We’re go­ing to Rio again

A lot is rid­ing on the suc­cess of the Kia small car, writes Neil Dowl­ing

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

IT’S the next big step, but it’s not the last as Kia pre­pares its small­car Rio (pic­tured) for launch and its cor­po­rate im­age to rocket.

It is un­prece­dented that we’re prob­a­bly wit­ness­ing the re­birth of Kia — and Hyundai — and this Stage 2 phase could soon have it knock­ing on Toy­ota’s door.

Aus­tralia has the new Sportage, will soon get the Kia Optima mid-size sedan and in Au­gust its ri­val for the must-have baby-car mar­ket, the Rio.

There’s also the chance of the all­new Pi­canto sub B-Class car.

Kia Aus­tralia knows the Rio is a big­gie, but it doesn’t know the pric­ing and fi­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

No one worth know­ing has seen the Rio in the flesh. We only have some fuzzy artist ren­der­ings to guide us to the fi­nal shape.

But Kia Aus­tralia spokesman Kevin Hepworth says it will ar­rive about Au­gust and will be a five-door hatch­back, prob­a­bly with the same 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre en­gine of­fer­ings.

What is un­sure— though has been spec­u­lated — is that the hatch to be first shown at Geneva in March may be fol­lowed by a sedan at the New York mo­tor show and, af­ter that, pos­si­bly a coupe.

But though the roll-out of the Rio is now blurry, Hepworth be­lieves the Ford Fi­esta ri­val is the one that will wash the com­pany clean of dispir­ited re­marks.

‘‘It’s a big step for the com­pany,’’ he says.‘‘This is the car that is the last of the range to get elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and a five-star crash rat­ing.

‘‘It puts the com­pany on a higher foot­ing than ever be­fore in terms of style and safety and that is go­ing to cre­ate a lot of buyer in­ter­est.’’

The next Rio is longer, lower and wider than the out­go­ing model, and has been sketched un­der the direc­tion of Kia chief de­signer Peter Schreyer to be ‘‘sporty and el­e­gant’’.

Kia says it will suit ‘‘pro­gres­sive, en­er­getic con­sumers who want a stand-out de­sign’’.

The car will make its global de­but at the Geneva mo­tor show on March 1.

It will re­place the pop­u­lar cur­rent model that last year sold more than 205,000 units.

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