Currently reading: Kia plans electric Niro and more SUV models
Korean car maker expects demand for high-riding models to stay strong well into the future

Kia doesn’t see SUV sales or demand peaking any time soon, with the company still looking at developing new models and niche versions.

“There is much more freedom, you can make an SUV more sporty and not ultilitarian,” group chief creative officer Peter Schreyer told us in Korea last week. “I don’t know what comes after the SUV. I think it’s just what people worldwide want, to sit high and have an overview, to feel protected.”

The company says its decision to launch the small Niro hybrid as a crossover has already been justified by early sales success. Despite using the same mechanical package as the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro has been given a far more aggressive look and chunkier proportions reminiscent of the Nissan Qashqai.

Thomas Oh, Kia’s chief operating officer, told us demand is already running ahead of expectations in Korea and he anticipates the car will be a major hit elsewhere, predicting 40,000 sales in the US next year and 20,000 in Europe once the car goes on sale over here.

“It does not look like a Prius because Prius customers are very loyal,” he said, “but many customers want small SUVs including those looking for eco-friendly cars.”

As with the Ioniq, we’re also told to expect an Niro EV to follow alongside the hybrid version. “This year globally eco-friendly cars are around 2 million vehicles, with electric vehicles just 100,000,” Oh explained, “by 2020 we expect eco-friendly to rise to around 600,000 with 42% hybrid, 32% plug-in hybrid and 27 percent electric… that is a significant increase and it makes sense to combine the technology with vehicle types that customers want to buy.”

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Kia taps into the zeitgeist with an all-new hybrid compact crossover, but conventional models like the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar and Honda HR-V will take some beating

Mike Duff

Mike Duff
Title: Contributing editor

Mike has been writing about cars for more than 25 years, having defected from radio journalism to follow his passion. He has been a contributor to Autocar since 2004, and is a former editor of the Autocar website. 

Mike joined Autocar full-time in 2007, first as features editor before taking the reins at Being in charge of the video strategy at the time saw him create our long running “will it drift?” series. For which he apologies.

He specialises in adventurous drive stories, many in unlikely places. He once drove to Serbia to visit the Zastava factory, took a £1500 Mercedes W124 E-Class to Berlin to meet some of its taxi siblings and did Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster during a winter storm. He also seems to be a hypercar magnet, having driven such exotics as the Koenigsegg One:1, Lamborghini SCV12, Lotus Evija and Pagani Huayra R.

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