Kia unveils 50-mpg Niro HUV, 2017 Optima hybrids

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Chicago — Kia Motors Corp. debuted three hybrid vehicles, including the company’s first plug-in hybrid electric model and the Niro “hybrid utility vehicle.”

The all-new 2017 Kia Niro hybrid combines the capability of a crossover with a targeted combined fuel economy of 50 miles per gallon.

The all-new Niro made its global debut at the Chicago Auto Show alongside the 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid and 2017 Optima Hybrid as the South Korean automaker looks to boost its green vehicle portfolio.

“The Niro and the Optima hybrids are a major milestone for Kia," said Michael Sprague, Kia Motors America chief operating officer and executive vice president, during the unveiling."Hitting all the right notes for a next-generation buyer looking for clean mobility in a package that compromises nothing in terms of style, practicality and driveability.”

Kia is touting the Niro as a “no compromise” vehicle that combines the capability of a crossover with a targeted combined fuel economy of 50 miles per gallon. That puts it in competition with the hybrid king Toyota Prius.

“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, Kia Motors America vice president of product planning.

The vehicle features an all-new, dedicated eco-car platform. It’s powered by a new 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline direct-injection powertrain that in tandem works with an electric motor to produce 146 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque.

Bringing the whole system together is a compact and lightweight 1.56-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery located underneath the rear seat. The engine is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The Niro is expected to go on sale early 2016 as part of the company’s plan to triple the brand’s global green car lineup by 2020. A plug-in hybrid version of the Niro is planned for later.

Kia Optima

Both hybrid Optima models feature the same full redesign — inside and out — as the conventional gas-powered fourth-generation car that debuted in 2015.

The Optima Hybrid features a new 2.0-liter GDI four-cylinder engine that targets a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing model, which achieved 38 combined miles per gallon.

The estimated 154-horsepower engine is coupled with an electric motor and clutch that replaces the traditional torque converter to provide stronger off-the-line acceleration and power assistance to the engine when necessary.

The Optima Plug-in Hybrid, available in one trim, will be built in South Korea. It is expected to go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.

The 2017 Optima Plug-In Hybrid has a more powerful hybrid engine, a smarter and more robust telematics system, exterior design enhancements and greater interior refinement.

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