Niro a Kia hybrid

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Kia Niro, front, Geneva Motor Show reveal 2016
Kia Niro, side
Kia Niro, interior
Kia Niro, engine
Kia Optima plug-in hybrid, front
Kia Optima plug-in hybrid, side
Kia Optima plug-in hybrid, charging socket
Kia Optima plug-in hybrid, rear
Kia Optima plug-in hybrid, interior
Kia Optima Sportswagon, side
Kia Optima Sportswagon, interior
Kia Optima Sportswagon, boot

KIA is entering a new phase with three innovative new models being unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.

Efficiency is the name of the game and the Korean car maker is heading down the hybrid route.

It is also experimenting with fuel cell vehicles which run purely on electricity generated from hydrogen.

At Geneva Kia's trio of newcomers included its first plug-in hybrid saloon with an emission free range of 33 miles and a theoretical fuel return of an astonishing 166 miles per gallon.

In a car of this size - and the plug-in is a derivative of the new Optima saloon - that's ahead of similar models and the only one that's close is the BMW 3 Series with a similar eco powertrain.

Kia also showed off the first of a new generation of lightweight petrol/electric hybrids which will pave the way for a future range of models in the next four years.

The Niro crossover will be on sale before the end of the year and not only does it look bang on trend it will be capable of averaging in the region of 80mpg.

Slightly smaller than Kia's new Sportage SUV which was released only a few weeks ago, the Niro is a purpose-built hybrid but with a full-sized boot and the ability to tow more than a tonne - something many other hybrids lack.

Kia says that it has fitted with Niro with a new lightweight battery pack that is big on power and weighing just 33 kilos which helps get the best out of its 1.6-litre petrol engine. As a hybrid the engine is mated to an electric motor and the total power output is 141ps.

That's on par with other compact crossovers such as the Renault Captur and the Nissan Juke but the Kia will have an edge thanks to its low fuel consumption and emissions.

Other innovations which make the Niro a different type of hybrid include modifications to its six-speed DCT transmission to make it more responsive under acceleration and a reworked braking system to cope with the abrupt effect of an electric motor slowing down.

With the plug-in hybrid system on the Optima economy gets even better and it is a car that can manage an average daily commute running purely on electricity.

It can also handle motorway speeds while running on its batteries yet with a 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet it can run in a variety of petrol/electric permutations.

Emissions of just 37g/km are also going to make it very attractive to business users thanks to the tax benefits currently associated with very low emission vehicles.

On paper the Optima plug-in performs well - 0 to 60 takes 9.4 seconds and top speed is 120mph - but the additional hybrid equipment has seen some compromises.

The boot is significantly smaller than that of the regular Optima saloon at 307 litres and the fuel tank has been reduced to 12 gallons from 15.

To help economy the high tech Optima has added streamlining and an active shutter on the grille but it shares the rest of its design with the latest version of Kia's flagship saloon which will now be joined by a sleek looking Sportswagon estate before the year is out.

This was Kia's final newcomer at Geneva and as the company's first big estate it shows plenty of potential.

It is based on the Sportspace concept car Kia showed at last year's Geneva show and has retained much of the flowing body lines which make it a standout model.

Luggage capacity is 553 litres and that is only a fraction off that of a BMW 5 Series Touring.

All three new Kias are also bang up to date inside and feature full connectivity systems which include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as a sat nav system from TomTom which comes with seven years' worth of free updates to match Kia's long term warranty.

Kia says it will be releasing more UK-specific information about the new models - including pricing - closer to their on sale dates after the summer.

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