Category Archives: Niro Articles

The Best Cars, Trucks, SUVs, and More for 2016: Editors’ Choice Awards 2016 Kia Soul

Source : Car and Driver 2016 Editor’s Choice – February 22, 2016

2014 Kia Soul

Perhaps overshadowed by its eye-catching exterior, the Soul’s solid build quality and smart interior are the real deal. Base models get a 130-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a slick six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic while uplevel models receive a 164-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the automatic. With either engine, acceleration is relaxed at best. Despite the numb steering feel, the Soul is unexpectedly agile thanks to nicely controlled body roll and a refined suspension.

2014 Kia Soul

Instrumented Test

2014 Kia Soul

A fine budget box

Kia’s high-wattage ads for the second-generation Soul tout its greater refinement and uplevel equipment, but the boxy runabout still plays in a price-sensitive field. Fortunately for budget shoppers, the entry-level version looks to impress with similar quality and feel, and it’s also the only way to put a stick in this particular box.

Patience Is Required

For 2014, the mid-level Soul + (say “plus”) and range-topping Soul ! (“exclaim”) trims pack a 164-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder backed by a mandatory six-speed automatic transmission, a pairing that won us over in a recent test. The simplest Soul makes do with a weaker 1.6-liter mill, although, happily, it comes with a six-speed manual. (The automatic is available for two grand, bundled with aluminum wheels.) Fitted with direct injection, the engine develops 130 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. As you’d expect given those meager numbers, our 2774-pound test car wasn’t quick, taking a leisurely 9.1 seconds to hit 60 mph and moseying through the quarter-mile in 16.9 at 84 mph. That’s a full second slower to 60 mph than the 338-pound-heavier 2.0-liter car, although the gap is cut in half after 1320 feet.

2014 Kia Soul

The 1.6 version noticeably struggled at higher speeds, with ample planning a requirement for passing on two-lanes. And keeping up with Michigan’s freeway traffic—it reliably averages 80 mph—meant constantly working the shifter to make the most of the available power. But that task was at least pleasant, thanks to the stick’s light, positive action and well-defined gates. It helps, too, that the brake and accelerator pedals are well placed for fancy footwork once you’re on more-sedate surface streets. (Hey, we’ll heel-and-toe in anything.)

Largely because we were constantly wringing the little 1.6’s neck, our observed fuel economy came to just 24 mpg, 1 mpg better than in the 2.0-liter and only matching the car’s 24-mpg EPA city rating. Highway mileage is estimated at 30 mpg.

We can deal with the slowness—plus, if anything, a poky car can require a driver to pay more attention to driving, a notion we support—but we are less forgiving of an unusual quirk in our 1.6-liter’s engine software. The car briefly cut the power when picking up the throttle after a shift, particularly when changing from first to second. It’s something we’ve noticed in a few other Hyundai/Kia products. We contacted the company for an explanation but have yet to receive a response.

Bargain Basement—Emphasis on Bargain

Even this Soul’s bottom-feeder status and 16-inch wheels can’t suppress its stylistic cheekiness, and they do nothing to diminish its overall feeling of value and solidity. The 1.6 gives off the same funky-fresh aesthetic vibe as does the 2.0, and its interior trimmings are a cut above most competitors’. The high roof means lots of headroom for all aboard, and drivers enjoy good forward sightlines and clear instrumentation. The cabin is nicely insulated from wind and road noise, and all the materials and fixtures are above average for the class. The structure is rock solid, which allows the suspension to focus on its job. Body roll is nicely controlled, and this Soul rides with a sophistication that belies its 15-grand starting price.

The brake pedal is as talkative as a dead moose—or a living one, for that matter—but it offers an adequate amount of resistance, never feeling squishy. At the track, the binders hauled our Soul down from 70 mph to 0 in an impressive 159 feet. The biggest chassis demerit is reserved for the adjustable electric power steering; it’s precise but ultimately numb in all three settings (Comfort, Normal, and Sport), which only adjust effort.

