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Future models - Kia - Rio

Incoming Kia Rio Sport returns six-speed auto to range

Four to the floor: Although Kia’s yet-to-be-revealed Rio Sport will benefit from a six-speed automatic transmission, the existing S variants (pictured) will continue on with a four-speed unit.

New Kia Rio Sport to feature six-speed shifter, base S retains four-speed unit

Kia logo14 Jun 2018

KIA will reveal an upgraded Rio light car in August or September, with the welcome return of a six-speed automatic transmission on a freshly-minted, mid-range Sport version aimed at private buyers.

However, entry-level S variants, which have been a favourite for fleet buyers, will persist with the old four-speed automatic unit to help keep costs as low as possible.

Both will retain the continuing 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which currently produces 74kW of power and 133Nm of torque, meaning that the old award-winning 103kW/167Nm 1.6-litre GDI gasoline direct-injection unit driving higher-specification versions of the previous-generation Rio from 2011 to 2016 will not be made available.

 

As previously reported, the Sport will be joined by year’s end by the long-anticipated GT-Line flagship, ushering in an 88kW/172Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) combination that promises greater efficiency and better driveability than the old 1.6 GDI.

 

Designed to highlight the driver-orientated character of the Australian-fettled suspension and steering systems in all Kias sold in this market, the Sport simultaneously replaces both the Si and SLi in the year-and-a-half-old Rio, and follows in the footsteps of the just-released fourth-generation Cerato.

 

According to Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) product planning general manager Roland Rivero, the six-speed auto was always in the plan for the Rio, and will remove one of the biggest hurdles facing today’s version, but Australia had to wait in line as the South Korean factory that supplies much of the world has struggled to meet global demand.

 

“The six-speed auto is definitely on the cards,” he told GoAuto at the local laucnh of the Cerato sedan in Adelaide last week.

 

“I mentioned it back at the launch in January 2017, but with the European market being predominantly manual and the Korean domestic market, which is heavily fleet and all about price with no desire for a six-speed auto … the most vocal market for a six-speed auto was Australia, as we saw the four-speed as being behind the times.

 

“We made a lot of noise about it, so for model-year 2019, we’ll see a six-speed auto with the 1.4-litre in Sport and a 1.0-litre with a seven-speed DCT in GT-Line above that. Only the 1.4-litre S base will retain the four-speed auto.

 

“The Korean factory that supplies Europe and the rest of the world with both the Rio and the closely related Stonic small SUV/crossover version has severe back orders … so there are stock issues worldwide. As a result, for us to do something that is going to lift demand further than the current running rate would almost be a waste of time.”

 

While Mr Rivero acknowledged the limitations of retaining a four-speed auto in the Rio S, he said he believed that the lower entry price would be more important to the fleet managers who make up the overwhelming purchasers.

 

“Rio for Australia has very much become a fleet and rental vehicle, more so than Picanto and Cerato,” he said. “And it’s hitting our sales aspirations – we were targeting 500 to 600 per month and it’s been doing exactly that since the get-go.”

 

Finally, Mr Rivero dismissed concerns that targeting fleets with outmoded powertrain tech like a 1.4-litre, four-speed auto would tarnish the brand in the long term.

 

“So, while the Rio is predominately fleet, we have Cerato that is predominantly retail, Stinger, Carnival and Sorento that are big margin and don’t need much help to move the volume, and even the Sportage hasn’t had to be discounted one iota since its launch in 2015,” he said.

 

“We have retail cars, which is our sub-$20,000 strategy with Picanto, Rio and Cerato, but on the flipside we have the high-margin, good brand-enhancement vehicles that really offset all of that. And it’s that balance that we’ve got at the moment, with 50 per cent of the range, that doesn’t require us to do any kind of discounting whatsoever.

 

“So, there is a definitive role that Rio has to play.”


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