The New Kia Niro PHEV
THE NEW NIRO PHEV ON A PAGE
- The first plug-in hybrid compact crossover to go on sale in the UK
- Kia's third plug-in hybrid after the Optima and Optima Sportswagon PHEVs
- Slots into a market expected to reach 700,000 a year in Europe by 2020
- The practicality and showroom appeal of a crossover with the fuel efficiency of a hybrid
- Two well-equipped models (grades ‘2’ and ‘3’)
- Based on an all-new platform exclusively for electrified cars
- Five-door, five-seater front-wheel-drive crossover
- Low drag coefficient of 0.30, despite standard roof rails
- At 4,355mm long, slots between the cee'd hatchback and Sportage SUV in size
- Batteries located under the rear seat for low centre of gravity and ideal packaging
- Made up of 53 per cent advanced high-strength steel
- Bonnet, tailgate panel, front bumper back beam and several chassis components made of aluminium to save weight
- Signature design cues like 'tiger-nose' grille ensure Niro is easily recognisable as a Kia
- Long, 2,700mm wheelbase and width of 1,805mm create ample space for five adults
- Shapely front seats save 1.3kg each and offer excellent all-round support
- Dashboard split into upper display area and lower control area with fewer, simpler switches
- Horizontal trim line on dashboard emphasises width and space inside
- Luxurious soft-touch materials and trim details attest to high-quality fit and finish
- Boot capacity reduced from 373 to 324 litres compared with Niro parallel hybrid because of enlarged battery pack. Reduction in petrol tank capacity from 45 to 43 litres helps to compensate
Powertrain and running gear
- Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid with six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox (6DCT) in place of more common Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
- Combustion engine is based on 1.6-litre Kappa direct-injection (GDi) unit developing 104bhp and 147Nm of torque
- Supported by a 44.5kW (60bhp) electric motor with 170Nm of torque
- Combined power output 139bhp, with 265Nm of torque in first gear
- Fuel economy of up to 201.8mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 29g/km
- Petrol engine uses Atkinson cycle combustion process to make greater use of energy
- Cooled exhaust gas recirculation, direct injection, long-stroke engine and exhaust heat recovery to speed warm-up and aid efficiency
- Battery energy storage capacity raised to 8.9kWh compared to 1.56kWh in Niro parallel hybrid
- Capable of travelling up to 36 miles on battery power alone – enough for most daily commutes
- Batteries can be fully recharged from depleted in two-and-a-quarter hours
- Technologies to maximise all-electric range include ECOnomy Driver Assistance System featuring Coasting Guide Control, Drive Mode Select button and intelligent heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system
- 6DCT transmission employs low-friction bearings and low-viscosity oils, and includes Manual Sports driving mode
- Transmission-Mounted Electric Device ensures 6DCT works efficiently with hybrid powertrain
- All-independent suspension and wide stance improve stability, responsiveness, steering feel and ride comfort
- Low drag co-efficient, 6DCT transmission and extensive measures to reduce noise, vibration and harshness to ensure impressive refinement
- Kia's first dedicated hybrid to go on sale in the UK
- Delivers low-cost, high-efficiency motoring in a stylish crossover package
- Built on an all-new platform and featuring an all-new powertrain
- Fuel economy of up to 201.8mpg with CO2 emissions from 29g/km
- Available with the latest connectivity and driver assistance features
Niro is not your run-of-the-mill hybrid. It delivers the high efficiency and low running costs of a petrol-electric car with the style, practicality and desirability of a compact crossover. It is based on an all-new platform which will only ever be used for electrified vehicles, and has an all-new powertrain featuring a 1.6-litre, 104bhp internal combustion engine and a 32kW (43bhp) electric motor driving through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The compact five-door, five-seater Niro was a joint design between Kia's studios at Namyang in Korea and Irvine, California. The sleek crossover profile has a low drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.29, while extensive use of high-strength steel and aluminium in the body construction helps to trim the minimum kerb weight to as low as 1,500kg. Both are significant factors in Niro's low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Niro is not a hair-shirt fuel-saving car, however. Its horizontally structured interior exhibits the high-quality fit and finish now apparent in every model from Kia, and it is available with the latest connectivity and active safety technologies, including a Telematics System with UVO Connect Services, wireless smartphone charging, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection, Smart Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Following Assist, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic Warning systems. It also offers Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™ which, via pre-downloaded apps, links smartphones to navigation, music, hands-free calls and texts and voice recognition services.
Hybrid sales in the UK and mainland Europe have doubled over the past five years and are expected to reach 700,000 annually by the end of the decade. Niro ensures Kia is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this growing demand. It is offered in the UK in two designated grades – ‘2’ and ‘3’ – both featuring a high standard specification.
For 2019, Kia has made a number of improvements to the Niro, its best-selling electrified crossover range of ultra-low emission vehicles. The upgraded Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models made their global debut at the Geneva International Motor Show 2019.
