By on November 16, 2015


Kia on Monday released teaser images of its Prius-fighting hybrid, dubbed Niro, and said the car would go on sale late next year — maybe when gas prices aren’t $2 a gallon.

According to the automaker, the Niro’s hybrid powertrain and lightweight construction could help the car achieve up to 60 miles per gallon when it goes on sale. A plug-in variant will go on sale after a conventional hybrid arrives in 2016.

The car is positioned to fight directly against the next-generation Toyota Prius, which will go on sale later this year. It isn’t immediately clear whether the car is pronounced “NEE-ro” (like the Roman emperor) or “NY-ro” (rhymes with Cairo) because one of those would be an interesting choice.

Kia’s compact crossover will sport a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection from Hyundai’s Kappa family paired with a 1.56 kWh lithium-polymer battery and 32 kW electric motor. Kia didn’t specify the combined output of both motors, but did say that power would be shifted through a six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

Niro will be built on an all-new platform for Kia at its Hwasung manufacturing facility in Korea, according to the automaker. Although the car has no direct predecessors, officials at Kia say the car will be instantly recognizable as a Kia, in part, because of the company’s signature “tiger nose” grille. (Which is good, because that sketch looks like a Ford Edge —Aaron) Kia’s design center in California contributed to the Niro’s overall design.

According to the automaker, the Niro was developed separately from any other Kia model, but its powertrain could make its way into several future models.

Don’t expect to see Niro in the flesh in Los Angeles. Kia has its Forte compact lined up for its post-plastic-surgery reveal this week instead.

In 2013, Kia previewed a Niro Concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show that looks vaguely familiar.


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21 Comments on “Kia Teases Prius-fighting Hybrid Niro...”

  • avatar

    “officials at Kia say the car will be instantly recognizable as a Kia”

    Looks like a Golf to me.

  • avatar

    And somewhere, a tired Venza weeps at what could have been.

  • avatar
    Dr. Doctor

    I wonder if the powertrain from this will wind up in a Soul hybrid? It rides rather high to start with and the hybrid could help address its less than stellar fuel economy.

  • avatar

    I see all sorts of problems, and hopefully some lessons learned.

    1) The Toyota faithful aren’t going to buy a Kia. It says Kia.

    2) If you’re going to out-Prius the Prius, you need to build a better Prius, not a worse Prius at a lower price, right Honda?

    3) Highway MPG doesn’t really matter, it is all about the combined MPG and city performance.

    4) Don’t punt on the location, type and size of the battery system. Sacrificing center of gravity and/or cargo space for a battery pack isn’t the right answer.

    • 0 avatar

      But have you seen the new Prius? That thing is so ugly it could make a train take a dirt road. There might soon be a lot of potential Prius buyers willing to entertain alternatives that don’t make them wince when they look at it.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        My thoughts exactly. The previous two Prii were palatable, maybe not pretty, but not ugly either…and instantly recognizable. I thought they were kind of cool-looking. This time, however, I think Toyota is really trying to explore to the limits of its customers’ loyalty with ungainly styling, and the company may find that it has exceeded those limits. No one wants an ugly car, and the 2017 Prius is definitely that.

        • 0 avatar

          Do you really think the spawning salmon that return to the Toyota showroom floors year after year really care?

          I mean everyone said the spindle Darth Vader Predator grilles would kill Lexus and look at the numbers. Admittedly some vehicles, particularly the IS, look a lot better in person than in photos, but there is a whole lot of ugly in the Lexus showroom today, and sales are up up up.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            It just depends. I happen to like some of Lexus’ cars, like the GS, LS and LX. But that Prius is as ugly as sin.

  • avatar

    Looks like an Edge? Kia could do worse than clone the Edge and sell it for 20% less.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The competition isn’t the Prius; it’s the upcoming RAV4 Hybrid.

    This is exactly what Kia needs, and it’s what I want. Just as minivans have been stuck with 15-25 mpg for three decades, CUVs have been stuck with 20-30 mpg for the last decade.

    I would like the versatility of a CUV, but their fuel economy isn’t great. It’s about time the mfrs do something about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      You are absolutely right (especially since the 2017 Prius looks like something out of River Monsters). Up to now, the only two compact hybrid SUVs have been the half-hearted Vue Green Line and the Escape Hybrid, both of which were discontinued at some point of another. Hopefully, Kia and Toyota can prove that there is a market here, and other manufacturers will start bringing in compact hybrid crossovers of their own.

    • 0 avatar

      I won’t say that they /are/ great, but 20-30 is better than 15-20 for someone coming from a BOF SUV or pickup.

  • avatar

    “It isn’t immediately clear whether the car is pronounced “NEE-ro” (like the Roman emperor) or “NY-ro” (rhymes with Cairo)”

    It will be pronounced however the hell we decide to pronounce it, no matter what Kia tries to tell us.

  • avatar

    The “Prius fighter” is going to be coming from Hyundai. This is a CUV hybrid.

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