2017 Kia Niro presented at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show

Article by Christian Andrei, on February 15, 2016

With the global debut of the 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV), Kia Motors America (KMA) introduced the latest addition to its Green Car Roadmap at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show. The all-new Niro boasts a set of highly-integrated features in styling and functionality as well as the outstanding efficiency of a hybrid.

The 2017 Kia Niro, which falls under Kia’s EcoDynamics lineup, embodies a number of firsts for the car maker. It was developed with an enhanced eco-car platform following its predecessors such as the Soul EV and the Optima Hybrid. The vehicle is a vital leap in fulfilling the company’s vision to triple its environmental roster by 2020.

Moreover, a plug-in hybrid powertrain is also to be added to the Niro’s succeeding lineup. The new Kia Niro, developed and assembled at Kia Motors’ design centers in Namyang, Korea, and Irvine, California, is a clear indication of the brand’s desire to offer functional utility and efficiency without one compromising the other.

The designers made sure that the vehicle is unique and different from the usual HUVs, making it look stronger with subtly shaped surfaces offset by tough design cues. The new HUV highlights a very athletic appearance, featuring wide and low proportions, a long roofline, and short overhangs.

The automaker’s signature grille, aggressively-sculpted headlights, and tough shoulders emphasize a familiar front fascia. The hood’s contours, roof rails, rocket cladding, huge wheel arches, and rear skid plate make the HUV look more appealing and sporty. Despite its cohesive crossover theme, aerodynamics also played a vital consideration in production. The Niro’s detailed bodywork relatively adds up to its 0.29 slippery coefficient of drag.

Interior Design

The 2017 Kia Niro features an exciting interior made with innovation in mind. The glossy white and/or black accents highlight its straightforward theme. The organized and clean-looking instrument panel is made up of vibrant and instructive gauges at the front and primary and secondary controls that are easily within reach.

Spaciousness is also an integral feature of the 2017 Kia Niro with its 106.30-inch wheelbase, wide stance, and body height giving enough head, leg, and shoulder rooms. To ensure a comfortable driving experience that prevents the onset of fatigues, the seats have been upgraded with increased cushion pad density.

The crossover-like proportions make it possible to have elevated seating positions highly similar to the Kia Soul’s, which provide drivers with an improved commanding view and more convenient ingress and egress. The clever high voltage battery packaging underneath the rear seats does not only offer great assistance in delivery but also allows a flat load floor more cabin and cargo space. Aside from the roominess and comfort, the designers of the new Kia Niro also focused on a quiet atmosphere.

To minimize— if not fully eradicate— the road and tire noises that enter the cabin, the HUV was integrated with optimized suspension bushing stiffness, expanding foam inside the A-pillar and B-pillar, careful body sealing, and ample insulation in the front structure. The developers were devoted to addressing the typical issues associated with hybrid powertrains.

Hence they minimized the noise and vibration at the source with special engine mounts, special embossed foam under the interior’s carpet, damper inside the steering wheel hub, dense insulating pad under the hood, and equal-length driveshafts.


The Kia Niro has been specially developed with a platform that can house the atypical gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. Furthermore, it is built with a lightweight and heavy-duty structure with 53% of Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) and reinforcements in the A-pillar, B-pillar, and the roof rails. Hot-stamped components and industrial joint adhesive were widely used to better the vehicle’s torsional rigidity and structural integrity.

With this, engineers aim for the Kia Niro to gain praises from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The engineers greatly focused on weight reduction, evident with its use of AHSS and novel lightweight seat frames.

Further weight reduction efforts include the use of aluminum material for the hood, tailgate, and a number of suspension elements such as the brake calipers, front lower control arms, and front and rear knuckles. The use of fiber-reinforced plastic construction for the parking brake pedal also contributed to the weight reduction.

The traditional 12-volt battery was also replaced with the high-voltage lithium-ion polymer battery for further weight savings. The 2017 Kia Niro is equipped with an all-new, high-end Kappa 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine that is specially made for hybrid performance.

The engine, with an output of 103 hp, marks the first integration of a long-stroke-narrow-bore specification, the Atkinson Cycle, GDI, and cooled exhaust gas for a maximized efficiency. The vehicle’s exhaust heat recovery system provides faster warm-up by routing coolant to a heat exchanger, improving efficiency and emissions.

