Kia pulled the wraps off of its new Niro concept at the 2013 Frankfurt auto show, hinting at a potential future B-segment crossover. Niro sort of sounds like Rio, a nod to the possibility that a production Niro would be underpinned by the same platform as the compact Kia and the Hyundai Accent.
Kia starts the conceptual power train grounded in reality. Under the hood would be its turbocharged 1.6-liter Gamma engine mated with a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. That's the same engine that you can find under the hood of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, though in the Niro it only outputs about 160 horsepower. But that's OK, because it'll have a little help.
Like my favorite concept at the 2013 Frankfurt show, the Niro's rear wheels help out thanks to electrification. On the rear axle, you'll find a 33kW electric motor that turns the rear wheels when road conditions require extra grip. That brings total system output to about 204 horsepower.
For comparison, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo makes 201 horsepower with just its gasoline engine. However, it also only puts power to the road on its front axle. And because the electricity used by the Niro's rear wheels is generated through braking regeneration, the urban crossover is likely more efficient than the funky hatchback.
Behind the vertically hinged doors, the Niro's interior, which was designed along with the rest of the car at Kia’s Frankfurt design studio, isn't as concept car crazy as you might think. Aside from some oddly designed seats and the gratuitous use of black Alcantara, the broad strokes of this dashboard wouldn't look too out of place on a production car.
Though mostly show-car glossy, these rattle-can matte wheels and the chunky treaded tires give the Niro the appearance of being grounded with off-road capability, even if that "off-road" is just the unpaved parking at the farmers' market.
The Kia Niro is merely a design excercise; no plans have been announced to produce it. However, with the new Kia Soul growing in size, perhaps there will be room in the future for such a concept to slot in beneath it.