Created to judge potential customer response among Europeans for an aggressively styled compact crossover SUV, the Kia Niro Concept made its debut in Frankfurt loaded with attitude and riding on an all-new platform the automaker will use to underpin a full range of its future global B-segment (small) offerings. Despite its bold off-roader appearance, Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer at Kia's Frankfurt office and team leader for the program noted that the use of modern materials and detail elements impart a premium feel to this versatile active-lifestyle hauler that Kia hopes will resonate with buyers on the continent.
The Kia Niro augments its aggressively contoured bodywork with a noir-themed "Nightfall" finish set off by accent elements in "Limelight" aluminum and a brushed stainless-steel roof panel. Its wide-and-low urban street fighter persona is further reinforced by a slim-line greenhouse and beefy 225/40 tires wrapped around custom 20-inch milled-aluminum wheels. While the Niro's rear hatch opens in a conventional manner to reveal a spacious carbon fiber-trimmed storage area, its two main doors swing up on swan-style hinges allowing easy access to an uncluttered but far from uninviting 2+2 passenger cabin.
Inside, the Niro Concept matches its one-piece molded front seats trimmed in Orbit Silver cloth with upscale Volcano Black leather on the dash and console. The Niro's fully reconfigurable digital instrument cluster is augmented by a large center-mounted screen that provides a variety of ancillary information from vehicle inclination, satellite mapping and infotainment, to views generated by its front, rear and side-view cameras. Twin strut-like elements on the center console control multiple functions, including activation of its start/stop system and 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission. The Niro's aft quarters feature a modestly scaled 50/50 rear bench that folds completely flat to expand the scale and utility of its cargo bay.
A gas-electric hybrid, the Niro Concept gets its motivation from a bespoke 158-horsepower version of Kia's turbocharged/direct-injected 1.6-liter gasoline "Gamma" 4-cylinder engine that drives its front wheels coupled with a supplemental 44-horse electric motor that ships power to the rear wheels whenever road conditions require additional traction.
According to Guillaume, a variation of the Niro Concept could be road ready in a fairly short period -- if this one-off exercise generates enough positive response. Although conceived strictly for the European market, we hope Kia will at least consider displaying the Niro Concept at various American car shows and allowing U.S. customers to have their say about this potential future Soul mate.
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