It’s a very utilitarian take on the Kia Niro

For the SEMA show this year, Kia had one major theme: Autonomy. Models like the Kia Soul First Class exposes what the self-driving Kia models of the future will offer for the daily driver. Then you’ve got a handful of models that are catered to a specific breed of people. The Kia Soul Ski Gondola is all about going off-road and hitting the slopes in autonomous style and excessive comfort. And then there’s this crazy concept that is based on the Kia Niro, a model that isn’t even on sale yet. Focused on athletes that train every day, this SUV has been transformed into, well, a mini, four-door truck of sorts. It’s fully autonomous and features things like a custom bed in the rear, suicide doors, a completely custom cabin, and is ready to give just about any athlete an extra edge in the training department.

I know that sounds like PR talk, but once you get a good look at this thing, you’ll understand why it’s just that cool. When you consider the Niro isn’t even on sale quite yet, being introduced just recently for the 2017 model year, it’s pretty wild to see Kia put so much custom work into it. It’s certainly a way to garner attention for a model that competes in a pretty competitive segment, and this crazy concept is certainly doing that. Keep in mind; it’s being displayed in the same building as concepts like the Dodge Durango Shaker, Chevy Camaro Slammer, and the Toyota Extreme Sienna, to name a few. But, what is really giving it that edge is that it is utilitarian in nature in a large crowd of vehicles aimed at showing off various accessories that are already on sale or could be in the near future.

With that said, let’s kick off the running shoes, and take a look at the one concept at SEMA that is designed to help you better yourself and not your ego.

Continue reading to learn more about the Kia Niro Triathlon.

Exterior

Perhaps the most interesting version of the Niro you’ll ever see, this concept not only has a utilitarian nature to it, but it’s also quite stylish and features a very attractive livery that’s far from boring but not over the top either. For the most part, the front concept is quite similar to the production model in terms of design, but once you move past the front doors, this thing gives a whole new meaning to custom. But, before we go too far into it, here’s a couple of comparison images to show just how different the concept really is.

The Niro Triathlon (left) maintains the overall look of the production model (right) up front, but has enough little extras to satisfy our craving for customization

Kia decided to give the front end a little extra character with an interesting hood scoop. At this point, we’re unsure if this scoop is actually functional, but it would be a nice addition if it really was. The headlights, front grille, and front fascia carry over from the production model, but the grille is outlined in the same yellowish-green as the stripes on the side, and the lower corner of the front fascia gets a little piece of striping as well. The fog lights in the corner vents are actually smaller than those showcased on the production model, and this concept gets four pairs of round LED lights attached to the bottom of the air dam – a feature that is perfect for night-time runners and bikers that are being followed by the concept.

In the rear, the Niro Triathlon takes a wild approach to functionality and utility compared to its production counterpart (right)

The side profile toward the front has been altered very little with the only modifications being the shaved side view mirrors (who needs these with a self-driving car, right?) and the unique livery. Beyond the front doors, however, just about everything has been changed in one way or another. There’s, of course, that unique yellowish-green livery to go with the gray stripe at the bottom of the doors. But, the big news here is the modifications done to the rear door. Instead of opening as it usually would, it has been engineered to operate with a rear-mounted hinge, so the doors open opposite of each other in suicide fashion. The B-pillar has also been removed, and the front door has been reengineered to open up farther than on the production, two features put into place to help aid in entry and exit of the vehicle.

Then there’s this weird bed setup in the rear. Kia says it “removed the roof from the D-pillar back,” but there’s a little more work than that going on here. The rear quarter window is now gone, with a thinner rear pillar put in its place. From this point back, there is no roof or rear quarter panel, but instead an opening for a bed. With no hatch, Kia finished off the rear with large black panels that now incorporate mounts for an air pump and a custom bike rack that supports a Felt IA 2 road-racing bike. There’s a pair of round LED lights (identical to those in the air dam up front) on each corner above the taillights. Down inside the bed, there’s a fully stocked toolbox with tools necessary for working on the aforementioned bike, as well as a small caddy for various cleaners. I’m assuming that the tool box is waterproof as we all know weather doesn’t stop true athletes. The green livery from the sides continues on the lower rear fascia in the same style that we saw on the front fascia. There’s also a laser bike lane light that illuminates the road ahead of the athlete and records things like speed, time, and distance that is displayed on the rear-mounted tablet. All told, it’s a pretty revolutionary design considering it’s true purpose, but let’s take a look at the inside where things get a little more interesting.