The Niro, which combines crossover style practicality with ultra-low hybrid emissions, has been enhanced for 2019 with a new exterior design, a more upscale, high-quality interior, and new interior colour options. The Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models also feature Kia’s advanced new UVO CONNECT telematics system, which brings additional ‘connected’ functionality to the car.
Emilio Herrera, Chief Operating Officer for Kia Motors Europe, comments: “The Niro has become a key growth driver for Kia in Europe and is a cornerstone of our electrified product strategy. Its cool crossover design, high versatility, and low emissions and running costs make it an attractive proposition for both private and business buyers. New enhancements to quality and design, and the adoption of our ‘connected’ UVO system, will make the Niro family an even more compelling proposition.”
DESIGN AND PACKAGING
Bespoke hybrid vehicles, as opposed to those developed from a purely combustion-engined car, have traditionally involved compromises in design, mainly to achieve the lowest air-drag figure possible. That is why the majority have adopted a tear-drop hatchback profile – practical and efficient, but uninspiring and not what customers demand in a market increasingly attuned to SUVs and crossovers.
Kia was adamant it could overcome the design limitations of other hybrids without sacrificing practicality, versatility and aerodynamic efficiency. The result is the Niro, a range of hybrids with a modern, attractive crossover body style and ample room for five people plus their luggage. The remarkable feat is that this has been achieved in the Niro PHEV with a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.30, despite the standard roof rails.
To make this possible, Kia designers took a reverse approach during the creation of Niro: design an attractive, sporty, stylish and tough-looking crossover, then fine-tune the aerodynamics to suit the requirements of a hybrid. This novel way of going about things has resulted in a crossover which is appealing in its own right, but which is also a highly efficient hybrid.
Enhancements for 2019
Retaining its stylish crossover design, the upgraded Kia Niro features a handful of design updates for 2019. The refreshed design aligns the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid variants of the range with the appearance of the all-new all-electric e-Niro.
While the Niro retains its distinctive design and iconic ‘tiger-nose’ grille, new bumpers at the front and rear give it a more purposeful appearance and more confident stance on the road. The standard projection headlamps have been redesigned, incorporating Kia’s unique ‘ice-cube’ design. The bumper features new LED daytime running lights below the headlamps with a unique double-arrow layout, as well as LED fog lamps.
At the rear of the car, newly redesigned LED lights give the Niro a more distinctive and modern light signature. The new bumper design is finished with a silver-painted skid plate and incorporates new light reflectors and rear fog lamps in the corners.
The Niro PHEV is available with newly designed 16-inch alloy wheels with dark grey inserts, contributing to its unique stance and design.
The stylish crossover lines of the 2016 Niro have been transferred largely unchanged to the PHEV. The few changes are to make the PHEV instantly identifiable for what it is, and for practicality purposes, such as the plug-in charging point on the left-hand front wing.
The PHEV is available with a choice of two grades – ‘2’ and ‘3’ – and features similar styling attributes as the Niro parallel hybrid, and features the same chrome-coated exterior door handles, chrome belt-line mouldings (black on grade ‘3’), privacy glass on the rear side windows and tailgate, LED daytime running lights and rear combination lamps and body-coloured and high-gloss door mirrors with LED indicators. All versions feature 16-inch alloy wheels with dark grey inserts, and there are metallic blue flourishes on the front and rear bumpers, while the metallic blue theme is continued on the air vents inside the car and in the stitching for the black leather seats that are standard on the ‘3’ model.
From any angle, the car exudes dynamism and strength. The body line linking the roof, glasshouse and bonnet adds crossover-style volume to the car, while a wide bumper with bold lines and the now-familiar 'tiger-nose' grille add a distinctive Kia family look. Body cladding on the lower edge of the front and rear bumpers, along the sides and around the wheel arches emphasises Niro's crossover credentials, but there are also subtleties which illustrate the attention to detail of the design and engineering teams to make Niro a legitimate hybrid.
An active air flap in the lower front grille opens and closes according to the cooling requirements of the powertrain, so that Niro is running in the most efficient aerodynamic configuration in all circumstances, and there are air curtains, like gills, in the front corners of the car. These channel air away from the front wheel arches to reduce turbulence in those areas, again to aid aerodynamic efficiency. The roof leads into a rear spoiler to direct air over the car in the most efficient manner.
The tailgate area is clean-looking and sits over a diffuser which aids airflow under the car. The C-shaped rear lamps are mounted immediately beneath the tailgate glass, while the contours of the wide and deep tailgate emphasise the smooth aerodynamic shape. Even the location of the standard rear-vision camera reduces drag: it is housed within the rear wiper mounting so as not to impede air exiting the rear. The rear corners of the car have been refined in minute detail to reduce drag without worsening visibility. There are specially profiled door mirror casings and – as an example of the attention to detail of Kia's engineers – covered holes in the roof rails, which sit flush on the bodywork.
