Throughout the Niro's development process, it has been conceived as a dedicated hybrid model.
To slot in beneath the coming new Sportage, the Niro will tackle rivals such as the Honda HR-V and Mitsubishi ASX in the small SUV class. Next year, the new diesel-only Optima will be boosted by the addition of a plug-in hybrid to the line-up. This combination will allow the vehicle to travel up to 27 miles on electric power alone.
The platform underpinning the Niro has been engineered specifically to accommodate this next-generation petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. The powertrain's total power output is 151 kW at 6 000 r/min, with the application of the electric motor facilitating an immediate engine response to throttle inputs.
Traditional SUV look judging by first renderings
An upgraded lithium-polymer battery pack with a capacity of 1.62 kWh will also be part of the system and will be fitted underneath the trunk floor. This should result in a more practical loading area and enabling the use of 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
The Optima HEV is expected to go on sale in the first half of 2016.
The PHEV features an active grille that opens and closes to improve aerodynamics and aid engine bay cooling and new Eco Plug In badging. In the next five years, KIA will expand its current green vehicle line-up from the four current models to 11, and is targeting a 25% improvement to average corporate fuel efficiency over 2014 levels.
Ki-Sang Lee, Senior Vice President, Eco Friendly Vehicle R&D Center, Kia Motors Corporation, said: "We don't believe that there is any one "silver bullet" that can satisfy the demand for low emission technology within the auto industry, so we foresee a wide range of eco-friendly powertrains co-existing for an extended period of time".
The master plan also involves replacing seven out of 10 current engine types with new, downsized engines, increasing the number of turbochargers and developing new, high-efficiency multi-speed transmissions.