The 2017 Kia Niro is a dedicated hybrid crossover utility vehicle —the first of its kind among dedicated hybrids.
Kia itself calls the Niro a “hybrid utility vehicle,” and hopes this will distinguish the model from competitors’ hybrids.
Kia also hasn’t specified whether it will offer all-wheel drive on the Niro.
It will launch with front-wheel drive, and Kia has suggested it has no plans to add a second set of driven wheels.
That’s despite the electric all-wheel drive system it showed on the Soul-based Trail’ster concept at the 2015 Chicago show., which added a second electric motor to the rear axle to supplement the hybrid powertrain driving the front wheels.
The 2017 Niro is propelled by a 103-horsepower, direct-injection 4-cylinder engine running on the ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle, along with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Sandwiched between the engine and transmission, a 32-kilowatt (43-hp) electric motor helps assist the gasoline engine, and can propel the Niro on its own under certain conditions.
Kia quotes combined output of 146 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque.
A 1.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the rear seat provides power for the motor, and stores energy harvested through regenerative braking.
Official EPA fuel-economy figures aren’t available yet, but Kia is targeting an aggressive 50 mpg combined for the Niro.
Kia has also said that it will emphasize a pleasurable driving experience over outright fuel efficiency.
In addition to the standard hybrid model, Kia plans to launch a Niro plug-in hybrid a year or so into the model’s product cycle.
The standard Niro hybrid will go on sale late in 2016, with more detailed specifications available closer to that time.