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Geneva – Kia plugs in to new markets

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The global unveiling of the Optima Sportswagon leads a trio of Kia debuts at Geneva that the brand’s head believes will significantly widen its market share.

The car is displayed alongside the plug-in hybrid version of the Optima saloon, and the hybrid Niro crossover.

According to Kia Motors Europe head Michael Cole, the three new models will take the brand into new segments for the first time, and help drive its growth in Europe for years to come.

“We decided to show our first-ever D-segment tourer together with our first-ever plug-in hybrid in Geneva to demonstrate our commitment to this hugely important sector, aimed at attracting new private and corporate buyers to the brand,” Cole says.

“The Niro fills a gap in the market for a crossover with low hybrid emissions, and will enable us to attract a new type of car buyer – hybrid sales have more than doubled in Europe over the last five years, and are forecast to account for approximately 700,000 sales in Europe by 2020,” he adds.

Evolved from the Sportspace concept shown at Geneva in 2015, the Optima Sportswagon is said to be more practical than rivals in its segment, thanks to features such as the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats, safety barrier net built into the back of the rear seats and smart powered tailgate.

It will go on sale with 1.7-litre turbodiesel and 2.0-litre petrol engines, and in a GT variant using a high-power 2.0-litre turbo direct-injection petrol unit.

The plug-in hybrid variant of the Optima saloon and the Niro hybrid make their European debut in Geneva after their unveiling at the Chicago show in February.

The Optima pairs the 2-litre 153bhp GDI diesel engine with a 50kW electric motor, the combined power 202bhp. CO2 emissions are quoted at just 37g/km and the car can operate in all-electric mode for 33 miles at speeds up to 75mph.

The Niro, meanwhile is a traditional hybrid model, matching Kia’s 1.6-litre GDI engine of 104bhp to a 43kW motor, for a combined output of 139bhp. Performance and efficiency figures are not quoted but Kia says it is aiming for emissions under 89g/km.

Described as a practical crossover with comfortable interior dimensions in a compact on-road footprint, the Niro is said to have class-leading headroom and 421 litres of cargo capacity. It will also be a rare hybrid available optionally with the ability to tow braked loads of up to 1,300kg.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.