Revealed: Kia’s brand new Niro hybrid

Unveiled at the Chicago Motor Show comes an all-new eco-warrior

This is the new Kia Niro ‘hybrid utility vehicle’, and it represents quite an important step for the Korean manufacturer.

This is because this car is entirely new. From the ground up. The chassis and relevant underpinnings have been designed from the start to be compatible with petrol-electric powertrains – that’s the ‘hybrid’ bit of its name – which also promise a lot of driving fun.

Let’s deal with the first bit, um, first. Half of the new chassis is comprised of high-strength steel, with significant reinforcement in the A and B pillars and roof rails. It’s also lightweight, we’re told. The seat frames too, are light, while aluminium is used for the bonnet, boot and suspension components. Even the brake pedal is made of plastic.

Then comes the power. Kia’s 1.6-litre petrol engine has been fitted inside the new Niro, producing 103bhp. To this, there is a transmission-mounted electric motor producing a further 43bhp, to produce what Kia calls a ‘robust’ 146bhp and 195lb ft of torque.

A six-speed dual-clutch auto ‘box delivers this power to the front wheels, while a lightweight lithium-ion battery sits underneath the rear seat.

Sure, it ain’t no Tesla P90D (is anything like a Tesla P90D? Probably not), but instead what you get is a super light body housing a super efficient powertrain. It emits just 89g/km of CO2, and we’re promised it’ll accelerate “quickly off the line” and inspire much “driving confidence”. Kia even paid special attention to the regenerative brakes, ensuring they are consistent.

As you would expect, there is much driver assistance on board, ‘predictive energy control’ anticipating changes in the road ahead to manage energy flow. There’s also a 7in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and other such infotainment and telematics things.

Though we haven’t yet seen images of the interior, Kia assures us it is clean, uncluttered, colourful and informative. We’re promised lots of room, comfy seats, a nice, high seating position and plenty of boot space. Which is nice. The exterior you can see for yourself, but it looks smart. Designed in California and Korea, Kia tells us the crossover boasts a drag coefficient of 0.29. So it’s slippery.

The specification of UK Niros has yet to be properly confirmed, but expect to see them at some point next year. And perhaps, more Kias like this: this is but the opening salvo in the brand’s mission to triple its global green-car line-up by the year 2020. Sister brand Hyundai is equally serious about such things.

What do you think?