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Kia Niro 2019: Business case firming for small electric SUV in Australia

Kia's SP Concept debuted in New Dehli earlier in the year.

Kia Australia’s plans for an electrified future have received a jump-start, with news that the all-electric Niro SUV is likely to arrive in Australia as early as mid-2019.

The company has gone on record as saying that it wants to leap straight from selling combustion engine cars in Australia to EVs, skipping over hybrid technology altogether.

"We are definitely working towards getting an EV into Australia at the earliest opportunity," Kia Australia's general manager of corporate communications, Kevin Hepworth said.

"A previous decision had been made to bypass hybrid technology, which gives added impetus to electric vehicle planning." 

The Niro is slightly smaller overall than Kia’s popular Sportage SUV, and is based on a EV-specific platform that’s shared with parent company Hyundai’s Ioniq EV sedan.

The US-spec Niro uses a liquid-cooled 64kWh battery to achieve a claimed 380km range, using an 88kW electric motor at its heart. Australian-spec Niros would be likely sourced from Korea, where it’s the nation’s most popular EV.

Kia’s plan to avoid hybrid technology locally means that a 48-volt hybrid system designed to complement the Sportage’s diesel drivetrain won’t be seen in Australia.

The only other car in Kia’s global fleet that offers electrification is the Soul, which CarsGuide understands is still under consideration for Australia.

Meanwhile, clarification around the identity of Kia’s long-awaited Mazda CX-3 fighter may come at the Paris Motor Show later in September, where the company is expected to preview an all-new sub-compact SUV.

Even though Kia maintains solid sales locally by staying in segments that other automakers abandon – the Picanto, for example, is the best selling micro car in Australia – it has sorely missed a car to take on the burgeoning baby SUV sector.

The new small SUV - codenamed SP2 - is expected to hit Australia in the second half of 2019.

Perhaps the biggest clue as to the new SUV’s identity comes from the SP Concept, which debuted in New Dehli earlier in the year. Although the SP Concept is being designed and built specifically for the huge Indian market, its styling would translate well to a small SUV for the Australian market.

As well, if the styling of the SP Concept is mated to a current Kia modular platform that will allow it to be built to Euro NCAP safety standards, then the fact that the SP Concept – which is likely to be named the Trazor – is already designed for right-hand drive could work in Kia Australia’s favour.

Do you like the look of Kia's SP Concept as a CX-3 competitor? Tell us what you think in the comments below.