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2023 Kia Niro carries over hybrid powertrain, grows in size slightly

The all-important specifications of the 2023 Kia Niro have been revealed, at least for the standard hybrid. In addition to its awesome new look, the hybrid crossover grows in size. It’s 0.8 inches taller and longer and 0.4 inches wider while the wheelbase grows by 0.7 longer, putting squarely on the larger end of the spectrum for its class. Certain design cues are functional like the aero blade on the C-pillar, which helps the Niro achieve a drag coefficient of 0.29. The 12-volt battery has also been relocated next to the drive battery under the rear seats.

Like before, the 2023 Kia Niro is FWD only. At least for the hybrid, the powertrain from the previous generation car carries over with many modifications. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder is still paired to a lithium-ion battery, an electric motor, and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Its combined output remains at 139 hp. Kia says that the gas engine gets improved cooling, friction, and combustion technologies to cut its fuel consumption. The gearbox, on the other hand, is a lighter second-generation unit optimized for better efficiency.

Kia has added multiple levels of regenerative braking to help the car slow down without using the mechanical brakes. This also increases the amount of energy recovered to help you maximize driving range. It can also use radar and road gradient information to calculate how much regeneration is needed. The Niro is among the first electrified Kia models to get the Green Zone Drive Mode, which automatically puts the car in electric-only operation in certain environments and situations. In Europe, for example, green zones include residential areas, schools, and hospitals. The driver can also select dedicated green zones in the built-in navigation system to reduce emissions output in areas near their home or workplace.

The suspension has been revised significantly for the second-generation Niro. It still gets MacPherson struts in front but the rear now features a four-link layout. The geometry in the front and rear have been tuned to improve responsiveness, stability, and ride comfort. A revised steering gear ratio and a new tilt-type strut bearing reduce friction and promise better steering feel. Kia also says the Niro has additional sound deadening to keep the cabin quiet.

Kia makes extensive use of renewable or recycled materials on the 2023 Niro. The headliner, for instance, is made from recycled wallpaper while the seats are constructed of Bio PU with Tencel from eucalyptus trees. To cut waste and reduce environmental impact, the door panels are painted with water-based BTX-free paint, which means it doesn’t contain benzene, toluene, and xylene isomers.

On the tech front, the Niro is available with a 10.25-inch main touch screen, which can be paired to a similarly-sized digital gauge cluster. The ambient interior lighting has 74 colors to choose from and you can also opt for a new 10.0-inch head-up display. A new voice recognition system can understand natural speech while the latest iteration of the Digital Key allows you to unlock and start your vehicle via a smartphone. For the first time, the Niro will be available with the hands-free power liftgate.

The usual suite of driver assistance and collision prevention systems are also available on the 2023 Niro but it gets improved features like front automatic emergency braking that can detect vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians when you’re turning or at an intersection. Safe Exit Assist, which warns you of an oncoming vehicle and locks the door until it has passed, has also been added to the Niro. It can also warn you to lower your speed or reduce it for you if you’re driving over the limit. Remote parking is now available, too, but it’s limited to forward and backward movements. The Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 can park themselves in a perpendicular or parallel spot.

The 2023 Kia Niro goes on sale first in Korea but North America is expected to get it next. However, when it makes the journey across the Pacifica, it’s likely to come only as a plug-in hybrid or a battery-electric vehicle. Kia hasn’t released specifications for those two models yet but if the standard hybrid is any indication, it’ll mostly be a carry-over from the outgoing Niro but with significant modifications. There’s a possibility that the Niro PHEV could get a larger battery to go with the more powerful electric motor. This should give it a longer all-electric driving range than its predecessor. As for the Niro EV, it’ll likely use the same single electric drive motor but its battery pack could change to a new-generation unit with higher energy density to get it closer to the magic 300-mile mark.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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