The design of Niro was a joint effort between Kia's studios at Namyang in Korea and Irvine, California. The car features the subtly sculpted surfaces and sharp lines that are now Kia design hallmarks. A wide stance gives pointers to the car's stability and low centre of gravity, while a long bonnet, short overhangs, elevated headlights and a rising shoulder line are other Kia distinguishing features. The body tapers towards the rear, where bold wheel arches, a squared-off bumper and the high-mounted C-shaped tail light clusters emphasise the crossover stance.
At 4,355mm long, 1,805mm wide and 1,535mm tall (1,545 with roof rack), the compact Niro PHEV sits between the Ceed hatchback and the Sportage SUV in size. Yet with a 2,700mm wheelbase and short front and rear overhangs it provides generous interior space.
Inside, Kia has introduced a series of visual and material upgrades for 2019, creating a more upscale atmosphere and enhancing cabin quality. The top of the dashboard is finished in high-quality soft-touch coating, while the dashboard and instrument panel feature elegant new gloss black trim with satin chrome highlights. Kia is also introducing new 8.0- and 10.25-inch TFT widescreen displays, with grade ‘2’ featuring the former and ‘3’ having the latter as standard equipment.
Aerodynamic considerations posed many challenges for the teams tasked with Niro's packaging. It was determined early on that Niro would be a compact hybrid crossover – shorter than the Sportage SUV, but longer than the cee'd hatchback. There had to be a limit on height to reduce drag, but this was not to be at the expense of a raised seating position. And space, versatility, ease of entrance and visibility were not to suffer in any way. The result is one of Kia's most efficiently packaged cars ever.
Thanks to the long, 2,700mm wheelbase there is generous space for five people. There is up to 1,059mm of legroom in the front and 950mm in the rear; the class-leading headroom of up to 1,018mm in front and 993mm behind is greater than in many C-segment SUVs; and the 1,805mm wide body provides 1,423mm of shoulder room for the two front occupants and only slightly less, at 1,402mm, in the rear.
One major difference with the PHEV is that luggage capacity has been slightly reduced from 373 to 324 litres with all five seats occupied because of the enlarged battery pack, although this has been partially offset by reducing the petrol tank capacity from 45 to 43 litres. The boot expands to 1,322 litres – down from the 1,371 litres of the Niro parallel hybrid – with the 60:40 split rear seats folded. The luggage area features an undertray for storing the recharging cables.
The ergonomic fascia and information clusters follow what is becoming a modern theme for Kia, starting with a wide dashboard set out on horizontal lines. There is an upper display sector with the instrument panel and infotainment screen at the same height for instant, easier reading, separated by a cabin-wide trim line from the lower control area, where the heating and ventilation and driver assistance switches are located.
Inside the cabin, every last nook and cranny has been used for storage of personal items, and there is a tray for wireless charging of mobile devices.
The Niro now has an electric park brake in place of the previous foot-operated parking brake to release more space for oddments in the centre console, and is fitted in the UK with a tyre mobility kit rather than a spare wheel to reduce weight and ensure the boot is as large as possible. Space-saving front seats with special foam-backed covers and slim headrests contribute to the car's exceptional roominess and also save 1.3kg each thanks to their high-strength steel frames, yet they are still able to cushion occupants against bumps and vibrations as a result of high-density foam and profiled springs and pads.
Grade ‘3’ models feature smart black leather upholstery with blue stitching, while all versions get a 4.2-inch TFT (Thin Film Transistor) full-colour supervision cluster is standard. Both grades ‘2’ and ‘3’ benefit from high-gloss black inserts in the steering wheel, dashboard and door panels, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear shifter, and satin chrome interior door handles further attest to the quality of Niro PHEV.
No compromises in safety, comfort and refinement
By re-engineering some existing components, Kia has been able to ensure that Niro has a unique chassis specifically designed for a hybrid, while being the equal of the brand's other compact models for ride comfort, handling and refinement.
The driving characteristics begin with fully independent suspension all round, based on MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link arrangement with dual lower arms at the rear. It has been tuned to deliver maximum on-centre steering feel, high-speed stability and immediate response to steering inputs. Because each rear wheel can absorb bumps independently, shocks are less likely to be transmitted to the cabin than with a cheaper torsion beam rear axle, while the wide stance and low centre of gravity enhance stability.
Capitalising on the experience gained through the development of previous generations of Optima hybrid (neither sold in the UK) plus the Soul EV, Kia has been able to give Niro consistent and linear deceleration and brake feel unusual in an electrified car.
All-disc brakes are used, ventilated at the front, and there is a new electric park brake in place of the previous foot-operated item. The anti-lock braking system includes Brake Assist, which ensures maximum retardation in an emergency stop, regardless of the force applied to the pedal by the driver.
Steering is via Kia's proven Column-Mounted Motor-Driven Power-assisted System (C-MDPS), which gives the car a compact turning circle of 10.6 metres and requires less than 2.7 turns of the wheel between the extremes of lock. The steering gear has been mounted well forward and features an increased gear ratio and a larger electric motor for greater self-centring and responsiveness. Niro's agility is also helped by aluminium front suspension knuckles, lower arms and brake calipers, all of which save weight and counter inertia.
