Tuesday, 10 September, 2013 - 19:00
The Kia Niro, a concept car unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, showcases a dramatic crossover design featuring spectacular ‘butterfly’ doors and what the company describes as an "almost counter-4x4 image".
Conceived at Kia Motors’ Frankfurt design studio, just down the road from where the show was being staged, under the director of Chief Designer Europe, Gregory Guillaume, the Niro concept has been created as a styling study to gauge public response for a potential future production model. Its relatively compact dimensions are crafted onto an all-new platform that will form the basis of future B-segment products from Kia - the platform on which the current Rio is built.
It is clearly making a tilt at the crossover market, but in a different way, according to Guillaume: "Ten years ago people wanted understated style in the SUV market, but increasingly as more people migrate to the B-segment they are looking for strong character and individuality."
The most eye-catching element in the Kia Niro design are the dihedral ‘butterfly’ doors that open into the roof panel and swing up high, with low-set flush handles.
Another unique feature is the innovative 4x4 powertrain utilizing Kia’s turbocharged 1.6-litre ‘Gamma’ engine, developing 160hp through a 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission. While the engine drives the front wheels, an electric-hybrid system, powered from regenerative braking, delivers up to 45hp to the rear wheels when road conditions require extra grip.
"It’s a very exciting vehicle - packed with styling cues that mark it out as another great Kia design, I’d love to see it go into production," says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand.
Guillaume suggests that Niro could be close to on-road reality - if the public wants it!
"As designers we have to look at what the future could hold, not just what is probable, and we believe drivers want excitement and new solutions from their vehicles," he says.
"It is clear that the B-segment is growing as motorists seek to downsize but it is equally clear that they refuse to give up individuality and distinctiveness - so Niro explores one avenue to satisfy that desire.
"We would love nothing more than to see all of our concept designs on the streets tomorrow. As Kia looks to add to its range of small cars you have to look at where the market opportunities exist and how we can exploit them. Perhaps Niro answers that challenge."
Created with European tastes and expectations very much in mind, the Kia Niro blends a mix of contrasting materials - including stainless steel - into compact, purposeful dimensions. Muscular fenders rise up from the trademark ‘tiger nose’ grille, etched in Limelight green aluminum and flanked by triangular LED headlamps, while below the grille are two large, square LED driving lamps underscored by a carbon fiber chin with lime accents. Carbon fibre and lime highlights also feature on the lower rear section of the Niro, where the styling resembles that of the Kia Sportage.
Even the 225/40R20 tyres, mounted on milled aluminium 20-inch five-spoke wheels, carry the Limelight styling accent with a stripe etched into the tread.
The Niro’s high beltline is contrasted by a stainless steel roof and then bisected by those extraordinary ‘butterfly’ doors that lift up and out of the way to facilitate easier entry and exit. The shiny steel-on-black theme continues into the 2+2 cabin, where the pair of bucket seats are joined by a common cushion that wraps over the centre console. Other interesting interior features include the rotary auto gearshift that is incorporated into one of the support braces emerging from the centre console. Limelight accents highlight the HVAC vents, shift paddles, instrument cluster and the slimline, pop-up infotainment/navigation screen. Mounted directly onto the side windows are milled "Plexiglas" door mirrors with in-built downward-facing cameras that complement the rear-facing camera built into the tailgate.
Currently Kia Motors has not made final decisions on forthcoming B-segment products and there are no plans for Niro to go into commercial production in the immediate future - but the Niro’s appearance at Frankfurt is being used to gauge public opinion and possible demand.