The new model is know internally as ‘DE’ and is based on a bespoke platform and new-generation hybrid transmission with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor.
No technical details of the upcoming model have yet emerged, but the launch model will be a conventional hybrid with a plug-in version – which gets a larger battery pack – to follow.
The new car is a five-door hatchback just over 4.3m long, making it slightly more compact than a Volkswagen Golf and also smaller than Kia’s own Sportage model. DE is styled to look like a crossover version of a compact estate car, giving it a passing resemblance to models such as the Peugeot 2008.
Kia sources say that the new car, which will be sold globally, has two roles. One is to help Kia meet the 95g/km fleet CO2 regulations to come into force in Europe in 2020. The second is take sales off the market-dominating Toyota Prius.
Unlike existing dedicated hybrids such as the Prius and Honda Insight, the DE’s exterior styling is quite mainstream, with the most obvious nods to aerodynamic efficiency seen in the extended, wrap-around, spoiler on the tailgate.
The interior of the DE benefits from Kia’s latest styling shift, which be seen first in the new-generation Kia Optima, likely to be revealed early in 2015.
Taking a line from VW, future Kia interiors are very cleanly styled and nearly all the plastics are finished in matt black, giving the cabin an impressively upmarket, if restrained, appearance.
Kia says its own market research has shown that ‘many’ Prius buyers would like to be able to buy a dedicated hybrid wrapped in ‘less extreme’ styling, even if that meant ‘slightly poorer fuel consumption’. Interestingly, the DE has already been the subject of customer research in the UK where it was given a “good validation” according to senior Kia sources.
The sources also told Autocar that the DE platform would become “very important” for the future of Kia, as it addressed the twin issues of customer downsizing and the need for “alternative drivetrains”. The upshot is that the DE platform will become the basis for a number of future bodystyles.
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