when its best to use it. Similar systems have been seen on German luxury makes, but Kia said its system is the first one to monitor and adjust for both ascending and descending scenarios.

There’s no word yet on whether we’ll see the Niro in Australia. 

Kia Niro © Provided by Practical Motoring Kia Niro © image/jpeg

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