Big or small, these crossovers are the future

Kia has long been a reliable partner in producing efficient and value-packed cars, but it is also stepping up to build some pretty fabulous crossovers, too — from the little plug-in Niro to the fully formed Telluride. See if you take your crossover big or small.

Telluride Concept channels Texas style

Kia’s Texas-sized crossover is finally out of the closet. Planting its flag one size above the Sorento, Telluride will be a stylish all-new friends– and family–mover scheduled to arrive for 2019 or 2020. A special Texas-themed concept preceded the final production version on designer Brandon Maxwell’s runway during New York Fashion Week.

Maxwell worked collaboratively with Kia’s design studio in Irvine, Calif. Painting it with wide swaths of Texas are natural wood cabin trim and saddle-inspired double-stitched leather on interior panels. As touches of fashion, leather also adorns outside rearview mirrors and door handles.

Fortifying its capability while dressing up the exterior are custom bumpers, skidplates and sidesteps. Adding to the ranch-ready theme are a hidden winch, snorkel for deep-river fording and black alloy wheels. A custom wood and aluminum roof rack with leather straps completes the look.

The Telluride will be several inches longer and wider than the Sorento for true three-row capability. A V6 engine option will keep this fashion show moving.

Working with Maxwell was a natural fit for Kia, as the designer is from Marfa, Texas, where he created his Spring/Summer 2019 collection.

“Telluride summits Kia’s SUV line up and forged a surprising new path with its runway debut at New York Fashion Week,” said Saad Chehab, vice president of marketing communications for Kia Motors America. “Only a brand as forward-thinking as Kia could collaborate with Brandon Maxwell to launch the Telluride ahead of its official debut at the North American International Auto Show in January.”

The Kia Telluride moves from runways to showrooms 2019 or early 2020 with prices expected to start around $30,000.

Compact Niro Crossover plugs in

When we last drove the Niro, it shone as an “anti-Prius,” presenting as a stylish hybrid crossover without quirky looks or powertrain. It delivered an impressive 46/40-MPG city/highway and delighted with an actual six-speed automatic transmission (so much calmer than a whiny continuously-variable transmission). If only it was a little more electric, it would be nearly perfect…

So, meet the Niro plug-in that has the same handsome style and sporty handling, but with 26 miles all-electric range, after which the 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine continues journeys up to 560 miles without visiting a plug or pump. Batteries, stored under the cargo floor, can be fully charged in 2.5 hours on a 240v charger.

Specs are impressive. The combined powertrain, which includes an 8.9 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack and 60 horsepower electric motor, generates 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque for smooth and spirited acceleration. Plug to pump, it delivers 105 MPGe or 48/44-MPG when driven as a regular hybrid.

Only detail changes distinguish the plug-in from regular Niros. There are hybrid blue exterior accents, restyled grille, available LED headlamps, and charge port on the front fender. Inside, it has all the requisite safety gear: Blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning and lane keep assist systems. That’s a lot of sensors and cameras to keep paint on fenders.

With the Niro plug-in, you can have it all: Super-efficient driving in daily traffic, a flexible interior, suave style and the ability to travel far and wide while rarely stopping at a gas pump. Prices start at $28,200.

— Casey Williams