The wraps have just come off the new model, three weeks out from its official unveiling at the Paris motor show and roughly nine months from its arrival in New Zealand. The car is likely to be first seen in this part of the world next January, at the Kia-sponsored Australian Open tennis tournament.
Rio is longer and wider than the current car and is underpinned by a platform new to South Korea’s Hyundai-Kia alliance. It will be the basis for a new compact SUV – smaller again than Kia’s Sportage – the prototype of which is expected to break cover next year.
The new car’s wheelbase has been stretched 10mm to 2580mm, while the overall length has grown 15mm to 4065mm, and the width by 5mm to 1725mm. Compare its critical new dimensions with those of the rival Mazda2 hatchback: length 4060mm, width 1695mm, wheelbase 2570mm. The Mazda2 is noticeably narrower.
The images here show the car’s extra length is apparent up front, the longer front overhang delivering a longer bonnet, and the deeper grille and narrow headlights – cues borrowed from the larger Optima sedan – helping to make it look even wider. The rear overhang is shorter, with more upright C-pillars and hatch glass.
Inside, Rio’s cabin picks up more traditional design cues, apart from the tablet-like main display in the centre of the dash. The dashboard is angled more towards the driver. There’s a new steering wheel design, traditional instrument dials, and a centre console topped by the tablet-like display.
The styling of the new hatch was led by design centres in Germany and California, working with Kia’s main centre in Namyang, about 40km southwest of the capital, Seoul.
The new Rio will come with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, although the New Zealand models will almost certainly be limited to petrol. The petrol range comprises a four-cylinder 1.3-litre unit delivering 62kW/122Nm and a 1.4-litre good for 74kW/134Nm.
There is also a three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit generating a livelier 88kW/172Nm. This engine is used overseas in the i20 Hyundai Sport. Could it appear under the bonnet of a Rio GT? Kia’s engineering chief Albert Biermann is on record as saying he would love to see such a car.