8 Cool Facts About The 2017 Kia Niro

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Kia stopped by Motor Trend HQ this week to show off its new baby, the 2017 Niro, a hybrid crossover built to take on the Toyota Prius. The car, which is Kia’s first dedicated hybrid, will be a sister car to the Hyundai Ioniq and go on sale early next year, right after the Optima hybrid and plug-in hybrid come to market. Powering the 2017 Niro is a new hybrid powertrain that combines a 1.6-liter I-4 coupled to an electric motor for a combined output of 146 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.

During the discussion, we learned a few more key details about the 2017 Niro. Here are eight of them that help set it apart from the rest of the hybrid crowd.

Being Crossover/SUV-Like Was Intentional

Designers at Kia didn’t want to go with the flow when it came to designing their first dedicated hybrid vehicle. Instead of going with a wedge-like shape for maximum wind-cheating capabilities, designers took the more utilitarian approach and created what the automaker calls a “hybrid utility vehicle,” a family-friendly hybrid with exceptional levels of practicality.

A CVT Wasn’t an Option

Most hybrids today come with a CVT, but Kia, like its sister brand Hyundai, is pretty averse to the idea of belt-type transmissions. Instead of using a torque converter automatic, the Korean automaker equipped the Niro with a six-speed dual-clutch unit to help ensure it doesn’t drive like the typical hybrid.

It’s (Somewhat) Related to the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte

Yes, the 2017 Kia Niro rides on the same platform underpinning the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte. However, because the Niro is a dedicated hybrid, the platform itself shares only 10 percent of its parts with the chassis sitting beneath those two compacts.

The Powertrain is Hybrid-Specific

If you thought the Kappa family 1.6-liter I-4 used in the Niro would replace the Gamma family 1.6-liter turbo and non-turbo family, think again. This Atkinson cycle engine is specific to Hyundai and Kia’s hybrid vehicles and you’ll find it on all Niros sold across the globe.

A Plug-In Variant is On the Way

A few months after the standard Niro goes on sale early next year, the plug-in hybrid variant will greet the public. If its sister car, the Hyundai Ioniq, is any indication, you can expect it to have an EV mode range of 25 miles or more, which should make it easier on your wallet to commute.

No, All-Wheel Drive Not Available…At Least for Now

If you assumed that the 2017 Niro’s more utilitarian looks means it’ll be available with all-wheel drive, we have bad news for you. For now, the Niro will only be strictly front-wheel-drive since the platform will require significant changes to accommodate an all-wheel drive system. However, never say never as it is possible Kia could utilize an electric motor mounted in the rear to achieve four-wheel traction.

The On-Board Navigation System Helps You Get Better Gas Mileage

A nice little trick that the 2017 Niro has up its sleeve is that it uses GPS navigation and topography to help you get better fuel economy. That means the car can detect if you’re traveling uphill, downhill, or on level ground, and it will ensure that the hybrid powertrain operates as efficiently as possible depending on the driving situation and your environment.

50 MPG for around $25,000

Kia is targeting 50 mpg for the 2017 Niro, and to meet that number it has done everything from making it light to giving it a slippery drag coefficient of 0.29. As with every Kia, it will be big on value. Count on a starting price of around $25,000 when it goes on sale in early 2017, the automaker tells us.