The Chicago Auto Show sees the international debut of the Kia Niro, an integral component in the Korean’ company’s Green Car Roadmap plan and a leap forward for the brand. The Niro’s all-new eco car platform will help the firm triple its green car portfolio by 2020.

Kia describes the Niro as a hybrid utility vehicle (HUV) that is designed to compete in the every-growing subcompact CUV segment. The Niro will offer motorists an environmentally friendly alternative, without the negative connotations that come with it, such as unattractive design, uninspired driving performance and impracticality.

Penned by the employees of Kia’s design centres in California and Namyang, the Niro features the same nose as the rest of the model-lineup, with backswept headlamps, and overemphasised foglamp recesses. The profile makes use of chrome roofline trim and door handles, while black plastic cladding lines the lower half of the doors, and wheelarches. At the rear, there’s a distinct LED light pattern and a faux diffuser insert in the bumper.

Inside, the cabin boasts a gentle evolution of the brand’s use of strong horizontal cues, with glass black (or white) and metallic accents, a large central infotainment screen and an elevated seating position. The rear seats also fold flat to increase utility room.

The Niro uses the company’s Kappa 1,6-litre four-cylinder petrol motor that’s been engineered specifically for hybrid application and produces 77 kW. Maximum efficiency has been achieved using the first combination of the Atkinson Cycle, cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), and a long-stroke-narrow-bore specification, as well as through the use of a 32 kW transmission-mounted electric device that produces peak outputs of 109 kW and 264 N.m of torque.

A compact lithium-ion polymer battery housed underneath the rear bench provides the electric motor with energy. The Niro also employs a six-speed dual clutch transmission that helps provide precise shifts and a combined fuel economy claim of 4,7 litres/100 km.

The Niro will be made available with a host of advanced driver assistance programmes and convenience features, such as Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Change Assist. But the flagship feature is the Predictive Energy Control system that uses the navigation system and cruise control to anticipate topographical changes of the road ahead and recharge the battery or use stored energy accordingly.