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2017 Kia Rio hatchback- A taste of things to come

What is it?

Kia is coming to India and it will make its arrival here in a big way. The South Korean automaker is investing 1.1 billion USD for a new facility in Andhra Pradesh and out of its doors will roll out the production version of the SP SUV concept that was showcased at Delhi 2018. Along with the SP, Kia will, over the course of the next three years (from 2019), also bring in other models and one of them is expected to be this car, the Rio hatchback.

Now, let us be clear. This is a Euro-spec model and is not even expected to come to India in this generation and if and when we do get the Rio, it would obviously be adapted to our road conditions. But given how the B+ segment, where this car is placed, has boomed with the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Hyundai Elite i20, Honda Jazz as well as future models from Tata and VW family, it seems logical that after the SP, this should be the one of the hands that Kia should play in India. This then is a glimpse of what we can expect from Kia when it does come to India by the middle of next year. 

How does it look?

The Rio shares its engines and underpinnings with the Elite i20 but in terms of styling they are quite different. The face is dominated by the hatchback iteration of the Tiger nose grille and is complemented by big projector headlamps. The front bumper gets a sporty lip while the fog lamp housing gets a chrome surround and this adds that little extra pezzaz, thus giving the car a premium appearance.

In profile, it’s easy to see that the car is a slightly beefed up version of the Elite i20 thanks to the front overhangs and forward leaning stance. You get some chrome beading on the glass area and thanks to the massive 17-inch wheels and lowered ground clearance on our car you get a proper premium hatchback stance.   

 With so much going on at the front and rear, it’s kind of odd to see the rear a bit dulled down. There aren’t too many badges and even the lower half of the bumper is painted in black. What we did like though are the distinctive tail lamps which are LED units and have an arrow like pattern pointing inwards. 

How is it on the inside?

Quite impressive actually. The whole cabin has been trimmed out in black with shades contrasting between glossy plastic for the bezels and the matt like shade for the rest. The quality of plastics is pretty good and gives the car a young and sporty feel. The touchscreen system with a floating display has a slight driver-oriented leaning and this plays into the sporty feel.

But it’s too small and lacks the desirable appeal that touchscreens have picked up nowadays. In fact, it seems more than obvious that Kia will have to replace the system for the Indian car market with a far more comprehensive system and a bigger screen. Of particular notice is also the gear knob which has got an Audi like golf ball design and well, if that isn’t a further hint of sportiness then I don’t know what is.

This Rio is only marginally larger than the Elite i20 which means that you get the same kind of cabin space offered on the latter. That’s not a bad thing at all as there’s quite a lot of space for four people across all dimensions. 

Other than those, the Rio surprisingly comes with everything that is considered standard in this part of the Indian car market. This list includes climate control, chrome interior door handles and pedals, height adjustment for the driver’s seat, power windows, power mirrors, split folding rear seats and an instrument cluster with clearly stenciled fonts that’s very pleasing to the eyes.

What's under the hood

Globally, you can have the Rio (hatch and sedan) with three-cylinder and four-cylinder petrol engines in the range of 1.0-litres to 1.6-litres and with both manual and automatic transmissions. The diesel is the same 1.4-litre turbo unit producing 89bhp/220Nm found in the Elite i20. It gets a six-speed manual as standard but Hyundai is expected to introduce a diesel AT option and this will also find its way to the Rio.

Given that this car was an international spec model, it wouldn’t seem right to evaluate it for our roads. But we can tell you that if Kia were to keep even some of the characteristics of this international spec model, then Rio would be a sporty hatchback with a high fun to drive factor.

When will it come to India?

The first car that Kia will roll out will be the SP SUV towards the second half of 2019. The Rio is expected to be in the second wave of cars but nothing is confirmed as yet. But like we said, premium hatchbacks have become significant in the past few years. The segment is expected to expand and things will get competitive.  


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