Kia Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle

Kia announced its plans to introduce an all-new low emissions vehicle to its growing model line-up. The Niro – labelled a Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV) – represents a new concept from the Korean car brand, and marks the development of Kia’s first dedicated eco-car platform.

Niro will maintain all the practicality and appeal of a compact SUV, while offering greater fuel economy. Engineered from the ground up as a dedicated hybrid vehicle, its attractive, modern styling will help the car stand out in a traditionally conservative sector.

The Niro’s all-new platform has been engineered in isolation from existing Kia models, and is designed to accommodate a specific set of environmentally-conscious technologies and next-generation powertrains.

Hyoung-Keun Lee, Vice Chairman & CEO, Kia Motors Corporation, commented, “Our new model is designed to offer buyers everything they could want from a compact SUV in terms of practicality and styling, while providing the typically low running costs associated with a dedicated hybrid powertrain. By encouraging our engineers to take a ‘blank canvas’ approach, we have tried to develop a car that will appeal to a broader range of consumers.”

Lee added, “The compact SUV market remains one of the fastest-growing segments around the world, and by offering a handsome styling, modern appearance, high practicality and extraordinary fuel economy, Kia’s new Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle will be the most appealing and desirable car in its class.”

A new addition to Kia’s design-led product range, the Kia Niro will boast a brand new design, with a sporty, aerodynamic body, subtly sculptured surfaces and styling details finishing off the car’s modern new look. While the Niro is an all-new model, with no direct predecessors, it is still immediately recognisable as a Kia, carrying forward the company’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille and a series of other design cues from the latest Kia products. The styling of the new Niro development project has been led by Kia’s design centres in California, USA and Namyang, Korea.

Sporting a compact SUV shape, the car’s designers highlight the most modern architectural designs and contemporary sculptural art as key inspirations behind the new HUV’s body. The vehicle boasts smooth, sleek proportions, while its relatively wide stance portrays stability and a low center of gravity. The long wheelbase minimises the size of the front and rear overhangs, while ensuring occupants enjoy the maximum possible interior space.

The main focus of the engineering teams’ efforts behind the development of the new model is to deliver class-leading fuel economy in the compact SUV segment. The Kia Niro will combine a stylish SUV design with greater fuel economy than its rivals, with a target CO2 emissions rating of under 90 g/km (combined, based on the New European Driving Cycle).

Throughout the Niro’s development process, it has been conceived as a dedicated hybrid model. The car will achieve its ultra-low emissions levels and impressive fuel economy with a downsized hybrid powertrain, pairing Kia’s 1.6-litre ‘Kappa’ petrol direct injection (GDI) engine (105 ps power output and 147 Nm of torque) with a 1.56 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack and 32 kW electric motor. The powertrain’s combined power output and torque will be applied to the road through a highly-efficient six-speed double-clutch transmission.

The platform underpinning the Niro has been engineered specifically to accommodate this next-generation petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. A plug-in hybrid powertrain is due to be added to the car’s line-up later in its life-cycle.

Based upon a bespoke new platform, the Kia Niro’s body is made of more than 50% ultra-high strength steel, contributing to the class-leading fuel economy and high safety ratings that development teams are targeting. Part of a wider effort by Kia, the extended use of ultra-high strength steel will help Kia reach its target of a 5% reduction in the average weight of new car bodies by 2020 compared to 2014 levels.

With a strong, lightweight body, the Niro will build on Kia’s reputation for producing cars with a strong crash safety performance. The company’s engineering teams are targeting the highest possible marks from independent safety test organisations around the world, aided by a host of the latest passive, active and pre-collision safety features Kia has to offer.

The high-strength platform will not only result in a high safety rating, but also help minimise noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), a key focus throughout the Niro’s conception. The strong body also enables Kia’s chassis and dynamics experts to give the car a smooth, refined ride and engaging handling characteristics.

The development of an all-new platform and bespoke powertrain for the Niro will contribute to the brand’s ambition to becoming a leader in the low emissions car market by 2020. In the next five years, Kia will expand its current green car line-up from the four current models to 11, and is targeting a 25% improvement to average corporate fuel efficiency over 2014 levels.

This expanded range of low-emissions vehicles will encompass a wide range of advanced powertrains, from hybrids and plug-in hybrids to battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. The Niro will be among the first of Kia’s new models to be designed, engineered and produced as part of this plan.

