Having already seen the pre-show teaser shots, we had a chance to take a closer look at Kia's vision for the European B-segment at the Frankfurt Motor Show today – the Niro.
The B-segment designation is a European class of cars that are "bigger than a city car but smaller than a small family car." Kia is after this growing market as Europeans choose to downsize in favor of smaller cars with funkier design attributes.
The hybrid-drive Niro Concept is powered by a revised Kia 1.6 liter T-GDi engine that delivers 158 hp to the front wheels via a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox. This is backed by an electric motor capable of delivering 33.5 kW (45 hp) to the rear wheels when conditions require.
Designed at Kia’s Design Studio in Frankfurt, the Niro is suitably compact for the urban lifestyle, measuring 4.2 meters (13.8 ft) long, 1.8 meters (5.9 ft) and 1.6 meters (5.25 ft) tall – just slightly smaller than the 5-door Soul.
One design characteristic sure to draw attention is the Niro’s dihedral doors. Normally found on the likes of Lamborghini and other exotics, these butterfly doors swing up and forward over the roof, giving plenty of space for access to the concept cabin. Milled Plexiglas mirrors are inset into the side windows and sport built-in cameras.
Inside the Niro, one piece clam shell seats lined with “Orbit Silver” material feature alongside anodized aluminum and leather trim. Twin posts jutting out of the center console house the start-stop button, transmission switch and an adjustable ring for volume control.
The digital instrument panel can be formatted to the driver’s liking with the option to display additional information on the center console-mounted screen.
A split rear bench in the back allows for 2+2 seating and can fold down to increase storage in the carbon fiber cargo deck. The Niro also has a nifty little trick when loading groceries – the rear hatch features two-part lighting that when opened raises only part of the light cluster in order to improve cargo visibility in the dark. The secondary cluster of lights remains in place to improve safety and visibility against oncoming traffic. This light concept could actually prove to be useful given Europe’s many narrow, dimly lit inner city streets.
Stylistically, Kia is clearly looking to make a more assertive statement than with its cutesy Soul. The Niro’s “Nightfall” paint finish is designed to communicate a utilitarian attitude and Kia uses the terms “chunky” and “impish” in the same sentence when describing the car’s design. The front valance comes from Kia’s Provo concept, while ice-cube lights break up the distance between the recessed headlights and lower air dam. The remainder of the car shows influences from Subaru’s Outback, Nissan’s Murano with just a hint of Porsche Cayenne .
Kia says there are currently no plans for the Niro to go into production in the foreseeable future, but it will use the Frankfurt showing to gauge interest and obtain feedback on the ideas floated by the concept with a view to applying them to future models.