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First look: Kia's Rio rolls in

Space ace: Underpinning the new Kia is a fresh platform that, although 90mm shorter, should offer significantly more space than today’s 2000-vintage Rio.

Sport concept at Paris previews Kia’s all-new small car

Kia logo4 Oct 2004

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PARIS

WITH more than a little help from parent Hyundai, Kia’s all-new 2005 Rio replacement promises to be a vast improvement.

Previewed as the Sport Concept five-door hatchback at last week’s Paris motor show, the production version of the all-new light car is set to star at the Sydney motor show in October 2005, several months after its likely Geneva showing next March.

A four-door sedan will also be part of the range, with diesel derivatives destined for European markets. Ours is expected to only include an engine of about 1.5 litres in capacity.

The new compact Kia should also beat its fifth generation Hyundai Accent cousin to market, albeit by a short time only.

Sizeable strides in dynamics and refinement are expected, particularly after the sub-Rio Kia Picanto that premiered last year received unexpected praise from the usually parochial English motoring press.

Underpinning the new Kia is a fresh platform that, although 90mm shorter, should offer significantly more space than today’s 2000-vintage Rio. The fact that those 90mm have been added to the wheelbase and that there’s been a 100mm girth gain, also helps.

So the new car’s dimensions are as follows: length: 4240mm width: 1800mm height: 1470mm (+50mm) and wheelbase: 2500mm.

Codenamed JB, the Rio replacement is also likely to lose its current moniker.

The five-door Sport Concept’s styling is a complete break from the current hatchback’s bread-van like appearance, revealing an aggressive European/modern Japanese aesthetic punctuated by fussy detailing like the tail-light design.

Meanwhile, the show car’s wide front air-dam, 18-inch wheels, dual exhausts, roof-top spoiler, leather and metal-accent interior, satellite navigation and DVD player are pure flights of fancy as far as the more prosaic sub-$15,000 production models will be concerned.

But Kia is hinting very unsubtly at a sporty hatch version to take on (yet seriously undercut the price of) the 131kW Renault Clio Sport 182 and 130kW Peugeot 206 GTI 180.

In show form, it reportedly spurts out 150kW from a turbocharged version of the Hyundai group’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and is mated to a five-speed auto gearbox. It is enough to take it to the 100km/h mark in around seven seconds.

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