As well as investment in advanced propulsion technologies, by 2020 Kia will also replace seven out of its 10 current engine ranges with next-generation petrol and diesel units, while increasing the number of turbocharged engines. Higher-efficiency, multi-speed transmissions are also planned, while Kia engineers are targeting a 5% reduction in in the average weight of new car bodies through greater application of ultra-high strength steel.

The Kia Niro hybrid is on sale now from £21,295.

This post is sponsored by Kia Motors, however the opinions are of the author.

An extreme heavy haulage challenge

Have you ever wondered how much a truck can pull? They look huge when you drive past them on the road, and the tires seem to dwarf your car. In this gripping video, Volvo Trucks see if they can push the limits of one their vehicles, and answer that question with an attempt to perform one of the heaviest, and craziest truck pulls in their history.

Setting out to break even more heavyweight records with this challenge is Magnus Samuelsson, the former holder of the world’s strongest man title. Magnus is used to pushing things to the limits, and this truck challenge is no exception. “Few things can match the sense of challenging and winning over one’s physical limitations. I’ve faced many tough challenges over the years but this pull is my heaviest ever,” he said.

Volvo Trucks 750 tonne challenge
“The world’s strongest man, drives the world’s strongest truck”

However this time, Magnus has the help of a Volvo FH16 truck featuring the brand new I-Shift with crawler gears that allows heavy-holder job operators to pull up to 425 tonnes of vehicle weight. As ever, Volvo Trucks are pushing the boundaries of what their trucks can do, and their challenge this time is to pull 750 tonnes.

During the stunt, and keeping a close eye on this incredible feat of engineering and power is experienced trucking journalist Brian Weatherley. “That Volvo Trucks has developed an automated gearbox that can haul 325 tonnes gross combination weight is impressive. But tackling more than 700 tonnes GCW with a single regular production truck is really quite amazing. In my 30 years as a trucking journalist I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

The challenge faced by the Volvo Trucks team started early, as they filled 40 containers with Volvo spare parts in the Port of Gothenburg, which was no small job. The containers then sat on 20 trailers to form a 300-metre long road train. The mission was to drive a Volvo FH16 from standstill, while hauling 750 tonnes, and cover a distance of 100 metres.

Volvo trucks 750 tonnes challenge
The Volvo FH16 truck facing the elements

There were many things that could cause problems during the pull, and literally rip apart some of the truck, even before they had to deal with the traction of the tires on the road. You’ll never guess what turned out to be their main concern during the stunt, as it even started to snow!

So, do you think Brian, Magnus and the incredibly powerful Volvo Truck made history by completing this challenge? You can watch the Volvo Trucks vs 750 Tonnes: An extreme heavy haulage challenge in the player below to find out…

This post is sponsored by Volvo Trucks, however the opinions are of the author.

The Honda Africa Twin

What do you think of when you think about freedom? I mean, what is it to experience real freedom. Just to let yourself go and just disappear out of your head, even for a few moments.

Many of us won’t ever experience this, or maybe we will. We don’t really know if we’ll ever truly divorce ourselves from the world and experience what it is to actually be free.

There is however, one way that we can take our mind and body into a new realm of liberation, and that’s by jumping on a motorcycle and hitting the road for a journey that only you can experience at that moment in time.

It’s just you, the road, and your motorbike. If you’ve ever taken a nighttime ride down the country lanes then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

The bike itself if so important. It needs power, comfort and aesthetics. Each of those boxes are ticked with Honda’s CRF1000L Africa Twin.

After the announcement of a True Adventure prototype at the EICMA back in November 2014, we can now announce that the much celebrated Africa Twin is hitting dealerships later this year. It’s exciting times, and that means even more options for your freedom adventure.

The Honda Africa Twin

Having debuted back in 1989 with four successive wins at the Paris-Dakar, Honda’s original XRV650 Africa Twin was a beast of a machine. Its comfort, handling and durability was a force to be reckoned with, and held down the gauntlet for adventure rides.

As you would expect, these fundamentals live on in the new CRF1000L Africa Twin and continue to impress with it’s comfort, durability and handling. It does however feature Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) technology that provides even more flexibility when off-roading – when you’re feeling truly adventurous!

To celebrate this launch, Honda have released a series of videos via their YouTube channel. In the latest episode, an elite team of riders must remain out of sight, like motorcycle ninjas to undergo covert testing for a True Adventure.

To find out more and watch the episodes, head on over to the official Honda YouTube channel here.