Kia says its all-new compact Niro crossover hybrid—set to go on sale in the U.S. early next year—will give outstanding fuel efficiency while maintaining the style and appeal of an SUV.

Thanks to its slightly raised ride height, the Niro further blurs the hatchback/wagon/SUV lines. Riding on a new, front-wheel-drive hybrid platform shared with the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro is essentially a small five-passenger wagon.

Under the Niro's hood sits a 1.6-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine good for 103 horsepower. Between the engine and its six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sits a 43-hp electric motor. The 1.56-kWh lithium ion battery is located under the rear seat, allowing for a flat cargo floor when the rear seats are folded.

Unlike most hybrids, which use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Niro’s dual-clutch setup promises more traditional driving characteristics with less high-rpm drone. There is no word on an all-wheel-drive version yet, though a plug-in hybrid will come later in the model run.

As with most hybrids, fuel efficiency is the key consideration. Kia says it’s targeting a 50 mpg combined rating in the EPA test cycle—an impressive number that would fall just short of the Toyota Prius' EPA-estimated 52 mpg.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid interior

A suite of advanced safety features will be available, including autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control, and blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert. An available infotainment system works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A new system called Eco-DAS (for Driver Assistance System) will also be available, with two clever features: Coasting Guide coaches the driver on when to coast and when to brake; and Predictive Energy Control makes informed decisions about when to pull power from the battery and when to recharge it.

Low gas prices and Toyota's dominance of the hybrid segment mean the Niro is facing an uphill battle. But Hyundai, Kia’s parent company, has been ratcheting up its hybrid tech of late, and we’ve been impressed by the improvements. We expect to see similar advancements with Kia’s products, leading us to believe the Niro will offer shoppers an interesting alternative to the ever-popular Prius.

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid rear