At Chicago Auto Show, automaker unveils 3 hybrids despite low gas prices

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The 2017 Kia Niro hybrid crossover.

Even with gasoline prices the lowest in some time, Korean automaker Kia revealed the Niro —a compact hybrid crossover —and two other hybrids at the Chicago Auto Show.

Kia, which often uses the Chicago show for big reveals, used a live band to set the stage forthe new hybrids, which are coming out at a time when hybrid sales are falling and gas is $2 a gallon or less across much of America.

Despite the trends against hybrid sales, Kia also revealeda redesignedOptima hybrid and an all-newOptima plug-in hybrid.

The 2017 Niro and the two new Optima hybridsare part ofKia’s plan to nearly triple the automaker’s vow to grow itsgreen car line-up from four to 11 models by 2020.

One of those 11 models eventually will be aplug-in version of the Niro, anew nameplate in Kia’s lineup.

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Kia’s Niro Hybrid at the Chicago Auto Show. Bob Chwedyk / Daily Herald via AP

Kia describes the Niro as a crossover withwide and low proportions, a long roofline and short overhangs and an aerodynamic shape. While hybrid sales are falling, the Niro is a compact crossover, which is the fastest growing segment in the U.S. auto industry.

The hybridis powered by an electric motor and a gasoline engine that work together to generate 146 horsepower and 195 pound feet of torque.

The gasoline engine is a1.6-liter,four-cylinder engine that generates 103 horsepower that works in tandem with a43-horsepower electricmotor.Bringing the whole system together is a compact and lightweight 1.56-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymerbattery located underneath the rear seat.

The Niro will go on sale early next year.Kia did not announce pricing.

New Kia Optima plug-in hybrid

The all-new 2017 Optima plug-in hybrid, which goes on sale during the fourth quarter of this year, can travelan estimated 27 miles in full electricvehicle mode and has a totalestimated driving range of 600 miles.

The car is powered bya 9.8-kilowatt,lithium-ion polymer battery pack,whichis hidden behind the rear seat and tire well, giving Optima Plug-In Hybridone of the largest cargo areas among its competitors.

The car can be fully rechargedin less-than three hours witha 240-voltcharger, but it takesaboutnine hours witha 120-voltcharger.

The Optima Plug-in Hybrid is powered byKia’s 2-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline direct injectionengine that produces 154 horsepower. Electric power is produced by a transmission-mounted, 50-kilowattmotor.

Redesigned Kia Optima Hybrid

Sales of Kia’s Optima Hybrid fell 16.6 percent to11,492 in the United States last year, as sales of all hybrid cars fell, but Kia is hoping that the improved performance of its redesigned hybrid and the additional features it offers will change that sales trend.

Together, the gasoline engine and electric motor generate 193-horsepower. Kia says its 2017 Optima Hybrid will get 10 percent better fuel economy than the outgoing Optima Hybrid. The automaker is replacing the 2.4-liter engine with a more compact 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine that generates 154 horsepower. That power is boosted by a 38-kilowatt electric motor.

Kia says the new hybrid also has a larger and more comfortable cabin, a number of additional safety features, and new high-tech featuressuch as a hands-free trunk opening system and a wireless phone charger.

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