At last year’s New York Auto Show, Kia showed us the HabaNiro concept, a meaner, bolder, spicier take on the comparatively mellow Niro hybrid crossover. The company said that it was a hint at things to come, and that seems to be the case based on these new spy photos. Although toned down compared to the concept, this next-generation Kia Niro does borrow a few key design cues, and seems to be more interesting looking than the current Niro.
The taillights make it clear that this new Niro has been influenced by the concept. They’re slim, crisp LED units that run up the edge of the rear pillars to the roof, just like on the HabaNiro. The rear pillars appear to lean forward more than on the current Niro, too, giving the crossover more of fastback shape. The pillars themselves are well covered, though, so we can’t quite tell if they’ll be solid like the concept, or have cutouts for windows. Regardless, we doubt the contrasting color pillars of the HabaNiro are going to make it to production.
At the front, we can make out the outlines of the grilles, and they closely follow the HabaNiro’s. A large center grille sits a bit low in the bumper, and two large outboard grilles flank it with a narrow opening over the top connecting them. The headlight pods are housed in these outer grilles. We’re curious if there will be LED accent lights above the headlight pods and integrated with some sort of chrome garnish.
The rest of the new Niro is typical crossover. The flanks seem to have pretty plain body cladding, unlike the concept. The fenders aren’t nearly as wide, either. The roofline does look a bit lower than the current model’s, though.
On the whole, this new Niro does seem to be a significantly more distinctive machine. It should arrive in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric variants like the current car. This one is clearly a hybrid model since it has an exhaust pipe. It’s possible all-wheel drive could be offered for the first time, since the HabaNiro featured it. It could be made possible with a rear electric motor on the hybrid version, similar to Toyota hybrids. This prototype appears fairly far along in design and testing, so it would seem likely that the new car will be revealed sometime next year and launching as a 2022 or 2023 model.