The Niro PHEV has special aerodynamically shaped 16-inch alloy wheels with dark grey inserts and rides on 205/60 R16 tyres.
The PHEV's exceptional refinement proved particularly challenging to perfect because of the hybrid powertrain. Contributing towards this are asymmetric engine mounts to minimise powertrain movements at the attachment points in the subframe, high-density under-bonnet insulation, an acoustic shield with a special support structure to improve the sound of the combustion engine when accelerating in the most commonly used speed ranges, and the adoption of a 6DCT gearbox in place of a CVT.
Road noise is minimised by high-insulation rigid bushes in the front subframe, high-strength steel in the rear wheel arches and additional insulation in the A- and B-pillars. The low drag co-efficient (Cd) of 0.30 contributes towards the suppression of wind noise, aided by laminated windscreen glass, a cowl over the front windscreen wipers, specially profiled door mirror casings and – as an example of the attention to detail of Kia's engineers – covers over the holes in the roof rails, which sit flush with the bodywork.
An all-new platform exclusively for electrified vehicles
There will be no combustion engine-only Niro. Its all-new platform has been engineered exclusively for electrified vehicles and has been designed to accommodate present and future electrical components within a compact vehicle footprint with minimal intrusion into the spacious interior and luggage area.
The structure is particularly strong and includes 53 per cent advanced high-strength steel, which ensures that rigidity and safety do not compromise weight. This is aided by extensive use of aluminium for the bonnet, tailgate panel, front bumper back beam and several chassis elements, including the front knuckles, front lower arms and brake calipers. The aluminium bonnet and tailgate alone save 11kg when compared with comparable steel components. The front seats save 1.3kg each thanks to their high-strength steel frames, yet they are still able to cushion occupants against bumps and vibrations as a result of their high-density foam, while specially profiled springs and pads provide high levels of thigh, hip and side support.
As a result of all this, the Niro PHEV's minimum kerbside weight is just 1,594kg. To ensure body integrity and rigidity in critical areas, hot-stamped steel is used to reinforce the A- and B-pillars, roof rails and wheel arches.
The battery pack is housed beneath the rear seat, while in the PHEV the normal 45-litre fuel tank has been reduced to 43 litres to help compensate for the enlarged battery pack.
The Niro PHEV employs the same 1.6-litre direct-injection internal combustion engine as the parallel hybrid on which it is based. The major difference is that it has a more powerful electric motor and an enlarged lithium-ion polymer battery pack to supply it with energy. The power electronics system includes sophisticated and innovative technologies to maximise the car's range on electric power alone. All of these ensure the Niro PHEV is capable of travelling up to 36 miles on battery power – easily enough for the majority of daily commutes – while producing CO2 emissions of only 29g/km. Its officially rated fuel consumption is 201.8mpg.
The platform on which it is based has been designed purely for electrified vehicles, and the transmission, unlike those in most other hybrid vehicles, is a six-speed auto dual-clutch transmission(6DCT) rather than a continuously variable transmission (CVT), improving smoothness, efficiency and refinement.
The Atkinson cycle combustion engine
The Niro PHEV's petrol engine is a version of the normally aspirated 1.6-litre direct-injection (GDi) unit from the Kappa family, specifically engineered for use in hybrid cars. It is a long-stroke 16-valve unit with an aluminium cylinder head and block and a steel oil pan. The engine's dimensions remain at 72mm cylinder bore and 97mm piston stroke, and it develops an identical 104bhp at 5,700rpm and 147Nm of torque at 4,000rpm, but in Niro it marks the first combination of an Atkinson combustion cycle, cooled exhaust gas recirculation, direct petrol injection and a long-stroke specification for maximum efficiency.
The Atkinson cycle engine was invented by James Atkinson, of Hampstead, at the dawn of the motoring age (he first filed for patents in the mid-1880s), but it is now proving to be an ideal solution for emissions-reducing hybrid cars in the 21st century.
It works on the principle of completing all four stages of the combustion process (intake, compression, ignition and exhaust) on just one rotation of the crankshaft, rather than the two required in the more common Otto cycle engine. At the same time the compression ratio is reduced and the intake stroke is shorter than the power stroke, therefore requiring less fuel to turn the engine over.
While this inevitably reduces the amount of power the engine can develop, it is less important in a hybrid car which has the assistance of an electric motor, and which in any case aims to maximise efficiency rather than outright performance. With the benefit of continuously variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust sides of the engine, the new Kappa unit is easily able to achieve the variations in compression ratio and piston stroke required by the Atkinson cycle. Efficiency is further aided by an exhaust heat recovery system which speeds the engine warm-up process.
