Kia turned to both its European and American design studios in designing its all-new Rio subcompact, making its debut at this year’s New York International Auto Show.
The results are what you’d likely call “handsome”: smoothed-over surfaces, a low-profile “tiger nose” grille, chrome-bezeled fog lamps, and overall proportions a little more conservative than its Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit rivals. The large side window openings and side roof, meanwhile, make for a much better view out for driver and passengers.
I guess you could say Kia boss Thomas Schreyer – formerly of Audi design fame – would have it no other way. After all, Audi has been releasing conservatively handsome luxury products for quite some time, even at volume levels with the likes of the A4 sedan and Q series of SUVs and crossovers.
Still, as style continues to be of greater and greater importance in the subcompact world, you have to wonder whether what Kia’s done is a little too conservative considering the company it keeps.
Having said that, the new car rides on an all-new platform and is longer in both its forms – sedan and five-door hatch – because it has a longer wheelbase and sits both lower and wider than the old car. That means to go along with the better view out, there’s more room inside for the occupants, as well.
As far as cargo goes, the hatch is the star, of course, sporting 928 litres of storage with the seats folded down. The sedan’s trunk, meanwhile, has room enough to store 388 litres of gear. That’s in addition to more shoulder and legroom than previous for rear seat passengers.
The new platform, meanwhile, also provides a batter ride and more noise, vibration, and harshness reduction. You can also thank the fully-independent front suspension and torsion-beam rear axle in part for that, as well as what Kia’s claiming to be a more agile set-up altogether.
A single engine is on offer for both body styles: a 130-hp 119-lb-ft GDI (gasoline direct-injection) four-cylinder with a high-pressure fuel system and variable intake for more efficient motoring. The power is channelled to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
That’s all well and good, but in the compact sedan or hatch game, you need the in-car tech to back it all up. For a car aimed at youthful buyers, it’s imperative you keep them, well, entertained. To try and appease that crowd, the Rio gets a rear-view camera system, UVO3 infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and an optional 7-inch touchscreen display—you don’t usually see screens that big at this level.
So, it seems the new Rio has what it takes to keep people happy – the added space and tech will see to that – but will today’s style-conscious youth dig the conservative styling? We shall see when the 2018 Rio goes on sale this fall.