Interior

Considering this concept is all about athletes and their training, it should come as no surprise that there’s only one seat inside that concept. That one seat, by the way, looks excessively comfortable and relaxing – probably a joy to sit in after running or biking for miles on end. As you can see, the steering wheel has been replaced by a large tablet that appears to be larger than the display found in Tesla vehicles and the new Toyota Prius Prime. Obviously, this model doesn’t give you the option to drive yourself, but that trade-off means you can relax, read the news, or check your performance on your way to your next destination – not a bad feature to have for a busy athlete.

The interior of the Niro Triathlon (left) is insanely different from that of the production model (right)align=center

The center console has been trimmed down and features a water bottle mount, while a small mat sits on the floor on the passenger side. To the rear there is a number of hanging crates for item storage and hooks down below for holding larger, heavier items in place – you know, in case the Niro tries to take any sweet jumps on the way home. The driver’s side rear door has been equipped with a small rack for magazine storage. The rear, passenger-side door features two sets of hooks for hanging shoes. Then there’s the front passenger door that has… wait for it… a shower nozzle – I mean sink sprayer – that is connected to a water tank for quick showering and clean up after a good training session. There are also various hooks for storing things like goggles, helmets, and the like. There’s no mention of where the water tank is located, but I have a feeling that Kia probably just repurposed the windshield washer reservoir, as that would be the most economical choice since there’s no need to actually look at the windshield in a car that you can’t take control of anyway.

You’ve really have to hand it to Kia for the work put into this interior. It certainly serves a purpose for those who train a lot. I think a real shower head would look a little less tacky compared to a sink sprayer, but that particular type of sprayer does prevent the need for a shut-off valve, so it does have some merit being there.

Conclusion

2016 Kia Niro Triathlon High Resolution Exterior
- image 694167

Sure; one could argue that this concept is a little bit outlandish, but it is garnering attention at a show that is packed full of show cars. That’s saying a lot, really, and something like this could potentially go into production. It would have to be toned down a little bit, as I doubt it would pass safety regulations without a B-pillar here in the U.S. Outside of that, this concept exposes us to the way vehicles of the future may ultimately be designed. Instead of having hundreds of vehicles that are all practically the same in the sense of purpose (hauling people and cargo,) vehicles of the future could be more purpose focused like this concept.

When you think about new technology like Microsoft’s HoloLens, we could ultimately see a future where customizing your next car based on exactly what you’ll use it for – much like the way some people design their own houses to suit their needs today. Let that thought sink in for a minute. Kia, with a little help from other technology, may have just exposed us to a potential future where every car can be unique. Feelings about giving up the steering wheel aside, that’s not too bad of an outlook on the future if you ask me.

What do you think about this concept? Would you like to see something like this go into production? Are you an athlete that would actually make use of something like this, and utilize its self-driving nature to help you keep pace? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Leave it
    • * A larger model might make a better canvas
    • * The ability to drive yourself would be nice to have on occasion
    • * Would be an expensive production model for its size

Press Release

Any elite athlete will admit it’s a long, lonely road to the top and triathletes know that better than anyone else. All-night runs, bike rides across remote country and swims through dark waters make training for a triathlon a truly isolating experience. Kia’s autonomous Niro Triathlon offers refuge in a cabin designed to relax and recharge while also providing top-notch training and safety equipment.

2016 Kia Niro Triathlon High Resolution Exterior
- image 694163

Custom built by the master craftsmen at LGE-CTS Motorsports, the 2017 Niro hybrid has been transformed into a true crossover-utility lifestyle vehicle. Removal of the roof from the D-pillars back creates a small bed and allows for the custom bike rack, tool box and tablet computer mount. The Felt IA 2 road-racing bike can be easily removed or locked in place for repairs or transport. The ONEU safety laser bike lane light mounted to the rear illuminates a laser LED road behind the vehicle and the athlete can easily monitor speed, time and distance covered via the tablet while the Niro autonomously keeps pace. The tablet can also be attached inside the vehicle for entertainment or performance analysis while the Niro effortlessly drives the athlete home or to the next competition. Riding on a 2-inch lowered suspension, the Niro Triathlete is shod with 265/35R-18 Dunlop Direzza sport tires and lightweight 18-inch Method Rally Race wheels.

2016 Kia Niro Triathlon High Resolution Interior
- image 694169

Removal of the passenger-side B-pillar facilitates easy entry into a cabin designed for comfort and efficiency. The back door has been modified to open on a rear-pivot hinge while the front door has been redesigned to open wider than a stock Niro, allowing the doors to open a full 90 degrees. With no reason to drive, the athlete is cosseted in an ultra-comfortable Human Touch zero gravity ergonomic reclining chair. Numerous custom cabinets hold essential supplies, attire and parts, and a portable shower allows for a quick post-race clean-up.

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