2014 Kia Soul

Parting with $15,495 will put you behind the wheel of a manual Soul, which is highlighted by power windows and locks (but, oddly, not keyless entry), satellite radio with Bluetooth/USB/aux connectivity, a six-way power driver’s seat, a tilting-and-telescoping steering wheel, four-wheel disc brakes, stability control, and six airbags. A set of carpeted floor mats ($115) was our test car’s only extra, but they were port installed—there are no factory options on the 1.6 models. You need to step up to the + ($18,995) or ! ($21,095) to unlock swanky stuff like bigger wheels, keyless entry and start, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated leather seats, and navigation. All in, you can spend $26,000 on a Soul.

Loaded-up models start to diminish the value inherent in the Soul, though, and they aren’t available with the manual gearbox. It would be nice if the company would follow Ford’s lead with its Focus and offer the manual across the lineup—or, failing that, stick the stick in a real Soul Track’ster with a turbocharged, 250-horse 2.0-liter—but we get the fact that most people can’t or won’t drive a manual. And even though such a product strategy usually punishes those who love to row their own by forcing them into homely-looking, bare-bones models, the base Soul is still practical, refined, stylish, and competent. It’s no wonder Kia is selling so many Souls.

2014 Kia Soul

A fine budget box

Bargain Basement—Emphasis on Bargain

Even this Soul’s bottom-feeder status and 16-inch wheels can’t suppress its stylistic cheekiness, and they do nothing to diminish its overall feeling of value and solidity. The 1.6 gives off the same funky-fresh aesthetic vibe as does the 2.0, and its interior trimmings are a cut above most competitors’. The high roof means lots of headroom for all aboard, and drivers enjoy good forward sightlines and clear instrumentation. The cabin is nicely insulated from wind and road noise, and all the materials and fixtures are above average for the class. The structure is rock solid, which allows the suspension to focus on its job. Body roll is nicely controlled, and this Soul rides with a sophistication that belies its 15-grand starting price.

The brake pedal is as talkative as a dead moose—or a living one, for that matter—but it offers an adequate amount of resistance, never feeling squishy. At the track, the binders hauled our Soul down from 70 mph to 0 in an impressive 159 feet. The biggest chassis demerit is reserved for the adjustable electric power steering; it’s precise but ultimately numb in all three settings (Comfort, Normal, and Sport), which only adjust effort.

2014 Kia Soul

Parting with $15,495 will put you behind the wheel of a manual Soul, which is highlighted by power windows and locks (but, oddly, not keyless entry), satellite radio with Bluetooth/USB/aux connectivity, a six-way power driver’s seat, a tilting-and-telescoping steering wheel, four-wheel disc brakes, stability control, and six airbags. A set of carpeted floor mats ($115) was our test car’s only extra, but they were port installed—there are no factory options on the 1.6 models. You need to step up to the + ($18,995) or ! ($21,095) to unlock swanky stuff like bigger wheels, keyless entry and start, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated leather seats, and navigation. All in, you can spend $26,000 on a Soul.

Loaded-up models start to diminish the value inherent in the Soul, though, and they aren’t available with the manual gearbox. It would be nice if the company would follow Ford’s lead with its Focus and offer the manual across the lineup—or, failing that, stick the stick in a real Soul Track’ster with a turbocharged, 250-horse 2.0-liter—but we get the fact that most people can’t or won’t drive a manual. And even though such a product strategy usually punishes those who love to row their own by forcing them into homely-looking, bare-bones models, the base Soul is still practical, refined, stylish, and competent. It’s no wonder Kia is selling so many Souls.

The Best Cars, Trucks, SUVs, and More for 2016: Editors’ Choice Awards 2016 Kia Soul EV

Source : Car and Driver 2016 Editor’s Choice – February 22, 2016

2016 Kia Soul EV

The funky Soul EV appeals to the eco-friendly, keeps the utility of the gas-powered Soul, and adds a host of tech features to please even the geekiest hamsters. Hot-rod performance is not on tap, but the 109-hp motor, lithium-ion battery, and regenerative braking yield a 93-mile range per the EPA. It can charge in 4 to 5 hours on a 240-volt system. Currently the Soul EV is sold in a total of ten states, so check availability.

First Drive Review

2016 Kia Soul EV

Kia bares its electric Soul.

Kia calls the Soul a UPV—Urban Passenger Vehicle—a classification that’s particularly apt for the new EV version, the brand’s first zero-emissions offering. With a fully charged battery pack, the car earns an EPA operating range of 93 miles, but that still means sightings of electric Souls beyond city limits will be extremely rare.

