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Vikrant Singh, 13-Mar-2012. Car Tested: , Version:
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Introduction

We love the concept of a small SUV. With a size rivalling small cars, it is easy to drive and park in the city. The high seating helps here as well. There’s high ground clearance so you don’t have to worry about going through a field, over small boulders or hugely undulated dirt roads in general, to get out of a never-ending traffic jam. It’s also kind of cool driving one because you are seen as adventurous but not big-headed; typical impression a large SUV driver carries.

Looks and interiors

 

So, when we first drove the Rio, we appreciated it, but it had its drawbacks. It looked too utilitarian. The interiors were just too bland and the quality wasn’t great either. It also lacked refinement. With the new one some of these issues have been ironed out. As is clear in the pictures, it does look more polished than before. It gets a new hood, revised fenders and totally new design for the headlamps, grille and front bumper. In the flesh, it looks more upmarket now. 

Even on the inside, things are looking up. The finish has improved and though the design remains the same, use of beige for the upholstery and some of the plastics, has not only given the car’s insides a richer look, but it feels roomier too. There’s some equipment on board too. ABS for instance is standard on the new Rio, so are power windows up front and electrically adjustable ORVMs. Furthermore, the top-end  LX version also gets a stereo system.

The Rio, though marketed as a five-seater, can, for all practical purposes, only seat four. The fifth is a real squeeze. For four people the room, while not too great, is still acceptable. And with a short rail for the front seats, the rear passengers always have tolerable kneeroom. Boot space however could be better and the cabin could do with more stowage areas as well. There are no cupholders at the front for instance.

 

The drive

 

When it comes to occupant comfort though, the Rio does impress. It has comfortable seats both front and back, and the ride quality over almost everything is absorbent and silent. The suspension is setup on the softer side, so bumps and potholes at low speed in particular are dealt with surprising easily. Even at high speed the ride does not deteriorate, but thanks to long travel suspension, the body does tend to roll around a bit. This affects the SUV’s handling adversely too, but thankfully it’s not too bad and the Rio isn’t at sea around bends.

The biggest disappointed on the new Rio has to be its petrol engine, however. The 1.2-litre, 76bhp, four-cylinder engine just refuses to get a move on. It is being sourced from AVL in Austria and on paper the specs aren’t bad. It does come with a four valve, DOHC head after all. In the real world though, there’s serious lack of low end grunt. The car struggles to gather any speed at all below 3000rpm. Even beyond that the go isn’t great. Overtaking on the highways for one is quite a challenge.

 

Verdict

As a concept the Rio is fantastic. Its execution leaves more than a little to be desired, but it’s not something you’d want to discount altogether either. The petrol engine is the biggest chink in its armour, no doubt, and we think the Rio to buy should be the 1.3-litre Multijet that’s due in April. However, if you want one now, we’d suggest you buy the Rio with the TUD diesel. 

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