In 2015 Kia sold more than 1.7-million vehicles around the world. Of that figure, 473,000 were the Rio, making it the brand’s top seller. It was also the company’s top seller in SA. Over the past five years, it has shared that top spot in the stable in SA with the Picanto and Sportage, according to a local company spokesperson.
It is important not just to Kia, but to the market in general — a market where many are downsizing and seeking value, while others are looking for their first or second car and are finding value in the Korean brands.
This makes a new Rio rather a big deal. Recently we showed you sketches of the new model but now the company has revealed the real thing, which will make its official debut at the Paris Motor Show at the end of this month.
It is the fourth generation of the Rio and the company is promising a progressive exterior and interior when it comes to design. We would normally read that as meaning evolutionary rather than revolutionary design, sticking to an ethos that many other car makers have been following lately such as Audi with its A4 and BMW with its next generation 5 Series which is also due to debut at the Paris show.
Up front it sports the latest version of the brand’s signature “tiger-nose” grille, but it is thinner and wider to give the new Rio a slightly sportier look. The headlamps are narrower and include bi-function projection lamps together with the must-have safety and design feature, LED daytime running lights.
The new Rio is also larger than the outgoing model, gaining 5mm in width and 15mm in length. It boasts a 10mm longer wheelbase which should ensure slightly more space in the interior. However, some of that additional length will be used by the new, longer bonnet and longer front overhang, again in the interest of creating a more dynamic appearance. That is also why it has dropped its height by 5mm and adopted a shorter rear overhang.
That shortened rear appearance is further accentuated by the more vertical rear window and tailgate, no doubt engineered to allow for the shorter rear overhang while still providing decent boot space. The rear gets a new lighting signature, with arrow-shaped LED lamps.
Even bigger changes happen on the inside, with a major update to the design which Kia hopes will give the interior a much more modern look. Again the designers say they have kept things simple, with long lines and a feeling of space.
Kia has always liked to position itself as having vehicles that are slightly more driver-focused than those of its stablemate, Hyundai. The same is true with the new Rio, which has a centre console that is angled more towards the driver. It also gets a new multimedia infotainment system, controlled through a touchscreen that stands out from the centre of the dash. It controls the audio and connectivity systems, as well as the navigation.
Kia has fallen behind when it comes to infotainment. The local subsidiary often blames the Korean parent for this, saying the head office refuses to let us have the decent stuff, something we have never understood. After all, we are talking about infotainment here, not fuel quality.
The company has not revealed any details of powertrain options for the new model but we expect the status quo to largely remain. However, with Hyundai now including a 1.0l turbocharged motor in the Rio’s sibling, the Hyundai i20, in many international markets, we expect that engine to also find its way into the Kia stable. That said, the company is uncertain when it comes to introducing the latest technology engines to our market due to fuel quality concerns, so it remains to be seen whether that engine will arrive in SA.
When it comes to local introduction of the new Rio, we only expect it to come to SA in the first half of 2017 after its European introduction towards the end of this year. It will follow the launch in the country of the new Sportage which will be the brand’s biggest new model launch in SA when it finally goes on sale here next month.
Meanwhile, Hyundai also revealed its new i30 this week. Unfortunately we were unable to get details of the new model prior to going to print but we do know the new model features extensive changes when it comes to styling, both inside and out.
The i30 will also feature the next generation of the brand’s infotainment systems as well as more technology, much of which will probably come standard.
The rear will have a shorter overhang, again to give the model a sportier look. The interior, below, will be designed more towards the driver and feature a new infotainment system. – Mark Smyth