That range potential (second only to that of the Tesla Model S among current electrics, according to Kia) is attributable to the energy density of its lithium-ion-polymer battery pack. We monitored the comprehensive battery-state and range readouts on the eight-inch color display in the center of the dashboard during our brief warm-weather West Coast drive, and that range expectation did not seem at all optimistic.

Kia baked an electrified model into the architecture planning for this second-generation model. But its 620-pound battery pack—plus five transverse subfloor beams to strengthen the unitized body—add up to a pretty hefty Soul. With a curb weight of about 3400 pounds, the Soul EV is several hundred pounds heavier than a basic gasoline model.

2016 Kia Soul EV

2016 Kia Soul EV

2016 Kia Soul EV

The air-cooled battery pack consists of 192 cells in eight modules and resides beneath the first- and second-row seats; it raises the second-row floor a few inches, although the rearmost section of the cargo bay is unaffected. Like most current electric cars, the Soul is propelled by a synchronous AC motor, this one rated at 109 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. It drives the front wheels via a single-speed transmission.

What’s Your Hurry?

A prime virtue of an electric motor is max torque from rev one, which translates as right-now throttle response followed by smooth, linear acceleration. But electric or not, the power-to-weight ratio will have its say, and while the Soul EV is quick across an intersection, attaining 60 mph takes a while—10.7 seconds, by our estimates.

Still, there are other dynamic virtues here. Without the rumble of an internal-combustion engine, the EV’s soundtrack now consists of deeper sounds from the swamp—some motor whirring, tires on pavement, and air rushing around the cabin. Ride quality is smooth, with the added weight of the battery pack actually calming ride motions a bit. Responses to directional changes are surprisingly eager, with only moderate body roll. This Soul also has accurate steering, which is all the more surprising since it has an electric system (natch) with a column-mounted motor.

2016 Kia Soul EV

The electric Soul includes a 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger stashed behind the grille (one of the major cosmetic distinctions between the electric and gasoline models), with SAE J1772 Level 1 and 2 ports, as well as a CHAdeMO DC fast-charge port. Charging times are typical of most contemporary EVs: about 24 hours on 120-volt household current, 4 to 5 hours with 240 volts, and about a half-hour to get an 80-percent charge at a public DC fast-charge station.

Like most electric compacts, the Soul is pricey at $34,500 to start. It is well equipped, including navigation, a rear camera, Bluetooth, and UVO EV services to monitor distance-to-discharged, check battery-charge status, and search for charging stations. The EV Plus ($36,500) adds equipment such as projector-beam fog lights, power-folding mirrors, and heated leather seats. But as with other EVs, the MSRP can be seriously whittled with government subsidies such as a $7500 federal tax rebate, for openers. And California offers a $5000 rebate on the purchase or lease ($249 per month for the Soul) of zero-emissions or plug-in-hybrid vehicles. Nevertheless, at more than double the price of a base piston-engine Soul, the fossil-free EV is no cheapie.

According to Kia, 44 percent of all electric-vehicle sales in the U.S. are in California, which is pertinent to the Soul, because that’s the only place you’ll be able to acquire one, at least initially. Kia may expand availability to the other ZEV states sometime in 2015, but that’s a wait-and-see situation.

The Best Cars, Trucks, SUVs, and More for 2016: Editors’ Choice Awards 2016 Kia Sorento

Source : Car and Driver 2016 Editor’s Choice – February 22, 2016

2016 Kia Sorento

With utility and rugged good looks, the Sorento is a value-oriented ride for those seeking to avoid the stigma of a minivan. The base engine is a 191-hp four-cylinder; a 240-hp turbo four and a 290-hp V-6 are optional. The V-6 offers third-row seating. A six-speed automatic is standard as is front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is available. When properly equipped, the V-6 model with all-wheel drive can tow 5000 lbs. The Sorento offers a supple ride, accurate steering, and a great warranty.

2016 Kia Sorento

Instrumented Test

2016 Kia Sorento

Audi meets Lexus in the reduced aisle.

