Kia’s eco-friendly SUV, the Niro, has come back as the second generation. The characteristics of the new Niro can be broadly defined in two ways: ‘unconventional’ and ‘sustainability’. The unconventional nature of the new Niro is most clearly revealed in the interior design. By applying Kia’s new design philosophy, Opposites United - a creative fusion of opposing concepts, - such an unusual and original design was even more perfected. Through this, the new Niro provides passengers with a new experience that only eco-friendly cars can provide.
The sustainability of the new Niro is revealed in CMF (Color·Materials·Finish). It provides an answer to sustainability by using eco-friendly materials in areas frequently seen and touched by passengers, such as seats, door trims, and headlining. In addition, fun colors are added to the interior and exterior to emphasize the characteristics of the new Niro such as unconventionality and sustainability.
So many - such as Jong-Hyun Kim, senior researcher at Kia Interior Design Improvement Team, and Soo-Jin Jang, senior researcher at Kia CMF Team - have put a lot of thought into the design process. Here, the two designers discuss the interior design, color, and materials of the new Niro in detail; They’ve been working hard to make sure more people feel comfortable with the new features of this model.
Q. I wonder how you expressed Kia’s design philosophy ‘Opposites United’ and ‘Joy for Reason’ in the interior design of the new Niro.
Jong-Hyun Kim, Senior Researcher | When designing the interior of the new Niro, we focused on creating a special cabin by abandoning the existing format and combining bold and innovative design elements. To this end, we also learned from the stark contrasts in Mother Nature or the avant-garde style widely known in the fashion world.
Where Opposites United stands out most is the design that runs diagonally across the crash pad and door trim. The modern and unique format was emphasized through the diagonally cut edge-shaped panoramic display on the neat and slim crash pad. It is also worth noting that the interior design of the new Niro has been changed to a driver-centric sporty structure through the application of the panoramic display. A three-dimensional and uniquely shaped vent detail was added to complete the creative and individual interior design.
As a result, it was possible to combine the boldness and stability of ‘Opposites United’ through these design elements. In addition, each function is not directly exposed, but is harmonized with the entire interior design so that you can enjoy the sensual design of ‘Joy for Reason’.
Q. The exterior design is as unique and unconventional as the interior design. I would like to know if there is a design feature that integrates the interior and exterior designs into one.
Jong-Hyun Kim, Senior Researcher | Rather than integrating both the interior and exterior designs of the new Niro, I think there is one philosophy. Kia’s philosophy can be found in the design of the grille, daytime running lights, and C-pillars that feature seamless surface treatment on the exterior. On the other hand, the interior has a design that crosses the crash pad and the door trim diagonally, and the panoramic display is an edge type as if it were cut diagonally. These modern and unique design elements of the interior and exterior of the new Niro share one philosophy and are connected to one design.
Q. In terms of interior design, are there any characteristics that show that the new Niro is an eco-friendly car?
Jong-Hyun Kim, Senior Researcher | Since the material of the new Niro emphasizes the fact that it is an eco-friendly car, we focused on helping passengers feel familiar with this part in terms of design. Based on the future-oriented design pursued by Kia, we envisioned a whimsical yet friendly space. As you can see from inside the cabin, the new Niro uses a minimalist control system based on digital sensitivity, reducing unnecessary elements. In addition, the overall interior design minimizes the sense of volume to express seamless and light modeling.
In particular, the design element that stands out the most is the ambient light located inside the crush pad. Like the light leaking from deep in the valley, the garnish inside the crush pad creates a three-dimensional and deep space. In addition, it was possible to create a futuristic and exotic cabin by sharply contrasting the Ambient Light, which has a high-tech image of a straight line, and the black high-gloss and soft Chopped Carbon pattern. Chopped carbon is a high-quality material that is re-formed from carbon fiber remained after weaving.
Q. The new Niro also stands out for its excellent practicality. How was the interior space finished?
Jong-Hyun Kim, Senior Researcher | From a design point of view, we thought a lot about visual openness, sense of space, and space utilization. For example, the slim design door trim and tailgate trim with minimized volume maximized the visual and spatial sense of openness. In addition, the storage space is maximized thanks to an expandable, adjustable center console tray and a console front tray with a simple design.
Above all, the space utilization of the new Niro is clearly shown in the rear seat space. To maximize the interior space and emphasize the design unity with the slim crash pad, a slim hard-type back cover was used for the front seat. Combining this design with a larger cabin space than the first-generation Niro, hence the bigger legroom in the second-row passenger seats. In addition, we gave meticulous attention to the second-row passenger seat - an increased sense of openness, a headrest designed to be used as a multi-purpose hanger, etc. Also, for various IT devices, there is a Type-C USB port on the back of the seat and a power terminal on the back of the center console.
Q. As an interior designer, what do you want to emphasize the most about the new Niro?
Jong-Hyun Kim, Senior Researcher | Many people will be interested in the design that runs diagonally across the crash pad and door trim, representing the Niro’s interior design features. However, the part I want to emphasize personally is the windshield defroster. Since the purpose of a general defroster is to remove the frost, the defroster hole is often exposed, and this is not a big deal from a design point of view.
