After watching a number of competitors launch successful, style-driven subcompacts in Europe, Kia appears determined to join the party. Both its Provo and Cub concepts hinted at small, stylish B-segment models, and the new Niro concept, which debuts at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show in early September, is formally described as a “possible future B-segment contender ready to take on the urban environment.”
Roughly translated from PR speak, that equates to a small, stylish little crossover. The Niro is the handiwork of Kia’s European design team, spearheaded by Gregory Guillaume and stationed within Frankfurt itself. That might explain why the Niro, despite its tall stance, large wheels, and considerable ground clearance, bears some resemblance to the European C’eed and Proc’eed hatchbacks. Sharp fenders rise up and away from the trademark “tiger nose” grille, and help frame triangular LED headlamp assemblies. Surfacing below the grille is surprisingly simple and unspoiled, interrupted only by two massive square LED driving lamps and a wide carbon fiber front splitter, the latter highlighted with neon green accents that match the grille surround.
Like the Provo, sheetmetal below the Niro’s beltline is rather muscular, but its contrasting silver roofline -- which might actually be trimmed in stainless steel -- is a bit rotund. The beltline boasts an interesting swage just forward of the B-pillars, while the doors open up and away from the body, not unlike the Toyota Sera sports coupe. A wrap-around backlight reminds us of the production Sportage, though the triangular tail lamps and large carbon fiber diffuser panel -- complete with dual center-exit exhaust tips and matching neon-green accents -- is unique, to say the least.
The contrasting silver-on-black color theme continues within, as a pair of deeply bolstered bucket seats are trimmed in a bright silver fabric. Interestingly, the seats appear to share a common cushion, as the fabric wraps up and over the center console. Switchgear is minimal and occasionally innovative, as evidenced by the rotary gearshift incorporated into one of the support braces emerging from the center console. Of course, neon green accents also make their way into the cabin, highlighting HVAC vents, shift paddles, and both an LCD gauge cluster and a thin LCD infotainment screen.
Apart from noting the Niro appears to use an automatic transmission, we know little else about the concept car’s mechanicals, although Kia promises it will “preview an innovative new powertrain.” Kia also pledges it will use the public’s reaction to the Niro in order to gauge reaction for future production models -- standard boilerplate, of course, but of Kia’s string of B-segment concepts, we can’t imagine a small, Nissan Juke-esque crossover that fits in with the automaker’s present design language isn’t likely to become reality, if even only for the European market.
We’ll bring you the full scoop on the Kia Niro concept when it makes its formal debut on the 2013 Frankfurt show floor.