The Kappa Atkinson cycle engine features isolated cooling technology which prevents the cylinder head and block from overheating while reducing knocking and friction. Sodium, which has high thermal conductivity, is used in the hollow exhaust valves, and friction losses have been reduced through tapered roller bearings and low viscosity oil. The engine's thermal efficiency of 40 per cent is among the best in the global auto industry.
The power electronics system
In the Niro PHEV, the combustion engine is paired with a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor developing 44.5kW (60bhp) from 1,798 to 2,500rpm, and 170Nm of torque from rest to 1,798rpm. This compares with the 32kW (43bhp) developed by the electric motor in the Niro parallel hybrid. Power to the motor comes from a 360-volt lithium-ion polymer battery capable of storing 8.9kWh of electrical energy. The parallel hybrid's battery is a 240-volt system capable of storing 1.56kWh of energy. Battery weight rises from 33 to 117kg as a result of the increased size.
Together, the two power units produce a maximum 139bhp at 5,700rpm, with 265Nm of torque available in first gear from 1,000 to 2,400rpm. The result is extremely brisk acceleration from standstill and in typical urban scenarios, where Niro is most likely to be found, with effortless cruising ability at the speeds permitted in the UK. Acceleration from standstill to 60mph is achieved in 10.4 seconds, 0.7 seconds faster than in the parallel hybrid, and the PHEV's top speed is 107 rather than 101mph.
The battery pack has up to 50 per cent greater power density and 13 per cent greater energy efficiency than the systems in rival hybrid cars. The battery cells have a ceramic coating between the cathode and anode sides, a Voltage Protection Device, a dedicated battery management system and an integrated control system, all to improve safety, minimise fire risk and ensure reliability and ease of maintenance.
The power electronics system
In Niro, the combustion engine is paired with a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor developing 32kW (43bhp) from 1,798 to 2,500rpm, and 170Nm of torque from rest to 1,798rpm. Power to the motor comes from a 240-volt lithium-ion polymer battery capable of storing 1.56kWh of electrical energy. Together, the two power units produce a maximum 139bhp at 5,700rpm, with 265Nm of torque available in first gear from 1,000 to 2,400rpm. The result is extremely brisk acceleration from standstill and in typical urban scenarios, where Niro is most likely to be found, with effortless cruising ability at the speeds permitted in the UK. Acceleration from standstill to 60mph is achieved in 11.1 seconds, and the car has a top speed of 101mph.
Niro's battery pack is light and the whole hybrid battery system weighs just 33kg, and has up to 50 per cent greater power density and 13 per cent greater energy efficiency than the systems in rival hybrid cars.
Niro's battery cells have a ceramic coating between the cathode and anode sides, a Voltage Protection Device, a dedicated battery management system and an integrated control system, all to improve safety, minimise fire risk and ensure reliability and ease of maintenance.
Intelligent fuel-saving and energy-harvesting technologies
The Niro PHEV is equipped with a number of technological innovations to help it use the power in its battery pack in the most efficient way and to top up its batteries on the move.
Sophisticated technologies include regenerative braking, a driving style guide, an ECO-DAS (ECOnomy Driver Assistance System) featuring Coasting Guide Control, a Drive Mode Select button so that drivers can personalise the powertrain's dynamics, and an HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle) Select switch. It also has an intelligent heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to save battery power.
HEV Select gives access to two driving modes via a button in the centre console. In EV (charge depletion) mode the car runs as a purely electric vehicle when the energy stored in the batteries is adequate and is able to regenerate electrical power on the move to recharge the batteries. HEV (charge sustaining) mode allows the powertrain to balance the use of motor and petrol engine for a seamless combination of electric and internal combustion power. In this mode, a greater proportion of propulsion comes from the petrol engine and the charge level of the batteries is constantly being topped up for later use.
Drive Mode Select gives the driver the choice of Eco and Normal settings to obtain maximum energy efficiency or greater performance. This switch is also located in the centre console. A driving style guide delivers information through the instrument panel about how efficiently the car is being driven so that drivers can adapt their driving style as necessary.
Kia's regenerative braking system allows the car to harvest kinetic energy – energy created by motion – to top up the batteries when coasting or braking.
It is linked to Coasting Guide Control (CGC), which takes information from the navigation system so that the car can anticipate road conditions to reduce energy use and identify opportunities to harvest additional electrical power through coasting. CGC alerts drivers to the best time to lift off the accelerator and coast towards a junction, allowing energy to be regenerated. It also means the driver can brake later and maintain momentum when traffic conditions allow, reducing the likelihood of the need to stop at a junction or traffic lights. CGC operates between 37 and 100mph when a navigation destination is set.
The advanced HVAC system has been adapted from that in the Soul EV and allows only the driver's side of the car to be cooled when the other seats are unoccupied to minimise energy usage. It does this through a smart air intake, in contrast to rival systems which merely divert the airflow towards the driver when other vents are closed and consequently do not reduce energy consumption.
