After teasing their upcoming crossover with design sketches, Kia officially unveiled the Niro Hybrid Utility in the Windy City. Dubbed by the automaker as a 'vehicle that combines drive enjoyment with eye-catching design and hybrid efficiency', the new crossover aims to bridge the gap between owning a compact utility vehicle (CUV) and a hybrid-electric car.

“The Niro hits the sweet spot by offering the best combination of outstanding mpg, an engaging driving experience, utility, and most importantly, a stunning design that doesn’t shout hybrid. The subcompact CUV market continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the world, and the Niro offers a uniquely alluring yet practical package that consumers haven’t seen before,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president product planning, Kia Motors America.

Beginning with the exterior, Kia claimed that it has an 'Un-Hybrid Design'. Penned by Kia's design centers from Irvine, California and Namyang, Korea, it features muscular curves and sculpted lines that veer away from traditional hybrid designs.

Rear quarter of the Kia Niro

Up front, it gets the signature 'tiger-nose' grill, quarter-flanking headlights and low-slung bumper. The side shows a contemporary design but the 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails and defined wheel arches make up for the simple finish. The rear somewhat resembles the Sportage with its rectangular taillights, tailgate-mounted spoiler and rear bumper design.

Architecture-wise, it sits on a dedicated eco-car platform that will become the basis of Kia's global green car lineup for 2020.

Aboard the Niro, the cabin is upholstered in gray leather while providing contrast are streaks of white and black that can be seen on the door trim, dashboard, stitching and center console. It has ample room for five individuals as Kia claimed it has a 2,700mm wheelbase. The sits have thicker pads that Kia stated will ensure a comfortable ride on long journeys.

In terms of amenities, it gets push-button engine start/stop, dual pod gauge cluster with multi-information display and a 7-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Noise, vibration and harshness were also given attention as Kia installed foam inside the A- and B-pillars to prevent road and tire noise from creeping inside the Niro, acoustic windshield glass that lessen wind noise and a special embossed foam on the floor to decrease outside vibration.

Inside the Kia Niro

Providing the necessary grunt is a 1.6-liter GDI inline-four and an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery. It has a combined output of 148 PS along with a torque pull of 264 Nm. Power is transferred to the wheels via a new 6-speed dual clutch gearbox.

Worth noting is the car's onboard Coasting Guide and Predictive Energy Control that will help the driver be more efficient in driving or to make full use of the available energy. The former coaches the driver on when to brake or coast while the latter maps out the topography and will decide when to store or expend energy.

The Coaching and Predictive Energy system

Other features present in the Kia Niro include: Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

A plug-in hybrid variant is already in the works according to Kia.