Kia has unveiled plans to launch a new low emissions vehicle, the Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV), marking the development of its first dedicated eco-car platform. The Niro HUV will still feature the practicality and appeal of a compact SUV while boasting outstanding fuel economy in a hybrid vehicle. Kia developed and engineered the platform of the Niro separately from its current models.
This platform – made from ultra-strong steel -- is developed to carry certain environmental-friendly technologies as well as Kia’s next-generation petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. In fact, Kia is planning to add a plug-in hybrid powertrain to its line-up later in its life-cycle. The use of high-strength steel in the new platform should result to a high safety rating and lower NVH numbers (noise, vibration and harshness).
Niro HUV features a brand new design, marked by a bold aerodynamic and high-strength body as well as sculpted surfaces. To ensure stiffness, more than 50-percent of the Kia Niro’s body is made of ultra-high strength yet lightweight steel, which should also result to high safety ratings as well as a class-leading fuel economy. Likewise, this high-strength body has allowed the carmaker’s chassis and dynamics teams to make sure that the new Niro will have a smooth and refined ride as well as excellent handling characteristics.
Moreover, the Niro’s strong and lightweight body will build on the carmaker’s reputation for offering vehicles with strong crash safety performance. With this body as well as a slew of the latest passive, active and pre-collision safety features, Kia’s engineering teams are eyeing to have the Niro HUV score the highest possible marks from independent safety test organizations around the world.
The extended use of the ultra-high strength steel on its product should propel the South Korean carmaker to reach its objective to reduce the average weight of new car bodies by five percent by the end of the decade, as compared to 2014 levels. With its compact SUV shape, the Kia Niro HUV is provided with sleek yet smooth proportions, low center of gravity and an aggressive wide stance. It features a long wheelbase, which while allowing more room inside the cabin for passengers, also reduces the size of the front and rear overhangs.
Despite its new design, the Niro HUV is unmistakably a Kia, as it still dons the South Korean carmaker’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille and other design cues from the latest Kia offerings. After all, its design and styling have been overseen by the carmaker’s design centers in California and Namyang, South Korea.
While its lightweight body, the Niro is more fuel efficient with its hybrid powertrain really doing the trick. During the development of the Niro, Kia’s engineers aimed their efforts to make the model deliver the best fuel economy rating in the compact SUV segment.
In fact, engineers are targeting ultra-low carbon dioxide emission levels of under 90 g/km (combined, based on the New European Driving Cycle). As a dedicated hybrid model, the new Kia Niro will feature a downsized hybrid powertrain made up of the South Korean carmaker’s 1.6-liter ‘Kappa’ petrol direct injection (GDI) engine (which provides up to 105 ps of output and 147 Nm of max torque) and 32 kW electric motor powered by a 1.56 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack.
The combined power output and torque of the Kappa engine and the electric motor are transmitted to the wheels through a six-speed double-clutch transmission. With the new lightweight platform and hybrid powertrain at its disposal, the new Kia Niro HUV should help push the South Korean brand to achieve its dream to become a leading player in the low emissions car market by the end of the market. Thus, five years from now, Kia is planning to further expand its eco-friendly line-up from four to 11.
Additionally, Kia is planning to achieve a 25-percent improvement in its average corporate fuel efficiency in 2020, as compared to 2014 levels. As part of its plan, Kia will not limit its offerings of low-emissions vehicles to just hybrid powertrains. Its plan calls for the development and production of hybrid and plug-in hybrid models as well as battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Of course, the Niro is just the start of this plan, and more ecofriendly models will be designed, engineered and produced in the coming years.
Kia is also eyeing to phase out seven out of its 10 current engine ranges by the end of the decade, replacing them with next-generation petrol and diesel units. The carmaker is planning to develop and offer more turbocharged engines by 2020. In addition, Kia is planning to develop more efficient multi-speed transmissions for its line-up. As for the new Kia Niro HUV, Kia is eyeing to unveil the vehicle in 2016, and commence production for overseas markets in late 2016 at its Hwasung manufacturing site in South Korea.
According to Hyoung-Keun Lee, vice chairman and chief executive of Kia Motors Corp., the new Kia Niro HUV is designed to offer everything that buyers would want from a compact SUV -- practicality and styling – but will come with low running costs associated with a dedicated hybrid powertrain.
He remarked that by taking a ‘blank canvas' approach, Kia’s engineers tried to develop a vehicle that will appeal to a broader range of consumers. He acknowledged that the compact SUV market is still one of the fastest-growing global segments, and the Niro HUV will try to barge into that arena by offering handsome styling, modern appearance, high practicality and extraordinary fuel economy.