Two battery charging cables are supplied with the Niro PHEV; one with a standard three-pin plug allowing the car to be connected to a domestic socket and a Type 2 to Type 2 cable for connection to a public or workplace charging point. The charge time from fully depleted to 100 per cent charged is two-and-a-quarter hours.
‘2’ 1.6 GDi 6DCT plug-in hybrid
‘3’ 1.6 GDi 6DCT plug-in hybrid
A dual-clutch automatic transmission instead of the more common CVT
The Niro PHEV employs a dual-clutch automatic transmission rather than the continuously variable automatic (CVT) more commonly found in hybrid cars. The in-house 6DCT gearbox is based on the 7DCT transmission fitted to other Kia models, and uses a dry dual clutch to keep weight to a minimum and reduce the friction losses through viscosity which occur in wet dual-clutch systems. The gearbox has been specially engineered to work with hybrid powertrains. It is smoother, more efficient and quieter than a CVT.
In normal operation the 6DCT transmission changes gear automatically, with no need for intervention from the driver. One clutch operates the odd-numbered gears (first, third and fifth) and the other clutch is responsible for the even-numbered gears (second, fourth and sixth). The 6DCT is able to work automatically in both Eco and Sport modes, with the latter delaying upchanges until the power unit has attained higher revs for greater performance. But there is also a Manual mode, accessed by sliding the lever to the side when in the Drive position. The driver is then able to up or downchange at will by rocking the gear selector forwards or backwards.
The layout and gear train have been designed for light weight and compact size, while special bearings and low-viscosity oil reduce friction, promoting greater efficiency, reducing reaction times and minimising noise. A Transmission-Mounted Electric Device (TMED) allows the full output of both power units to be transferred simultaneously to the drive wheels with minimal energy losses. This differs from the power-split system typical of CVT transmissions, which convert a portion of engine output for delivery through the electric motor, resulting in a loss of energy. TMED allows the hybrid system to access battery power directly at higher speeds for swifter response.
The cabin features a range of technologies to enhance comfort and convenience for occupants. The ‘floating’ infotainment system is a touchscreen system, with DAB radio with MP3 compatibility and Bluetooth®, as well as full smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™.
The Niro PHEV ‘2’ model features a new 8.0-inch touchscreen display, while the Niro PHEV ‘3’ PHEV model includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen satellite navigation system with European mapping and Traffic Messaging Channel and Telematics system with UVO Connect Services. In addition, a wireless mobile phone charger is standard. The Niro is among the first Kia models in Europe to offer the brand’s innovative UVO CONNECT telematics system, connecting drivers to the world around to provide them with invaluable information during a drive.
Accessible via the 10.25-inch touchscreen and the owner’s smartphone, UVO CONNECT features a new Kia Live system, which uses its own in-built chip card to retrieve and update live data. The second element of the UVO system is the UVO App, designed for compatibility on Android and Apple smartphones. The app offers users peace of mind with a range of features to provide diagnostic data about their car and the trips they take. The app also enables owners to activate a range of remote functions and features remotely. Users can remotely send route directions to their car before a journey, check the location of their vehicle, and access vehicle reports and diagnostic notifications.
The 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation system features a Bluetooth multi-connection as standard, enabling occupants to connect two mobile devices at once, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its advanced split-screen functionality lets users control or monitor different vehicle features at the same time, customising the screen with a series of different widgets. This allows the driver to have a single display (such as navigation or powertrain information) or combine numerous elements on-screen at the same time. This means the driver can follow navigation directions or keep track of energy flow through the hybrid powertrain, while passengers can simultaneously choose their favourite songs or check the weather forecast. The technology has been developed to comply with the latest European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ensuring the highest levels of data privacy and protection.
The Niro PHEV ‘3’ features a wireless mobile phone charger, located in the centre console tray, which uses inductive charging to power the batteries of compatible electronic devices. Occupants are therefore able to recharge mobile phones or MP3 players without the inconvenience of wires and connectors, which frequently change when new devices are introduced. The wireless charger features foreign object detection, switches on automatically when a phone is placed upon it and displays the phone's charge status in the instrument cluster. An in-built safety system prevents overheating, while drivers and passengers are warned if they are about to leave the car with the phone still on the charging pad.
Android Auto™ works with Android smartphones running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher and connects the user's smartphone to the car's infotainment system. Through pre-downloaded apps, it then gives access to a variety of services such as Google Maps navigation, Google Play music, hands-free calls and texts and voice recognition. Apple CarPlay™ functions with iPhone 5 or newer and enables full Siri voice control of the phone's apps and functions while linking the car to Apple Maps, calls and text dictation, music streaming and audiobooks.
Standard technologies include full Bluetooth® smartphone integration, as well as automatic headlights, rain sensing front wipers, smart entry system on all versions. In addition, there are electrically folding, adjustable and heated door mirrors and a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors. In addition, Niro PHEV ‘3’ models feature heated front seats and steering wheel, as well as Smart Cruise Control which maintains the distance to the car ahead, automatically slowing and accelerating in accordance with the flow of traffic.
