We were invited by Kia to attend a special press conference prior to the opening of the 2016 Los Angeles International Auto Show as part of an event Kia called the Asian Media Round Table.
[ads id=”0″ style=”float:left;padding:6px;”]The main topic of the press conference was Kia’s new green car initiatives, namely, the Soul EV (which has been available since the 2015 model year), the new Optima Hybrid, the upcoming Optima Plug-in Hybrid, and the brand new Niro dedicated hybrid compact crossover.
Kia announced that they are investing $10.2 billion into advanced electrification technology, which is aimed at dramatically improving the efficiency of their electric, plug-in hybrid, and Hydrogen fuel cell efforts in the long term.
In the shorter term, Kia confirmed that the new Optima hybrid will achieve 42 miles per gallon, beating out other mid-size hybrid sedan rivals. This is achieved by reducing the size of the engine to 2.0 liters and increasing the power of the electric propulsion system to 50 horsepower. Bigger batteries are hidden away subtly under the rear seat, which translates to a 55% greater cargo volume than the Accord or Fusion hybrids.
[ads id=”0″ style=”float:left;padding:6px;”]The plug-in Optima Hybrid is also capable of running for 29 miles without activating the gasoline engine, and just 3 hours completely charges up the battery. Kia therefore claims that 73% of an average American’s commute can be performed in the electric-only mode.
This brings us to the all-new Niro dedicated hybrid compact crossover. It’s slightly smaller than a Soul, but Kia’s engineering and design teams have been able to cram a lot of usable space inside. They are aiming for 50mpg and the ability for LA drivers to drive to Vegas and back in one tank of gas. We’ll see if this pans out in real-world driving. Currently there are display units in 300 dealers and customers will be able to drive and buy the Niro in early Janury 2017 with an approximate base MSRP of $24,000.
Beyond the focus on green cars, we had the chance to talk freely with Kia product managers during the event. Here’s what we learned:
- Kia is still committed to launching a self-driving car by the 2030 model year.
- The Kia GT-4 Stinger coupe concept of two years ago will not see production. The non-luxury coupe market is not healthy enough to allow it.
- For the same reason, the Forte Koup is unlikely to see further updates, nor is a successor in the pipeline.
- The Kia GT concept will be a hatchback and will debut at the Detroit Auto Show in early 2017
Big thanks to Kia for the invite! The Asian Media Round Table was a blast!