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First look: Kia’s new Rio here late 2005

The cheap and cheerful Kia Rio small car has grown up a little

5 Jan 2005

THIS is your first in-the-metal look at the new generation Kia Rio small car that will go on-sale in Australia late in 2005.

First off, the sedan pictured here will get its ceremonial unveiling at the Detroit auto show this month, before the hatchback has the wraps pulled off it at the Geneva show in March.

Both cars will be shown in Australia for the first time at next October’s Australian international motor show in Sydney.

It will be a busy year for Kia as it also plans to launch new generations of the Optima sedan and Carnival people-mover internationally in 2005.

Locally, Kia Automotive Australia will kick off the year with the launch of the of the Sportage compact soft-roader.

Kia has issued some specifications for both versions, which reveal the Rio will have a longer wheelbase, a wider track and larger exterior measurements than the popular current car.

That all bodes well for interior space, which is amongst the best in class because the Rio is essentially half-a-size bigger than competition in the light car category such as the Toyota Echo and Hyundai Getz.

It is also powered by a larger and more powerful new 85kW 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, trading in the old 73.5kW 1.5-litre. The engine mates to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission and runs on regular unleaded petrol. No performance or economy figures have been released as yet.

17 center image As per the old car, suspension is by MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam in the rear. Steering is by rack and pinion and the brakes are a disc/drum combination with optional anti-lock braking (ABS).

This car’s underpinnings will also be shared with the second generation Accent small car made by Kia’s owner Hyundai, which is due out in Australia around September.

The Rio’s sales success in Australia has been built around cheap pricing and acceptable equipment levels rather than any great shakes as a drive.

The current car starts at $14,990 drive-away, that sales incentive just reintroduced in the wake of the five per cent imported passenger car tariff cut.

The single specification current model comes equipped with a driver’s airbag, air-conditioning, central locking and a single slot CD player. The sedan offers an optional sports pack for $3038, but ABS is not available.

Ric Hull, the managing director of Kia importer Ateco Automotive, said it was too early to discuss specific pricing and specification of the new car, although he said the existing sales strategy would continue.

“I don’t know that we have much room to move, we have Getzes and Echos in the $13,000 bracket … This is a very competitive segment and we can’t afford to price ourselves out of it.”

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