The latest Niro PHEV offers the best of what Kia has to offer in advanced active driver aids. Every version has Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) that can not only detect cars, but also pedestrians and cyclists, in addition to a Lane Keep Assist System with Driver Attention Warning (DAW), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Intelligent Speed Limit Warning (ISLW). Niro has been awarded a five-star crash-test rating by Euro NCAP.
Niro's Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA) with pedestrian and cyclist detection system brings the car to a halt if the driver fails to react to a potential accident. It uses short- and long-wave radars to monitor the proximity of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists in front of the car. If the sensors detect an imminent collision and the driver does not respond, the brakes are applied automatically. The system is split into three main categories:
City, which can avoid low-speed urban accidents at up to 13mph.
Inter-Urban, which operates between 31mph and 50mph.
Pedestrian, which detects pedestrians and other vulnerable road users such as cyclists at up to 44mph.
Lane Keep Assist uses a camera behind the rear-view mirror to 'film' the lane ahead of the car. It then passes this information to an electronic control unit which detects the lane and markings. If the control unit recognises that Niro has left its lane with no indicator activated, it issues sound and visual alerts to the driver and steers the car back into its lane if necessary.
Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management, which collectively control skids when cornering or accelerating on surfaces with uneven levels of grip, are standard, while Hill-start Assist prevents the car from rolling backwards when setting off on gradients.
Passive safety provisions start with the rigidity of the body structure, which is reinforced in critical areas and features crumple zones front and rear and anti-intrusion beams at the sides. There are seven airbags, including one to protect the driver's knees; all-round height-adjustable headrests; height-adjustable front seat belts with an automatic tightening device in the event of emergency braking; ISOFIX child seat top tethers and anchors; and doors which unlock automatically after an impact.
All versions of the Niro PHEV are well equipped and feature an extensive package of convenience and safety items which becomes progressively more comprehensive with every step up the range.
The Niro PHEV range kicks off with ‘2’ specification and features 16-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, automatic headlight control, electrically folding, adjustable and heated door mirrors with LED indicators, black part cloth and leather upholstery, a leather trimmed steering wheel and gearshift, dual automatic air conditioning, all-round electric windows and an auto-dimming rear view mirror, in addition to a new electric park brake with autohold, a six-speaker DAB radio with MP3 compatibility and an 8.0-inch touchscreen display is now standard equipment. There’s also Apple CarPlayTM and Android AutoTM with voice control, Bluetooth® with music streaming and Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom® Traffic, speed cameras, local search and weather updates, reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors. A fast-charging USB port for smartphones and other devices is included in the centre console. Front fog lights are standard, as is aluminium door scuff plates and front parking sensors.
Key safety equipment includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with car, pedestrian and cyclist detection, Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS), Lane Follow Assist (LFA), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), seven airbags and ISOFIX child seat top tethers and anchor fixings.
Chrome coated exterior door handles and black beltline mouldings give an upmarket appearance and are combined with body coloured and high gloss door mirrors, a matt black radiator grille, as well as black side sill and wheel arch body mouldings. LED daytime running lights ensure that you’re seen in poor visibility, and these are included with LED rear combination lights.
Both the front passenger and driver’s seat are height adjustable, and the steering wheel features tilt and telescopic adjustment. High gloss black trim on the steering wheel, door inserts, lower console and central fascia gives a smart appearance, with satin finish interior door handles. To aid practicality when carrying awkward loads, the rear seats fold down in a 60:40 fashion.
A 4.2-inch supervision instrument cluster with TFT LCD colour display is provided as standard on all models, with a trip computer that provides distance, fuel consumption and average speed information in a handy readout.
For security, an alarm system and engine immobiliser are included, as well as locking wheel nuts, a visible vehicle identification number (VIN), deadlocks for the doors and speed sensing auto door locking that can be activated by the dealer.
Move up to Niro PHEV ‘3’ and there’s the addition of black leather upholstery, an 8-way driver’s power adjustable seat with lumbar support, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, chrome beltline mouldings, LED front fog lights and a 10.25-inch touchscreen satellite navigation system with European mapping and Traffic Messaging Channel (TMC), as well as a Telematics system with UVO Connect Services, Kia Connected Services featuring TomTom® Traffic, speed cameras, local search and weather updates and a wireless mobile phone charger.
WARRANTY AND AFTER-CARE
Kia set a new benchmark in 2007 when it launched the cee'd with an industry-best seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. That demonstration of faith in the quality and reliability of Kia products was subsequently extended to every model.
A major benefit is that it is transferable to subsequent owners at no charge, as long as the seven-year time limit has not been reached and the mileage is below 100,000.
The mechanical warranty is supported by a 12-year anti-perforation warranty and a five-year paint warranty.
