Michael Cole, chief operating officer at Kia Motors Europe, said that the “new plug-in hybrid versions of the Niro and Optima Sportswagon will help Kia achieve its 2020 target to improve fuel economy by 25% compared with 2014 levels.”
Niro Plug-In Hybrid
The Niro Plug-in hybrid combines a 105hp 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol engine with a 60hp electric motor, which is hooked up to an 8.9kWh lithium-polymer battery pack. The electric motor is about 40% more powerful than the unit used in the regular Niro hybrid, while the battery also has substantially more capacity than the 1.56kWh unit in the regular hybrid.
Kia says its engineers are targeting sub-30g/km CO2 emissions and an electric driving range of around 34 miles. Official fuel economy and emissions figures are yet to be announced.
Together the Niro Plug-in’s engine and battery pack produce around 160hp and a maximum torque of 265Nm. The Niro has a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds, 0.7 seconds faster than the existing Niro hybrid.
A six-speed double clutch transmission is paired with a transmission-mounted electric device (TMED), which is different from the CVT set-up typically used by hybrid vehicles. Kia claims that this option allows a more efficient transfer of power from the engine and electric motor to the wheels.
The Niro Plug-in uses regenerative braking and a driving assistant system to produce a more efficient drive. The system anticipates topographical changes and offers guidance on efficient driving. The infotainment system also displays the battery charge level and highlights nearby charging stations.
Kia has differentiated the Niro Plug-in Hybrid from the existing Niro hybrid with some minor cosmetic exterior updates. These include a new satin-finish chrome grille surround, chrome brightwork with a metallic-blue finish, LED headlamps and ‘Eco Plug-In’ badging. 16-inch alloy wheels are also available.
The Niro plug-in’s battery pack, located beneath the floor of the 324-litre boot, leaves cabin space unaffected. An optional towing pack facilitates the towing of braked loads up to 1,300 kg.
Optima Sportswagon Plug-In Hybrid
Kia has built the Optima Sportswagon Plug-in Hybrid exclusively for the European market. The powertrain uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 68hp electric motor and 11.26kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Unlike the Niro Plug-in Hybrid, the Optima makes do with a regular six-speed automatic transmission, with the electric motor replacing the traditional torque converter. The 200hp and maximum torque of 375Nm makes the Optima capable of 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds.
Kia is targeting an electric range of around 38 miles at speeds of up to 75mph and CO2 emissions of 34g/km. However, like the Niro, final range and emissions figures are yet to be confirmed.
To optimise efficiency, the Optima comes with regenerative braking and is offered with an advanced heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system which can be used to target the driver area only.
Updates to the Optima’s exterior include new bumpers, side skirts and wheels, chrome brightwork and ‘Eco Plug-In’ badging.
A new instrument display keeps the driver informed about the battery’s charge and driving efficiency. The eight-inch infotainment system, compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, displays current EV range and nearby charging points.
The Niro and Optima Sportswagon Plug-in Hybrids will be sold with Kia’s standard seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, which includes the lithium-ion battery packs.
Both hybrids are set to go on sale in late summer/early autumn 2017.