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The 2017 Kia Niro marks the birth of the hybrid utility vehicle (pictures)

With a new dedicated eco-car platform, the 2017 Kia Niro looks to provide hybrid fuel efficiency in package that doesn't scream out its green car credentials.

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Jon Wong
2017 Kia Niro
1 of 14 Andrew Krok/CNET

Kia says its goal with the Niro is to provide a vehicle that doesn't behave or look like a typical gas-electric vehicle, and create a new segment by combining hybrid efficiency with a body that boasts crossover traits.

2017 Kia Niro
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The result is what the Korean automaker is calling a hybrid utility vehicle -- simply put, a small hybrid crossover.

2017 Kia Niro
3 of 14 Andrew Krok/CNET

The Niro is based on a new dedicated eco-car platform, which will also underpin the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq, a Toyota Prius-fighting hatchback.

2017 Kia Niro
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In all, 53 percent of the Niro's bones are made from advanced high-strength steel.

2017 Kia Niro
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Kia is targeting a 50 mpg combined fuel economy rating from the hybrid drivetrain.

2017 Kia Niro
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The new gas-electric setup utilizes an Atkinson Cycle 1.6-liter four-cylinder with direct-injection, and a 1.56-kilowatt hour lithium ion polymer battery powering a transmission-mounted electric motor.

2017 Kia Niro
7 of 14 Andrew Krok/CNET

The gas engine and electric motor combine for a total new output of 146 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque.

2017 Kia Niro
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Kia says tuning the drivetrain for smooth power delivery and linear braking behavior was stressed during development to help quash typical hybrid complaints involving jumpy throttle tip-in response, and odd-feeling regenerative brake pedal behavior.

2017 Kia Niro
9 of 14 Andrew Krok/CNET

To keep the cabin quiet from road, wind and hybrid drivetrain noises, Kia piles in stiffer suspension bushings, more sound insulation, an acoustic windshield, special engine mounts and dampers inside the steering wheel hubs to minimum vibration.

2017 Kia Niro
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For maximum cabin and cargo space, the hybrid system's lithium ion battery pack is set under the rear seats.

2017 Kia Niro
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The Niro's design is very un-hybrid-like, with a clean and attractive appearance with wide and low proportions along with Kia's signature Tiger Nose grille up front.

2017 Kia Niro
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The 2017 Kia Niro will go on sale in the US early next year.

2017 Kia Niro
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Available features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking make up the safety story.

2017 Kia Niro
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On the infotainment front, Kia's UVO3 system with a 7-inch touchscreen is here, and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.

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