Few brands have ascended from near oblivion as convincingly as has Kia. Run your eyes down the flanks of the resculpted 2016 Sorento and it’s hard to envision products that were once bait for subprime buyers shopping for low monthly payments. Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty introduced more than a decade ago helped erase some memories of bottom-of-the-barrel quality and subpar resale values in preceding years. But the advent of Peter Schreyer’s design put a face on the rapid improvements to driving dynamics, feature content, and build quality that really started coming together in the 2011 Sorento. Suddenly Kia products transitioned from used-car stand-ins with good bang-for-buck value into something a bit more refined and aspirational.

The 2016 Sorento continues that trend. The tiger nostrils in the crossover’s grille flare more widely now on what is the third-bestselling Kia behind the Optima sedan and Soul hatchback. The look is decidedly upscale with elegance and balanced proportions inside and out and a preponderance of premium-look and -feel materials cheering the cabin that—we’ll just say it—would do an Audi or Lexus crossover proud. A three-inch stretch in overall length this year takes the Sorento to roughly the same size nose-to-tail as the 2015 Lexus RX350. But the Sorento offers three rows of seats (standard on V-6 models) to the RX350’s two. Certainly, the aft chairs of the Kia are for wee folk, yet the Sorento manages to offer four more inches of third-row legroom than the 3.7-inch-longer Toyota Highlander.

2016 Kia Sorento

2016 Kia Sorento

2016 Kia Sorento

In addition to the base 185-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 290-hp 3.3-liter V-6 for upper trim levels, Kia offers a new 2.0-liter turbo four with 240 horsepower on tap and 260 lb-ft of torque in a broad swath starting at 1450 rpm. The turbo four likely will replace the V-6 in future iterations as Kia moves to meet tougher fuel-economy targets. But for now the direct-injected 3.3-liter V-6 is the best choice for all-around performance and drivability, especially in the all-wheel-drive 4313-pound SX model we tested. It’s also a good match for the Sorento’s smooth personality. It has ample torque, a pleasing sound, and pulls enthusiastically to its 6500-rpm redline. The six-speed automatic offers clean, crisp shifts.

This crossover is no slouch, either. Our $40,595 Sorento V-6 AWD test vehicle reeled off a 7.2-second zero-to-60 time, edging out both a Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.6-liter V-6 4×4 and a Toyota Highlander 3.5-liter V-6 AWD we’d previously tested. And even though the Sorento prioritizes ride comfort over high-limit handling, the Kia’s 0.80 g of lateral grip was far stickier than the Grand Cherokee’s 0.73 g. Shod with 235/55-19 Michelin Premier LTX all-season rubber, the Sorento stopped from 70 mph in 179 feet, 6 feet shorter than a 2016 Acura MDX, 7 shorter than the Highlander, and 12 shorter than the Grand Cherokee.

2016 Kia Sorento

2016 Kia Sorento

2016 Kia Sorento

That said, the 2016 Sorento—in V-6, turbo four, or any other guise—won’t be challenging the Germans for fast-lane or twisty-road domination. Rather, the made-in-the-U.S.A. 2016 Kia Sorento is a crossover that’s very comfortable in its own skin. Despite employing column-mounted electric-steering boost, the Sorento is still not quite as talkative as the best German systems, although weighting is now quite good. But the Korean is quiet, very well appointed inside, has comfortable and supportive front seats, is stable and composed at speed, and feels very solid. While the base L and mid-level LX and EX trims deliver a lot of standard equipment for the dollar, the SX and Limited dip more than a toe into premium territory—for thousands of dollars less than premium-brand entries. We’d call that a winner.

The Best Cars, Trucks, SUVs, and More for 2016: Editors’ Choice Awards 2016 Kia Optima

Source : Car and Driver 2016 Editor’s Choice – February 22, 2016

2016 Kia Optima

Standout styling, a first-rate interior, and an agile chassis make the Optima more than just another bland family ride. The base engine is a 185-hp four with a six-speed automatic. There are two turbo four-cylinders: a 178-hp 1.6-liter with a seven-speed automatic and a 245-hp 2.0-liter with a six-speed automatic. A hybrid is offered, too, with a combined 199 hp. Standard features include cruise, satellite radio, and Bluetooth, making the Optima a good deal as long as you avoid pricey options.

2016 Kia Optima

Instrumented Test

2016 Kia Optima

Even with the lineup’s least-interesting engine, the Optima impresses.

