Niro kicks off Kia's hybrid hopes in Singapore

Derryn Wong

Kia’s 3.8L/100km Niro hybrid SUV costs just $109,999 with COE

UPDATE 06/01/2017: Niro pricing has been revealedat $109,999 with COE which means it undercuts the Hyundai Ioniq ($118,888 with COE) and Toyota Prius ($131,888 with COE) significantly. Prices for the latter two won’t drop as COE results for January 2017’s first round ended slightly higher. Kia is also offering a 10-year battery warranty, 10-year engine warranty, and five-year general warranty.  

UPDATED 06/01/207 post preview: Local launch pics included and our first impressions: The Niro looks very much like its sister in the Kia line-up, the Sportage SUV, and on the inside, the increased headroom is noticeable over the Hyundai Ioniq hatch. It has a more conservative black-themed layout but retains the active driver’s instruments and a high safety and feature set. 

SINGAPORE – Trends indicate (and we’ll be publishing a story on that very soon) that Singapore will be seeing more of three things in 2107: Diesels, hybrids and crossovers. Hot on the heels of Hyundai’s keenly-priced, sub-$120k Ioniq Hybrid is what could possibly be a big hit for Kia in 2017 since it’s got two outta’ three on the hit list.

It’s the Niro SUV, which runs on the same hybrid platform as the Ioniq, but packed into fashionable crossover style. The car launches here in Singapore officially tomorrow (January 6, 2017) but we’ll preview it here first.

Like the Ioniq it has a 1.6-litre Atkinson cycle direct-injection engine paired to a electric motor plus a lithium ion battery pack. The hybrid system makes a total of 141hp and is good for a 0-100km/h time of 11.5 seconds and a 162km/h top speed. 

You’ll be able to see the car on the stand at the Singapore Motorshow which begins next weekend. 

For now here are five reasons why the Niro could be the next crossover ‘emperor’.

1. It doesn’t look like a hybrid
A key point of contention with hybrids is that not everyone wants to wear a green badge on their sleeve – although in a decade or two that may well change. But for the now, take a look at the Niro and it screams ‘compact crossover’ – it looks like a shrunken Sportage, with the same Tiger nose signature grille, while the lights recall smaller Kia models like the Rio. But it has no green or blue highlights, no special features to mark it out as a hybrid, besides a small ‘EcoHybrid’ badge on the rear. Kia actually did that on purpose: “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 of Kia Motors America. The car was designed at the company’s studios in Irvine, California and Namyang, Korea, and has a coefficent of drag of 0.29cD, which is more than its cousin, the Hyundai Ioniq, but which is a tradeoff for the crossover bodystyle.

2. It’ll be as useful as any crossover
The small crossover market has boomed, both in Singapore and overseas, with strong sales of cars like the Honda HR-V and Nissan Qashqai. Part of this appeal comes from utility: the common perception is that crossovers have more space, especially headroom, which is largely true, as it’s easier to get into a tall vehicle than a sedan which is both lower and has a lower roofline. Kia boasts that the Niro will have 1,049mm of headroom for front passengers and 993mm for the rear passengers, which it claims is greater than most other crossovers. The car also has a generous 427-litres of boot space, which is bigger than most and the same as the Kia Forte K3, albeit with a hatchback and larger loading aperture.

3. It’ll probably drive well
Korean cars of yore drove like carts – they were affordable, unbreakable transport, but in terms of joy for the driver, delivered little because of limp steering and crashy torsion beam suspension as well as other budget components. But the Niro, like the Hyundai Ioniq with which it shares platform, has been designed from the outset as a hybrid, with the battery pack mounted under the rear seats along with the fuel tank, centralising the biggest masses of the vehicle nearer to the ground. The Niro also has fully-independent suspension (MacPherson front and multi-link rear), and if Kia’s recent vehicles like the Sportage GT Line are anything to go by, it’ll deliver at least a bit of fun in the handling department. Again like the Ioniq, Kia’s engineers paid special attention to controlling ride and refinement though extra sound-deadening material and insulation, so it’s likely to not only ride well, but be quiet on the inside too.

4. It’ll be frugal no matter how you drive
If you want a proto-preview of how the Niro’s hybrid drivetrain will behave, read our review of the Hyundai Ioniq, as both cars share the same 1.6-litre direct-injection Atkinson cycle engine (‘Kappa’), with a dual-clutch gearbox, 43bhp electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. The 140bhp total system output it nothing to sniff at, while the motor itself (dubbed ‘Transmission Mounted Electric Device’) is able to transfer its power through the dual-clutch transmission without the use of a power-split device. Kia says this overcomes the power loss encountered in such power-split systems with CVTs (hint: shots fired) and adds to the direct, torquier feeling of the hybrid system’s power delivery. Overall, Kia quotes a CO2 output of 88g/km and 3.8L/100km fuel efficiency which, on paper at least, compare favourably to the Prius and Ioniq. 

5. There’s lots of tech and safety inside

The Niro’s platform incorporates 53 percent high strength steel and use of aluminium in the bodyshell (boot, bonnet, suspension arms and other chassis parts) for increased weight saving and strength. The local spec car has an impressive load of safety equipment: Seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag and first and second-row airbags, a reverse camera and blind spot detection, in addition to the usual ABS, electronic stability, anti-lock brakes and brakeforce distribution.  Besides in-built cellphone charging,plus the usual Korean niceties such as automatic headlamps and wipers, keyless entry and start, as well as ventilated seats.

Sisters under the skin: here’s how the Hyundai Ioniq performs



Hybrid hyundai ioniq Kia niro prius

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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