Kia reveals three hybrids at Chicago Auto Show despite low gas prices – USA TODAY
Korean automaker Kia revealed the Niro — a compact hybrid crossover — and two other hybrids on Thursday at the Chicago Auto Show, arguing that people don’t have to sacrifice style to get stellar fuel economy.
“The Niro offers a uniquely alluring yet practical package that consumers haven’t seen before,” Orth Hedrick, vice president product planning for Kia, said in a statement.
Kia, which often uses the Chicago show for big reveals, used a live band to sing popular rock songs ranging from Elton John, Chuck Berry, Queen and the Rolling Stones to set the stage for three new hybrids at a time when hybrid sales are falling and gas is $2 a gallon or less across much of America.
Despite the trends against hybrid sales, Kia also revealed a redesigned Optima hybrid and an all-new Optima plug-in hybrid.
The 2017 Niro, along with the two new Optima hybrids, are part of Kia’s plan to nearly triple the automaker’s vow to grow its green car line-up from four to 11 models by 2020.
One of those 11 models will eventually be a plug-in version of the Niro, is a new nameplate that joining Kia’s lineup.
Kia describes the Niro as a crossover with wide and low proportions, a long roofline and short overhangs and an aerodynamic shape. While hybrid sales are falling, the Niro is a compact crossover, which is the fastest growing segment in the U.S. auto industry.
“The Niro hits the sweet spot by offering the best combination of outstanding mpg, an engaging driving experience, utility, and most importantly, a stunning design that doesn’t shout ‘hybrid,’” Hedrick said.
The hybrid is powered by an electric motor and a gasoline engine that work together to generate 146 horsepower and 195 pound feet of torque.
The gasoline engine is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 103 horsepower that works in tandem with a 43-horsepower electric motor. Bringing the whole system together is a compact and lightweight 1.56-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery located underneath the rear seat.
The Niro will go on sale early next year. Kia did not announce pricing.
All-new 2017 Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid
The all-new 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid, which goes on sale during the fourth quarter of this year, can travel an estimated 27 miles in full electric vehicle mode and has a total estimated driving range of 600 miles.
The car is powered by a 9.8-kilowatt, lithium-ion polymer battery pack, which is hidden behind the rear seat and tire well, giving Optima Plug-In Hybrid one of the largest cargo areas among its competitors.
The car can be fully recharged in less-than three hours with a 240-volt charger, but it takes about nine hours with a 120-volt charger.
The Optima Plug-in Hybrid is powered by Kia’s 2-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline direct injection engine that produces 154 horsepower. Electric power is produced by a transmission-mounted, 50-kilowatt motor.
Redesigned 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid
Sales of Kia’s Optima Hybrid fell 16.6% to 11,492 in the U.S. last year, as sales of all hybrid cars fell, but Kia is hoping that the improved performance of its redesigned hybrid and the additional features it offers will change that sales trend.
Together, the gasoline engine and electric motor generate 193-horsepower. Kia says its 2017 Optima Hybrid will get 10% better fuel economy than the outgoing Optima Hybrid. The automaker is replacing the 2.4-liter engine with a more compact 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine that generates 154 horsepower. That power is boosted by a 38-kilowatt electric motor.
Kia says the new hybrid also has a larger and more comfortable cabin, a number of additional safety features, and new high-tech features such as a hands-free trunk opening system and a wireless phone charger.
Follow Detroit Free Press reporter Brent Snavely on Twitter @BrentSnavely.