It’s indicative of how established Kia’s Optima has become that we’ve been reduced to picking nits among its three available gasoline engines. (An Optima hybrid also is offered.) After all, having raised interior quality to acceptable levels with its 2006.5 Optima, style and handling with the 2011 Optima, and firmly entrenching the sedan as a solid all-around choice with this latest revision for 2016, Kia leaves little to complain about in its mid-size sedan.

Tale of the 2.4

So, let’s address that single major complaint right away, then. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder is our least favorite Optima motivator. It’s a workable engine, but the direct-injected 2.4 lacks the smoothness of the optional turbocharged 1.6-liter four and the power of the top-spec turbocharged 2.0-liter. Kia fits the 2.4-liter to the base Optima LX and the mid-level Optima EX (tested here), with the turbocharged 1.6-liter between them in the LX 1.6T model. The turbocharged 2.0-liter is the sole powerplant for the range-topping Optima SX and SXL trims.

2016 Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima

With 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, the 2.4-liter’s output is on par with the four-cylinder engines in competitors such as the Honda Accord and the Mazda 6. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, it pulled our 3399-pound Optima EX test car from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 7.5 seconds, and it returned 25 mpg over 800 miles of mixed driving. The engine generally is quiet and unobtrusive—until you mat the accelerator, and at higher engine speeds, the sound skews toward gravelly and unrefined. The engine also sometimes miscommunicated with the transmission, with quick throttle inputs occasionally prompting a stumble and a delayed downshift.

It’s Got the Goods

This is perhaps overstating the powertrain’s foibles, but however minor the issues, they’re what keep the 2.4 behind the Optima’s better turbo engines. Luckily, every Optima has a lot to offer elsewhere, with a handsome exterior and an understated but highly functional interior. In EX trim, the Optima is ideally equipped for its $25,840 base price, with dual-zone automatic climate control, USB and 12-volt power outlets front and rear, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power driver’s seat with memory function, a backup camera, and a 5.0-inch touchscreen display.

Our test car also had the $3700 EX Premium package, which adds a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, a power passenger seat, navigation with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and LED interior lighting. Another $1200 for the EX Premium Audio package (Harman/Kardon surround-sound system, heated outboard rear seats, and rear window shades) brought the grand total to a still-reasonable $30,740.

2016 Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima

For that price, the Optima EX is just a damn good sedan. The suspension mixes appropriate comfort with generally buttoned-down movements. It isn’t sporty, having pulled only 0.83 g around a 300-foot skidpad with mild understeer, but the steering faithfully follows inputs without being darty. Like most cars in this class, the Optima’s steering is light on feedback, but the slightly heavy weighting gives the impression of solidity, and it tracks straight on the highway.

The interior is spacious and upscale—particularly the Mercedes-like patterned perforations on the leather seats—and Kia’s large touchscreen is easy to use, if a bit of a reach for the driver. The detail-oriented will appreciate how the typefaces, color schemes, and layouts of the Optima’s hard buttons, dials, gauge-cluster driver-information screen, and dashboard display match to form a cohesive environment. This sort of rigor is often lacking in cars twice the price; even the Honda Accord, a 10Best Cars stalwart, fails this exam, utilizing two dashboard screens (one atop the other) with differing pixel counts and menu styles.

It’s too bad folks are flocking to crossovers like pairs of animals to Noah’s Ark, because the typical nuclear family would be well served by the Optima’s useful space for humans and cargo. A standard 60/40 split-folding rear seat can be dropped flat, a rarity in sedans. We fit a six-foot Christmas tree through the pass-through without it touching the front seats, and the trunk on its own is big and usefully shaped. The Optima is a sedan that does everything quite well, even though it doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally. There are better engines in the Optima range than the one in our test model, but there are few better mid-size sedans on the whole.

Kia pulls back the veil on Niro HUV hybrid

By: Special to the Star, Published on Tue Feb 16 2016

Kia pulled the wraps off its Niro HUV hybrid at the CIAS, a vehicle that will spearhead the Korean automaker’s push to become the leading purveyor of small green vehicles by 2020.

This five-door hatchback crossover rides on an all-new dedicated platform featuring over 50 per cent high-strength steel — all in the pursuit of less mass and improved rigidity. Motivation comes via a 1.6L, Atkinson cycle, 4-cylinder, mated to a 32 kW electric traction motor.

