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Kia intends to turn up the fun factor with future EVs, hybrids

Kia wants to be known as a sporty brand. With cars like the drift-happy Stinger, it has every right to be. Now, that car’s influence has trickled down to the rest of the lineup. The standard vehicles now possess solid driving manners and the arrival of cars like the Forte GT and the upcoming K5 GT give enthusiasts more options for affordable yet practical fun machines. That won’t stop as Kia electrifies its lineup. In fact, the Korean automaker will double down and turn up the adrenaline on its vehicles.

We recently spent some time with Kia as it sent off a 2021 Sorento towing a 2021 sign from California to New York City as part of a marketing campaign for the vehicle. There, we were able to find out why it’s doing this road trip, which is mainly to help close out the craziness that is 2020. At the same time, we got a glimpse of what’s next for the automaker. “We want to be fun and electric,” said one Kia representative, which means the brand is poised to further differentiate itself by injecting a bit more sportiness across the lineup rather than just a select few vehicles.

Photo credit: Kia

Plan S, Kia’s electrification initiative announced earlier this year, will add 11 all-electric vehicles by the end of 2025. The majority of those cars will be underpinned by the Hyundai Motor Group’s new E-GMP platform, which is dedicated to electric vehicles. That includes a model code-named CV, which is rumored to be an all-electric performance SUV. However, electric cars aren’t the only vehicles getting a nice boost of fun. As we found on the recently revealed 2021 Sorento SUV code-namede MQ4), hybrids have also gotten a nice power upgrade.

We suspect that the new 1.6-liter turbo-four hybrid powertrain will find its way to various vehicles in Kia and Hyundai’s lineup. If we’re looking at the tea leaves properly, this unit will also end up in the next-generation Sportage code-named NQ5), which is due out next year, in standard and plug-in guises. That SUV’s sibling, the Tucson, will launch with the new hybrid system next year. The refreshed Santa Fe is also due out with this electrified power plant just like its cousin, the 2021 Sorento.

The one Kia SUV we’ve yet to mention is the Niro. What will happen to it? Is it going to remain an SUV-ified Prius fighter or not? According to a well-placed source, that’s not the case. Kia’s Habaniro Concept hints at the production version’s looks. The name itself points to the direction that Kia is taking the Niro, indicating that the Sorento’s turbocharged hybrid powertrain may find its way into the smaller model. Should that happen, we’re looking at a pretty hot subcompact SUV, especially in plug-in guise. If you’re looking at a full EV, fear not because the next-generation Niro is also expected to get an all-electric variant with 300 miles of range on a charge.

Under the skin, expect the next-generation Kia Niro (code-named SG2) to feature a heavily modified version of the current model’s convergence architecture. That should allow the car to accommodate more potent hybrid powertrains and electric propulsion systems. Expect all of Kia’s latest driver assistance infotainment technologies to also find their way into the second-generation Niro. One thing the car will likely not get is AWD. Why? Likely to save weight and lower costs but also to point consumers wanting four-season traction to the upcoming Sportage.

As Kia resumes its product offensive, the brand’s image has continued to develop. Unlike Hyundai and Genesis, which are clearly mainstream and luxury respectively, Kia offers a wide range of models with a slight performance bend. The brand challenges norms and happily lives crisscrossing the mainstream and luxury segments. What further sets Kia apart is that the brand never forgets its reputation for value; you get way more for the money compared to other competing brands. Doubling down on electrification and fun should help give the Kia brand a broader appeal. We can’t wait to drive the new vehicles that Kia is cooking up and we hope that the automaker continues to infuse them with the Stinger and Telluride’s DNA.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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