Neither is slated for an Australian debut yet, but both new models shine a light on Kia’s future powertrain direction.
In the case of the Niro, an efficient 1.6-litre gasoline direct injection engine (GDI) is installed alongside an 8.9kWh lithium polymer battery that allows up to 55 kilometres of electric driving range and an emissions target of less than 30g/km of CO2.
“Annual sales of plug-in hybrid models in Europe are expected to grow to more than 600,000 units by the end of 2023, while the crossover market is also forecast to expand in the coming years,” according to Michael Cole, the Chief Operating Officer of Kia Motors Europe.
The Niro’s 8.9kWh battery compares with the 1.56kWh unit found in the regular Niro, while its 44.5kW electric motor also gets a bump-up from the 32kW motor in the regular hybrid Niro.
Outputs from the 1.6 litre petrol engine alone are rated at 77kW of power and 147Nm of torque, but combined system outputs sit at 104kW and 265Nm with the 0-100 km/h dash taking 10.8 seconds, or 0.7 seconds less than the hybrid Niro.
The transmission of the plug-in hybrid Niro also moves from a continuously variable automatic to a six-speed dual clutch auto with a Transmission Mounted Electric Device (TMED) that can apply power from both petrol engine and electric motor to the front wheels with less power losses than the power-split e-CVT system of the regular hybrid.
To increase battery range the Niro while include regenerative braking to harvest kinetic energy, Eco Driving Assistant system, which encourages the driver to operate the vehicle more efficiently with suggestions of when to coast, and Predictive Energy Control that uses navigation data and topographical maps to decide when best to use which power source to maximise fuel and charging efficiency.
Similarly, Kia has introduced a version of the Optima Sportwagon for Europe, following the launch of the sedan version in 2016.
The Optima Sportwagon plug-in hybrid boasts a more practical 440 litres of boot space compared to 307 litres in the Optima plug-in hybrid sedan, sharing that model’s 2.0 litre GDI engine, 11.26kWh lithium-polymer battery, and 50kW electric motor.
Kia claims a 61 kilometres electric-only range, and emissions as low as 34g/km of CO2 under the European test cycle.
Petrol power is rated at 115kW and 189Nm, while combined outputs hit 151kW and a healthy 375Nm allowing the Optima Sportwagon plug-in hybrid model to complete the 0-100 km/h sprint in 9.7 seconds.
Both plug-in models are set to go on sale from the third quarter of 2017 in Europe, however at this stage an Australian debut remains unlikely for any variant of either the Niro or the Optima Sportwagon.