While a teaser image of the new Kia Niro suggests the show car is capable of doing some serious off-roading, the Korean maker is really exploring the possibilities of a “cutting-edge urban hybrid vehicle.”
Making its debut at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, the prototype “hints at” something Kia clearly has under development, a small, high-mileage crossover that would target younger, environmentally minded buyers living in urban environments much like the Windy City.
The goal is to come up with something that has more attitude and a more fun-to-drive feel than the typically stodgy hybrids of today that seem focused only on maximizing mileage.
“Ten years ago people wanted understated style in the SUV market, but increasingly, as more people migrate to the B-segment, they are looking for strong character and individuality,” said Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer at Kia’s Frankfurt, Germany-based Design Center Europe which developed the Niro concept.
“It may have the looks of a Dakar [Rally] contender,” added Guillaume, “but Niro has a strong premium feel thanks to our innovative use of advanced and modern materials that mix brawn with spirit to deliver a playful vehicle ready to be part of anyone’s active lifestyle.”
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Kia confirms that the show car is based on an all-new B-segment platform. Niro measures 164.8 inches nose-to-tail, with a width of 72.8 inches and a height of 61.3 inches.
The dark Nightfall paint is part of a two-tone exterior theme, offset by a brushed stainless steel roof. The Niro also features distinctive, blade-like running boards. The Kia face, with its distinctive grille, is familiar, but the front valance borrows its asymmetric air vent arrangement from the maker’s earlier Provo concept.
One of the more distinctive touches is the use of dihedral “butterfly doors” with flush handles which swing high into the roof. Traditional mirrors have been replaced by small cameras, a concept many believe may finally be ready to make the leap into production in the next few years.
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The 2+2 interior continues the edgy theme, with the one-piece seats covered in “Orbit Silver” quilted fabric, and “Volcano Black” leather covering the instrument panel where switches are finished in either anodized black or “Limelight” aluminum.
Offering another hint that a production spin-off of Niro may be in the works, the concept vehicle is powered by a variant of Kia’s current 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, here making 160 horsepower. The engine is linked to the front wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Meanwhile, the rear axle gets power when needed from a 45-horsepower electric motor.
Kia doesn’t say anything about the battery pack used for the electric drive system but it’s likely a lithium-ion system similar to what’s in use with the upgraded Kia Optima Hybrid also making its debut at the Chicago Auto Show this week.
Tags: 2014 chicago auto show, Kia niro, auto news, car news, hybrid vehicles, kia chicago auto show, kia concept, kia hybrid, kia news, kia niro concept, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, thedetroitbureau, urban crossovers, urban hybrids