Servicing is required every 10,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes soonest. The Niro PHEV is available with Kia’s ‘Kia Care’ service plans, which have been developed to provide customers with a wide range of service plan options for any Kia model within the first seven years of the vehicle’s life – matching its industry-leading seven-year warranty.
The service plans feature a comprehensive range of options including the original, traditional, first, third and fifth services and those in between, but in addition a customer can now purchase services up to and including the seventh service which matches the full length of the warranty. The plans are available for all Kia owners and can be purchased at any point of ownership for cars up to five years old.
The Kia Promise was introduced to give customers the best ownership experience by giving them access to seven key benefits. The Kia Promise is activated after purchase and is done by simply registering on the online portal, MyKia. Along with the industry leading seven-year/100,000 mile warranty, other benefits of the Kia Promise include complimentary seven day insurance and £250 Insurance Excess Return for one year; easy to use Click & Collect on Genuine Kia accessories; convenient online service booking; Family-Like Care and Accident AfterCare. Every new Kia also comes with complimentary Roadside Assistance for 12 months. When a customer registers on MyKia, Kia Roadside Assistance Plus, the highest level of cover provided by the RAC, can be unlocked, which includes onward travel and European cover.
FIVE MINUTES WITH PAUL PHILPOTT
Burning questions that you would love to ask our President and CEO
How important is the Niro in the UK?
The Niro accounts for around 6 per cent of total sales in the UK, and is the fourth best-selling nameplate in the Kia portfolio. Last year, we sold more than 6,400 Niro models in the UK, and with the alternative fuel market continuing to grow, we expect the Niro to continue to take a significant portion of the hybrid market sales. In 2018, almost 1,300 Niro PHEVs were registered in the UK.
What sales targets have you set for the new Niro PHEV for the UK market?
We never release sales or production targets for individual models; however, we expect the updated Niro to outsell its predecessor.
And what sales targets have you set for the Kia brand as a whole in the UK?
Next year is likely to be another challenging year, until we get some certainty around Brexit, but we fully expect to reach another new sales record in 2019, of in excess of 96,000 units. During 2018, we achieved sales growth of 2.73 per cent to 95,764 sales, in a market that was down by 7 per cent. And this was achieved in a year when the cee’d was on runout, the Sportage was transitioning through its mid-life facelift and of course the industry faced challenges with the transition from NEDC to WLTP.
How important are fleet sales for the Niro PHEV?
A wide range of different models has always been an essential element in our plan for sustainable fleet and business growth and the Niro PHEV gives us a credible entrant in the alternative fuel segment. Kia’s strategy in the business market in the UK has been to deliver compelling choices for business users where residual values contribute to excellent operating costs. The Niro delivers the technology, safety, reliability, practicality and appeal that the fleet market demands in a highly satisfying, efficient package. And that is coupled with an exceptionally low company car tax Benefit-in-Kind rate of 16 per cent.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
We've anticipated what you're likely to ask us
What is the importance to Kia of hybrid vehicles?
The first reason is that the hybrid market is growing rapidly, not just in the UK but in Europe, too, and we want a share of it. But of greater significance, all manufacturers have to lower average CO2 emissions to 95g/km or less in Europe by 2020-21, and electric and electrified vehicles are essential to achieve this. We also have our own internal targets of a 25 per cent reduction in average corporate CO2 emissions, based on 2014 levels, by 2020.
Why do you offer both a dedicated hybrid and a PHEV?
A. Hybrid technology, and particularly the batteries which support it, is expensive, and while there is a growing number of buyers wanting to buy into the technology and demonstrate their environmental credentials, not all can benefit from some of the tax advantages it bestows. So, the dedicated hybrid allows those who want a hybrid but gain little reward from a plug-in to reduce their running costs at relatively little expense, while the plug-in will benefit business operators and users hugely with its 200mpg-plus potential fuel economy and 29g/km CO2 Benefit-in-Kind taxation for business users is only 16 per cent in 2018-19.
What level of sales is Niro PHEV achieving in the UK, and is it mostly a fleet or a retail car?
A. In 2018, we sold more than 6,400 examples of the Niro Hybrid, including almost 1,300 examples of the Niro PHEV. Around 60 per cent of Niro sales are to fleets. Our research shows that buyers are primarily shopping for a compact crossover with style, practicality and high technology content, but they are also fully aware of and interested in the benefits of hybrids.
Is Niro PHEV on sale at every Kia dealership, and can all dealers service it because of the extra safety demands when working with electric components?
A. Every Kia dealer has at least one technician plus a Kia Master Technician trained in handling the high-voltage systems associated with electrified cars, so Niro PHEV is sold at and can be serviced at any Kia dealership. Model-specific training is also provided at two-day courses to coincide with the launch of each Kia electric and hybrid vehicle.
Under the new WLTP emissions test, how will official CO2 emissions from the Niro compare to its predecessor?
As with the majority of other manufacturers, we expect official WLTP CO2 (converted back to NEDC 2.0) ratings to come in slightly higher than earlier models tested under NEDC conditions.
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