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Kia mans up with new Rio style

Sleek: Kia stylist Massimo Fraschella nominated the shoulder line that rises to meet the tail-lights as one of his favourite aspects of the new Rio.

Kia designer says new Rio emphasises agility and masculinity among feminine rivals

1 Sep 2011

THE DESIGNER of Kia’s latest light-sized hatchback has revealed a move away from a more ‘feminine’ look was paramount in shaping the third-generation Rio, to differentiate it from its less manly competitors.

Massimo Fraschella – the Italian/American stylist who is also behind the successful transformation of Kia’s latest Sportage compact SUV – told journalists at the launch of the new UB-series Rio in Adelaide last month that a strong, individual design was sought in order to differentiate the Rio from its many rivals.

“It had to be a stand-out design … most cars in this class are a bit feminine,” he said.

“The new Rio had to convey power and agility. If you look at the front of the car it looks very confident compared to the old model. Along with the slim glasshouse and scalloped sides it looks premium.”“I wanted the whole volume of the car to be ‘pushing forward’, ready to sprint like a 100-metre athlete poised at the line.

“It had to be more masculine in order to shake the old image away.”

Key to the new Rio’s more masculine proportions was its longer wheelbase, said Mr Fraschella.

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“Allowing to have a longer wheelbase than before really helped,” he said.

Nominating the shoulder line that rises to meet the tail-lights as one of his favourite aspects of the Rio, Mr Fraschella said that the wider stance from behind, which takes in the wheel-arches, helps give the Rio a sportier, harder-edged stance on the road.

He also revealed that original drawings showed the car could have had an even wedgier glasshouse, a smaller rear window and a lower roofline for a more aggressive coupe-like appearance.

However, packaging requirements in the hotly contested light-car segment ultimately forced the designers to come up with a slightly boxier compromise, albeit one that could have been less exciting.

While competition from the various design studios within Kia for the Rio styling project was intense, it was the mould breaker that won out in the end.

“Everybody else at Kia was going functional – almost Volkswagen Polo-like – while we went for a ‘fast’ look, something that was really very attention getting. I did not want to do another monobox.” Mr Fraschella believes the Rio represents real change at Kia, since it involved collaboration across the company’s various design and engineering departments.

“For the first time, design and engineering really worked together well on this project,” he said, adding that he is astounded at the speed with which the latest Rio has reached the marketplace. His first drawings commenced in September 2008.

“It seems just like yesterday I first started to sketch,” he told GoAuto.

While the three and five-door hatchback versions of the UB were completed at the Kia Design Centre in Irvine, California, the styling for the upcoming four-door sedan version unveiled at the New York motor show in April was undertaken at Namyang in South Korea.

Kia’s Frankfurt studio was responsible for the Rio’s interior.

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