Featuring a 1.6-L turbocharged GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine with hybrid-electric drive, the Kia Niro crossover concept was designed in the same city in which it was revealed: Frankfurt, Germany.
Kia describes the concept as “visionary but pragmatic,” and Benny Oeyen, Vice President of Marketing and Product Planning for Kia Motors Europe, said at the reveal that Niro is “far more than just a styling exercise.” Designers at the automaker’s Frankfurt Design Studio created their vision for a possible future B-segment (i.e., subcompact) car by catering to European tastes and expectations.
“Right from the start, this particular B-segment project was about looking at where Kia might take its contenders in this part of the market,” said Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer at Kia’s Frankfurt office, who led the concept team. “This is a growing sector in Europe, and Niro is just as much about our thinking for the future as Provo was.” (Provo is a B-segment, coupe-style hatchback concept Kia revealed at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.)
Under the Niro’s hood is a variant of Kia’s turbocharged 1.6-L Gamma engine, developing 160 PS (118 kW). The engine and seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission drive the front wheels; the hybrid-electric system powered from regenerative braking delivers up to 45 PS (33 kW) to the rear wheels when conditions require extra power or grip.
In a production version, Kia also would offer a 1.0-L turbo GDI engine that produces 120 hp (89 kW), Oeyen said.
Niro is based on an all-new platform that, according to Kia, will form the basis of its future B-segment products. With special 225/40R20 tires and milled aluminum 20-in wheels placed at each corner, the concept has a 2590-mm (102.0-in) wheelbase and 1630-mm (64.2-in) track. Its overall length is 4185 mm (164.8 in), width is 1850 mm (72.8 in), and height is 1558 mm (61.3 in).
Exterior design elements include a brushed stainless-steel roof, high body sides that result in a low cabin glasshouse, and dihedral “butterfly” doors with flush handles that open into the roof panel. Mounted directly onto the side windows are milled Plexiglas door mirrors with built-in downward-facing cameras. A rearward-facing video camera is located at the back end.
The concept’s interior features one-piece molded front seats—similar to those seen in the Provo concept—covered in a “techno” silver line-quilted textile. The clam-shell seatbacks tilt to allow access to a two-seat 50:50 split bench. These “occasional-use” seats fold flat to form the front edge of a full-length, carbon-fiber load area.
A digital instrument cluster displays the main instruments and can be formatted and switched to provide appropriate information. Additional information is viewed on a center console-mounted screen, including live pictures captured from the car’s various cameras, altitude, vehicle attitude, compass and entertainment, Bluetooth functions, as well as mapping and satellite navigation.
Two anodized aluminum columns connect the transmission tunnel and the main dashboard structure. These not only provide extra strength but also house additional functions such as the engine start-stop button and the main transmission drive control.
“It is clear that the B-segment is growing as European motorists seek to downsize, but it is equally clear that they refuse to give up individuality and distinctiveness—so Niro explores one avenue to satisfy that desire,” Guillaume said.
Kia says it has not yet made any final decisions on future B-segment products, and has no immediate plans to commercially produce the Niro. The automaker used the Frankfurt venue to gauge public opinion and possible demand.