The 43-hp tractive monitor, which is commonly known as the transmission-mounted electric device (TMED), and the gasoline engine produces a torque of 195 lb.-ft. and a robust 146 hp. The power is transmitted through a new second-generation six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), which increases efficiency and provides better road experience.

For a more natural feel than other hybrids incorporated with continuously variable transmissions, the Niro’s transmission delivers smooth and hasty shifts. Completing the core is a compact, lightweight 1.56-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery under the rear seats. The battery’s power and energy dense characteristics led to the use of downsized gasoline engine that maximizes fuel economy while reducing emissions.

With the powerful and unique combination of the TMED, GDI, and Atkinson Cycle technology in the internal combustion engine and the DCT offering a vigorous delivery, the 2017 Kia Niro has been made with all-in-one features and 50 mpg combined fuel efficiency rating.

The Kia Niro’s parallel and simplified hybrid system is neither intrusive nor obvious. It builds seamless transitions of power delivery to the front wheels, leading to a fun drive. The car’s quick acceleration and smooth power delivery improve everyday driving, boosting driver confidence. The engineers also tweaked the Niro’s brakes.

Learning from the fully-electric Soul EV and two Optima Hybrids, the production team designed the new HUV’s regenerative system to flawlessly blend in hydraulic friction braking. As a result, deceleration feels more linear and consistent compared to older hybrids.

Press Release


A key component to Kia Motors’ Green Car Roadmap was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show today as Kia Motors America (KMA) hosted the global debut of the all-new 2017 Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV). A no-compromise vehicle that combines driving enjoyment with eye-catching design, functional utility and hybrid efficiency, the all-new Niro strikes the perfect balance for today’s consumers and stakes claim to a unique position between the hybrid-electric vehicle and CUV segments.

“The Niro hits the sweet spot by offering the best combination of outstanding mpg, an engaging driving experience, utility, and most importantly, a stunning design that doesn’t shout ‘hybrid,’” said Orth Hedrick, vice president product planning 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.”

The Niro is yet another vehicle introduced under the Kia Motors EcoDynamics environmentally friendly sub-brand and represents a number of firsts. While it was preceded by clean mobility products such as the Optima Hybrid and Soul EV, Niro is the first Kia to make use of an all-new, dedicated eco-car platform and is an important next step on the path to nearly tripling the brand’s global green car line-up by 2020. A plug-in hybrid powertrain is due to be added to the car’s line-up later in its life-cycle.

An “Un-Hybrid” Design

Designed at Kia’s design centers in Irvine, California, and Namyang, Korea, the Niro demonstrates that owners don’t have to sacrifice emotionally engaging design or functional utility in the name of efficiency. The HUV’s design language is atypical of a hybrid, appearing strong and confident with subtly sculpted surfaces offset by robust styling cues. The Niro sports wide and low proportions with a long roofline and short overhangs that give it an overall athletic profile. Up front, the Niro bears a familiar front fascia highlighted by Kia’s signature grille and flanked by aggressively shaped headlights that accentuate the Niro’s strong shoulders. Contours on the hood lend visual interest and, along with voluminous wheel arches, rocker cladding, roof rails, and rear skid plate, contribute to a sporty look. Although the Niro has a cohesive crossover theme, it was designed with aerodynamics in mind, with its carefully shaped bodywork contributing to a relatively slippery coefficient of drag of .29.

Stepping inside the Niro reveals an inviting, modern, and high-tech interior. Glossy white or black accents underline the HUV’s straightforward theme. The instrument panel is uncluttered and clean, with colorful and informative gauges at the forefront and perfectly positioned primary and secondary controls falling readily to hand. Interior roominess comes by way of the Niro’s 106.3-inch wheelbase, body height, and wide stance, which affords ample leg-, head- and shoulder-room. Seats with increased pad density in the cushions ensure a comfortable ride, helping to prevent fatigue on longer trips. With its crossover-like proportions, the Niro boasts an elevated seating position much like the Kia Soul, providing drivers with a more commanding view of the road as well as easy ingress and egress. While the clever packaging of the high voltage battery assists in delivering a desirable driving experience, its location underneath the rear seats also increases cabin and cargo space and allows a flat load floor.

