Kia’s radical new concept car is the Niro crossover, complete with butterfly doors, two-tone tyres and a Blake 7 cockpit in the best show car tradition. Look past the design flourishes, though, and you’ll see this is a statement of intent for Kia’s next niche car: a supermini-sized crossover to fight the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, and Vauxhall Mokka.
Kia Niro: what’s in a name?
Sensitive issue, this one, if you recall Kia’s coupe concept car from earlier in 2013: the Provo. We’re told it’s derived from the Korean word for ‘prototype’, but connotations with the Republic of Ireland’s troubled past stirred up opposition to the name…
‘Niro’ isn’t a reference to the car’s colour, or any Egyptian deities: it actually references the grade of stainless steel used for the car’s roof and pillars. Like much of the car’s styling, it’s more about form than function, but a cool feature nonetheless.
What is Kia saying about the Niro?
Not much, aside from the usual manufacturer spiel. We’re told the Niro is ‘ready to take on the urban environment with style and tenacity’, and, ‘[is ready for] any challenge that the assured modern motorist may throw at it … combin[ing] a mischievous character in a clearly robust and substantial yet stylish bodyshape featuring a mix of contrasting materials – including stainless steel elements – in compact, purposeful dimensions.’ Crikey.
Can you translate?
Essentially, Kia wants to gauge European reaction to a trendy, jacked-up Rio supermini. The bigger Sportage crossover and full-size Sorento SUV have proved highly successful for Kia in Europe, but the South Korean outfit has struggled to crack what’s known as the ‘B-segment’. The boxy Soul crossover is a niche choice in Europe, while the current Venga is more mini-MPV than look-at-me urban cool.
However, the Soul has been a big hit with young US buyers, so much so that the latest version has been designed in California. Copying the tactic, the Niro was penned in Kia’s European design house in Frankfurt, Germany, aimed at tickling European tastebuds.
Any ideas about the Niro’s engine?
No official word from Kia yet, save for the promise of ‘[a] preview [of] an innovative new powertrain. We could see a development of the Provo concept’s hybrid drivetrain: that car used a 1.6-litre, turbocharged petrol engine to drive the front wheels, assisted by an electric motor turning the rears.
>> What are your thoughts on the Kia Niro? Should it get the green light instead of the Provo coupe? Click ‘Add your comment’ below to get involved.