Kia says its fourth-generation Rio will offer class-leading practicality, better ride and handling, and the latest infotainment technology when it arrives in New Zealand around the middle of next year.
The teaser sketches it has just released hint that the carmaker is working to build a larger gap between the five-door and its smaller stablemate, the Picanto. The sketches – nearly always exaggerated – show the Rio has been freshened inside and out, with a lower and wider look for a sportier stance.
Could there be a GT version? Kia’s engineering chief Albert Biermann is on record as saying he would love to see such a car. The vague illustration of the interior also points to a sportier cabin, with a large centre screen, flanked by air vents and dials and toggles. Kia has already said that the new Rio will come with “the latest connectivity features”, no doubt meaning Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Rio will be unveiled at the Paris motor show next month before going into production for Europe later in the year. Production for New Zealand and Australia (NZ gets Australian-spec cars) will begin next year, once Rio meets the Australian Design Rule standard.
The styling of the new hatch was led by design centres in Germany and California, working with Kia’s main centre in Namyang, South Korea.
The sketches show chief designer chief Peter Schreyer has borrowed cues from Rio’s larger Optima stablemate, especially the revised ‘tiger nose’ grille, stretched to touch the headlights. The lights themselves are slimmer than before and slightly angled downwards. The lower grille seems much deeper to match the taller fog-light housings.
At the rear, there are new tail-lights, plus a small roof spoiler. It remains to be seen if the spoiler ends up in the production car. The C-pillar appears more upright, another hint among stylists that Rio will have a slightly longer wheelbase for improved rear passenger space.
Indeed, Kia has confirmed it. “Straight lines and smooth surfacing give the car a distinctive new character, while a longer front overhang and bonnet, longer wheelbase, and upright C-pillar give the car an even more confident and balanced appearance than its predecessor,” it said.
Why the longer wheelbase? Because the new platform which underpins the Rio is also being used for a compact SUV, smaller again than the South Korean carmaker’s successful Sportage. The new SUV prototype is likely to break cover next year.
Rio is Kia’s best-selling model, with around 475,000 units worldwide in 2015.