However, we made the new Niro’s defroster hole almost invisible, maintaining its function; Therefore, the interior design features of the Niro stand out even more, which can lead to improved passenger satisfaction. I want many people to know that the new Niro houses even the smallest details.
Q. What is the theme of the interior and exterior color and material design of the new Niro?
Soo-Jin Jang, Senior Researcher | In one word, it is sustainability. Now, sustainability should be ubiquitous for everyone. So, we thought that it is our social responsibility to make a good means of transportation by using sustainable natural resources, and we tried to propose a solution. The new Niro is an eco-friendly car that contains these sincere and sustainable ideas. Accordingly, Kia developed the interior and exterior colors and materials of the new Niro in consideration of Kia’s sustainable direction from various angles.
Q. What is the key color for the interior and exterior?
Soo-Jin Jang, Senior Researcher | There are a total of 7 exterior colors for the new Niro: Snow White Pearl, Aurora Black Pearl, Mineral Blue, Interstellar Gray, Runway Red, Steel Gray, and Cityscape Green. Among them, the signature color is Cityscape Green. Green is currently trending in the fashion industry and many others, not just in the auto industry; and the new Niro also has it. Specifically, in order to express the bold exterior form of the new Niro in a more minimalistic and modern way, pearl particles were put in transparent ink instead of color paint; Therefore, transparent pearls like glass beads realized a more sophisticated and urban color.
The interior is available in three colors: charcoal, medium gray, and petrol. Charcoal, Medium Gray, and Petrol are the three color options for the interior. Above all, we wanted to present a new black color, Charcoal, considering the characteristics of the model’s eco-friendliness - away from the same old black colors of ordinary cars. In addition, Petrol (Green), which matches well with Cityscape Green, one of the body shades, is expected to satisfy the needs of trendy and individual consumers.
Q. The color finish of the C pillar, which contrasts with the exterior color, stands out. Why did you use this design? Q. The color finish of the C pillar contrasting with the exterior color quite stands out. Why?
Soo-Jin Jang, Senior Researcher | The C-pillar named ‘Aero Pillar’ is a new design that has not been seen in current mass-produced cars. Functionally, it helps to increase aerodynamic performance by applying an air curtain hole that allows air to pass inside the C-pillar. While applying a bold design to emphasize this functionality, I wanted to instill the concept of customers customizing their car (bespoke) with a new color combination.
To this end, we also initially considered contrasting color combinations - like the Tangerine color of the 2019 HabaNiro concept car. Instead, we selected a color combination that is stable and friendly to any generation and region as the hero color for the new Niro. The four sets are - Snow White Pearl and Steel Gray, Steel Gray and Interstellar Gray, Mineral Blue and Aurora Black Pearl, Cityscape Green and Aurora Black Pearl. These color combinations can be selected from the Edge Pack of the signature trim, and in other trims, the color of the C-pillar is the same as that of the body.
Q. As an eco-friendly car, I know that various eco-friendly materials are used throughout the interior of the new Niro. What are the characteristics of these materials?
Soo-Jin Jang, Senior Researcher | Kia’s first-generation Niro and Soul are models that housed the image of an eco-friendly car. However, at that time, the need for eco-friendly materials was still insufficient in the auto market. Therefore, it was not possible to sufficiently use eco-friendly materials. However, recently people are changing their view of eco-friendly cars, and as a car designer, I think it’s my duty to promote this further. So, in the process of developing the new Niro, we considered the use of eco-friendly materials that are realistically possible, and thanks to this, we were able to apply new materials to various areas.
For example, among the eco-friendly materials used in the new Niro, the headlining part is processed by adding about 56% of recycled PET to the nonwoven fabric. In addition, the seat was made using artificial bio-leather, which was made by mixing the vegetable components of eucalyptus trees - a material made by pulverizing eucalyptus trees and mixing them with PU artificial leather (polyurethane leather) - was used. In addition, the paint used for the door trim does not contain BTX (benzene, toluene, and xylene), which are three major carcinogens. Eco-friendly paint that does not contain these additives was used not only for the door trim but also for the entire body. In addition, the fabric used for the cargo screen is a recycled fabric that contains about 70% of PET in the knitted material.
Q. The unique material finish stands out for the crash pad and door trim. What are the characteristics of the materials in this part?
Soo-Jin Jang, Senior Researcher | For the warm feeling of the crash pad and door trim, a new method was used to give a fabric feel. Current cars have only focused on the soft image of genuine leather for crash pads and door trims. Despite efforts to realize the texture of natural materials, it was difficult for passengers to feel familiar with artificial materials. On the other hand, the stone-like embossing of the new Niro is essentially focused on realizing the naturalness of granite and basalt. As a result, unlike current vehicles, Niro’s stone embossing is unique in that passengers can experience a sense of calming nature.
The chopped carbon pad print applied to the lower part of the crash pad and the door trim of the Medium Gray trim is also special. Chopped carbon is a material that realizes an atypical and mysterious pattern by reshaping the remaining carbon fibers after weaving. Because it uses real carbon fiber, it is usually used for expensive luxury cars. However, in order to realize the cutting-edge atmosphere of the new Niro, chopped carbon was used as the pad print for the crash pad and door trim.
Photography by Min-Suk Choi
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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