2017 Kia Niro

Kia Niro

Auto enthusiasts in the U.S. are excited for the release of the Kia Niro. Kia says that their all-new compact crossover hybrid will offer outstanding fuel economy while maintaining the traditional style and appeal of a sport utility vehicle. The Niro is part of Kia’s plan to triple their green car lineup in the next 3 years. This hybrid SUV made its world debut at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.

The Kia Niro is specifically engineered to hold an all-new gasoline-electric powertrain. The platform that underpins this SUV is constructed of 53% high-strength steel, and it has reinforcements in the A- and B-pillars as well as the roof rails. The automaker is targeting a combined EPA estimated fuel-efficiency rating of 50 miles per gallon.

Strength isn’t the only thing Kia was aiming for in the design of this ride; weight is also a key factor. In order to shave some pounds, engineers used high-strength steel for the seat frames, aluminum for several suspension elements (including front and rear knuckles and the front lower control) and fitted an aluminum tailgate and hood. No component of this vehicle went unexamined. In fact, Kia focused on every little detail including the brake pedal, which is made from fiber-reinforced plastic.

Kia Niro

The typical 12-volt battery seen in other hybrid models has been dumped for a high-voltage lithium-ion polymer battery. With a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the Kia Niro meets crossover proportions. Elevated seating allows drivers and passengers ideal outward vision, and the battery is stowed underneath the rear seats. You’ll be surprised at the lack of wind noise when you take this vehicle for a test drive, and you can thank contoured side mirrors and an acoustic glass windshield for that. You’ll also notice a lack of road noise thanks to expanding foam in the A- and B-pillars and extra sound-deadening material in the front structure.

Under the hood the Kia Niro houses a new 103-horsepower 1.6-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that is specifically designed for duty in hybrid vehicles. Its official name is the Kappa 1.6-liter GDI, and this engine is optimized for efficiency. It combines an Atkinson-cycle operation with a cooled EGR (exhaust-gas recirculation) system, long-stroke/narrow-bore dimensions and direct injection. The 2017 Kia Niro’s emissions and efficiency are also improved with the help of an exhaust-heat recovery system, which allows the engine to warm up faster by routing coolant through a heat exchanger located in the exhaust system.

Kia Niro

The electric portion of the Niro’s powertrain is provided by a 43-horsepower electric motor that is integrated with the transmission. Total combined output of the hybrid powertrain is 146 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. Kia has suggested that a plug-in version may also be available in the Niro’s future.

Driving the Niro is enhanced with a new six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which Kia says provides smooth and speedy gear shifts that hybrid vehicles equipped with CVTs can’t compete with. One of the complaints of many hybrid owners is the feel of the brakes. Kia is answering this plea with a freshly designed regenerative braking system for the Niro that they claim will “seamlessly blend” with the hydraulic friction braking. This will allow braking to feel more linear and consistent.

And it isn’t just the engine that’s innovative, the interior is too! The Green Niro will feature Kia’s Eco-DAS (Driver Assistance System). This includes the automakers Predictive Energy Control and Coasting Guide. The goal of this system is to maximize fuel economy by training the driver on the best times to coast or brake. Predictive Energy Control uses the cruise-control and navigation systems to anticipate upcoming changes in topography and actively manage the flow of energy.

Kia Niro

It also determines when conditions are optimal to recharge the battery or when it is appropriate to apply stored energy toward the wheels. Kia says that there are similar systems in place in other hybrid vehicles, but theirs is the first to adjust for both uphill and downhill situations.

As is typical with most new vehicles, the new Kia Niro will be available with a laundry list of amenities and safety features including:

  • UVO3 infotainment system
  • 7-inch capacitive touchscreen
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • 8 gigs of music storage
  • Wi-Fi tethering
  • Blind-spot detection
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Active cruise control
  • Lane-change assist
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane-departure warning

An official release date has not yet been set, but Kia has said that the Niro will be available at dealerships in early 2017. A MSRP will likely be set as the release date gets closer as well.

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