Combined output is 146 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, routed to the front wheels via a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission. A 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack lives under the rear seat.

A new feature, dubbed The Coasting Guide, aims at maximizing fuel economy by coaching the driver on when to coast and brake.

Relative to what we’ve seen from Kia lately, this Niro’s design is fairly conservative. Still, Kia’s trademark “tiger” grille gives the front end some zing. Size wise, it slots in between the Sportage and Sorento crossovers. Ted Lancaster, Vice President of Kia Canada, predicts the Niro will deliver class-leading fuel economy along with engaging driving dynamics.

A shot across the Toyota Prius’s bow? Expect the Niro HUV Hybrid in Canadian showrooms in early 2017 with a plug-in version to follow.

Further to Kia’s plan, Lancaster says they will replace all current internal combustion engines with next-generation gas and diesel units by 2020.

The other newbie on the Kia stand is the fresh 2017 Sportage compact SUV. As we know, there’s an insatiable appetite for these jacked-up critters in the marketplace, and this new-gen Sportage looks ready for the fight.

Designed mostly at Kia’s German design studio under the watchful eye of lead designer Peter Schreyer, the 2017 Sportage features taut lines, shorter overhangs and an interesting face dominated by the Kia corporate grille, high-mounted tapering headlights and “Ice Cube” LED fog lamps. Bigger overall than the outgoing model, and bragging a 40-mm wheelbase stretch, there’s more passenger room both front and back, and cargo space increases by 17 per cent. A dual-level cargo floor adds further functionality. The structure is 39 per cent stiffer, and all models get a rear multi-link suspension. Additionally, all-wheel-drive is now available on every trim level.

Naturally, the cabin is richer (more “mature” in Kia’s words) and features increased connectivity, thanks to the new NUVO3 interface with 8-inch touchscreen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities. The centre console is angled 10 degrees toward the driver, and as would be expected from Kia, there’s a long list of available luxury features that include heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. Additionally, a full suit of driver’s aids can be ordered, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure and blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, and cross-traffic alert.

Two carry-over engines are on the menu — a base 2.4L, 4-cylinder (182 hp, 177 lb-ft) and a 2.0L, 4-cylinder turbo (265 hp and 269 lb-ft). Both are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Reportedly, fuel economy is up while handling improves and unwanted cabin noise is down. It will be on sale at the end of this month.

 

Green Day For Kia Niro, Optima Plug-In Hybrid

Forbes Website – Feb 11, 2016 | Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnmccormick/2016/02/11/green-rules-with-kia-niro-optima-plug-in-hybrid/#71eca62b71f3

Gas prices may be heading south, but Kia is putting its greenest foot forward at the Chicago auto show. The Korean brand staged the world debut of the Niro, a hybrid crossover that Kia says breaks the mold in its class.


[ Revised Kia Optima hybrid and plug-in hybrid models with new Niro compact crossover (in red). (Kia photo) ]

“We’re here to make a big green statement,” said Kia Motors America COO Michael Sprague. The company aims to improve its fleet mpg by 25 percent over the next five years, going from four to 11 eco models by 2020.

The fuel economy push will be accomplished by lighter weight designs, new powertrains and introduction of more alternative technologies including hydrogen fuel cells and pure electric vehicles, noted Sprague.

First steps announced in Chicago included an improved version of the Kia Optima hybrid and for the first time a plug in variant of that model. “The latest Optima adds hybrid efficiency to the standout styling and vehicle dynamics of our all-new Optima, and the plug-in takes things one step further with all-electric range that is among the best in the segment,” said Orth Hedrick, Kia Motors America vice president, product planning.

The Optima plug-in hybrid boasts an estimated 600 miles of total driving range and its 9.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack delivers 60 percent more energy output than that in the previous Optima. The car has a battery only range of 27 miles.

As for the Niro it hits a “sweet spot by offering the best combination of outstanding mpg, an engaging driving experience, utility, and most importantly, a stunning design that doesn’t shout ‘hybrid,’ ” said Hedrick.


[ 2017 Niro compact crossputs a new spin on hybrid formula, ]

The Niro uses a 103-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, combined with a 43-hp electric motor, and feeds the power to the front wheels through a six-speed, dual clutch transmission. Kia says it hopes the Niro will return up to 50 mpg.