Kia goes hybrid at the Chicago Auto Show

Kia NiroKia Motors has unveiled a number of hybrid-based models at the Chicago Auto Show. One key component of the company’s Green Car Roadmap unveiled at the show was the all-new 2017 Niro compact Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV). Also unveiled: a plug-in hybrid Optima and an updated version of the standard Optima hybrid.

“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 Kia Motors America (KMA). “The subcompact CUV (crossover utility vehicle) 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 the first Kia to make use of an all-new, dedicated eco-car platform and is argued to be an important next step on the path to nearly tripling the brand’s global green car line-up by 2020. Designed at Kia’s design centers in Irvine, California, and Namyang, Korea, the Niro is supposed to be atypical of a hybrid, appearing strong and confident with subtly sculpted surfaces offset by robust styling cues. It has a slippery coefficient of drag of 0.29.

The platform underpinning the Niro has been specifically engineered to accommodate the 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, Kia says it is both a lightweight and durable structure. Extensive use of hot-stamped components and industrial joint adhesive increase torsional rigidity and structural integrity, while engineers eliminated the traditional 12-volt battery to reduce weight, instead, utilising the high-voltage lithium-ion polymer battery.

The Niro uses an all-new Kappa 1.6-litre GDI four-cylinder engine, engineered specifically for hybrid applications. Kia says the new 103 horsepower 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. A 43 horsepower electric motor 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 new second-generation six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).  Bringing the whole system together is a compact and lightweight 1.56-kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery located underneath the rear seat. Kia is targeting 89 g/km CO2 emissions.

Kia Optima PHEVKia Motors has also unveiled the all-new Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). “As part of our bold initiative to increase fuel efficiency by 25 percent across the entire Kia model line-up by 2020, a plug-in hybrid was a critical addition to our offering. The Optima HEV adds hybrid efficiency to the standout styling and vehicle dynamics of our all-new Optima, and the PHEV takes things one step further with all-electric range that is among the best in the segment,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning, Kia Motors America (KMA). “All three of the vehicles being introduced here at the Chicago Auto Show are emblematic of Kia’s commitment to sustainability and our philosophy that you shouldn’t have to accept compromises when making a green choice.”

The Optima PHEV has a 2.0-litre “Nu” four-cylinder GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, power output is 154 horsepower. With an estimated 600 miles of total driving range, the Optima PHEV’s next-generation battery system features a 9.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, and is estimated to achieve 27 miles in full EV mode. Additional power to the battery system is generated from the vehicle’s improved Regenerative Braking System.

Not coming to the UK is a new version of the standard Kia Optima hybrid sold in some markets. That gets improvements such as a smaller more efficient petrol engine and a more compact, lightweight, high-density lithium-polymer battery pack.

Other technical information given here refers to the US market and may differ from that for any models marketed in the UK.

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