In addition to spaciousness and comfort, ensuring a quiet interior environment was also a key development focus for engineers. 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.

Engineers also worked hard to address the innate issues often associated with hybrid powertrains. To that end, 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. Other NVH measures include a special embossed foam in the floor (under the carpet), and a dense insulating pad underneath the hood also help to keep unwanted noise to a minimum.

Strong and Light Core

The platform underpinning the Niro has been specifically engineered to accommodate the unique gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, and with 53 percent of Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS), including reinforcement in the A- and B-pillars as well as the roof rails, it is both a lightweight and durable structure. Extensive use of hot-stamped components and industrial joint adhesive increase torsional rigidity and structural integrity. As such, engineers are targeting the Niro to earn top honors from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).

Weight reduction was a critical Niro development aspect, and in addition to the body, AHSS was also used to engineer other elements, including novel lightweight seat frames. Further, engineers were 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. Finally, the engineers eliminated the traditional 12-volt battery to reduce weight, instead, utilizing the high-voltage lithium-ion polymer battery.

Uniquely Engineered Hybrid Powertrain

Motivating the Niro is a highly efficient and engaging powertrain starting with an all-new, state-of-the-art Kappa 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine, engineered specifically for hybrid applications. Making 103 horsepower, 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[2]. Efficiency and emissions are further improved via the Niro’s exhaust heat recovery system, which speeds engine warm-up by routing coolant to a heat exchanger in the exhaust system. A 43-hp tractive motor, known as the transmission-mounted electric device (TMED), works in tandem with the gasoline engine to produce a robust 146 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque.

That power is transmitted through a newly developed, second-generation six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), which not only boosts efficiency but is also a key factor to the Niro’s great driving experience. The transmission delivers smooth, quick shifts for a natural and spirited feel in stark contrast to that of other hybrids equipped with continuously variable transmissions. 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, engineers were able to use the downsized gasoline engine to maximize fuel economy and reduce emissions.

With its unique combination of the lightweight TMED, proven GDI and Atkinson Cycle technology in the internal combustion engine, along with the DCT providing a dynamic driving experience, the Niro offers enjoyment and efficiency all in one, targeting a combined fuel efficiency rating of 50 mpg.

Driving Fun

The Niro’s parallel and simplified hybrid system creates seamless transitions of power delivered to the front wheels, resulting in a very un-hybrid-like driving experience. The hybrid system is neither intrusive nor obvious. The Niro accelerates quickly off the line and continues its smooth power delivery, inspiring driver confidence in everyday driving maneuvers like merging onto the highway.

Special attention was also paid to brake feel. Applying lessons learned through development of two generations of Optima Hybrids as well as the fully electric Soul EV, Kia engineers designed the Niro’s regenerative system to seamlessly blend in hydraulic friction braking. Consequently, deceleration feels more consistent and linear than other hybrids.

Advanced Hybrid Tech

Like the rest of Kia’s lineup, the Niro will be offered with a suite of advanced driver assistance and convenience technologies. Familiar features that will be available on the HUV include Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist; Advanced Smart Cruise Control; Lane Departure Warning; and Autonomous Emergency Braking[3].

All-new Eco-DAS1 (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. 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 expend stored energy to optimize overall efficiency. Similar systems have been seen on German luxury makes, but Kia’s system is the first in the industry to monitor and adjust for both ascending and descending scenarios. Other notable features include Smart Air Intake, which reduces drag by carefully managing the intake of outside air for the HVAC system, and also an accompanying Auto Defog system that prevents condensation from building on the glass by monitoring cabin air conditions to manage the cycling of the A/C compressor.

Kia’s award-winning infotainment and telematics system aims to keep Niro drivers connected at all times[4], with the newest version, UVO3, trickling down from the all-new 2017 Sportage. Complete with Android[5] Auto™, Apple[6] CarPlay®, and UVO eServices featuring 14 telematics services, the enhanced system features up to 8 GB of music storage, access to onscreen apps such as Pandora®[7] and Soundhound and Wi-Fi tethering capability. All this is displayed on a 7-inch capacitive touch screen.

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