The Rio marks Premier’s comeback in the passenger car segment after many years. The last passenger cars which Premier sold in India were the Fiat range - the Uno and Siena, after which Fiat set up its current base in Ranjangaon and parted from Premier. But just before the Fiat tie-up, Premier had a JV with Peugeot and although the 309 was a fairly competent car, it never really set the sales charts on fire and eventually went off the market. A few years ago, Premier made an entry into the Light Commercial Vehicle segment with its mini pick-up Roadstar and commercial van Sigma (both based on older Mitsubishi designs) which came from a tie-up with CMC Taiwan. Having taken a concious step to being in the passenger car business, but not wanting to be part of the overcrowded hatchback segment, Premier decided to enter a niche and the RiO SUV will be the first of its kind in the Indian market, due to its compact size.Design:
The Rio’s design is the same as the Daihatsu Terios, which is now built by Zotye, a Chinese car manufacturer which bought the Terios dies from Daihatsu after it launched the next-generation Terios. Currently, the Zotye sells the Rio as “Nomad” in China. The good quality paint finish and the alloys make the Rio look good, not to forget the 215/70R15 tyres and the compact design. Interiors:
The Rio has grey and blue-coloured interiors like the typical 1980s Japanese cars sold in America and Europe. The plastic quality inside is not satisfactory – the hard plastics, flimsy feeling hazard light button, inconsistent gaps between the panels, and the peel-off Premier stickers could have been much better. The grab handles feel flimsy and should have been sturdier. The Rio comes with a four-speaker CD player and radio system which has the radio antenna on the left hand side A-pillar, as Chinese cars are left hand drive and shifting the antenna to the right side would have increased the cost.
The Rio isn’t just compact from outside, but is congested inside as well. Both rows lack adequate space, especially the second row but the boot has a fair amount of space. The seat cushioning could have been better. The steering wheel feels a little small and even though the headlights are twin-barreled, they don’t turn on high and low beam together which would have helped visibility by a lot during night driving. The electrically adjustable mirrors are a welcome addition to the Rio. Powertrain:
The Premier Rio uses the Peugeot TUD5 engine technology which powers the other two Premiers; namely Sigma and Roadstar. This tough, reliable engine in its earliest avatar used to power the Zen and Esteem diesels, and even the first Accent diesels before they switched to the CRDi engine. Premier has reduced the cubic capacity by 30cc to 1489cc, however the engine block and cylinder head are still imported from France and produces a maximum power of 65bhp. The compact SUV uses a Zotye gearbox. The rear-wheel driven Rio handles surprisingly well and considering the small wheelbase and track, the car has negligible bodyroll.Overall Evaluation:
The Rio targets the aspirational customer, with its compact SUV looks and rear wheel drive. It is a viable alternative to a large hatch or entry-level sedan at the price (Rs 5.48 lakh, ex-showroom, Mumbai), but the aspirational customer will most likely be disappointed by the interiors of the Rio. This is a shame, since the Rio could have been so much more – it is, after all, a good handler, and the only taste of true front-engine, rear-wheel drive that the Indian customer has at the price range.