DSC_7779a

Some cars stick in the mind long after the fact. This one happens to be one of them, but for another reason, which I’ll get to later. But first, say hello to the third-generation Kia Rio hatch, which will be making its official debut later tonight.

The B-segment offering has been spotted enough times, on the road as well as at the COTY2U Autoshow 2012, and its premiere tonight is also no surprise, the fact being made known last week. It’s also known that the UB, which was unveiled in Geneva in 2011, will make its way here in five-door hatch form.

It has grown in terms of size – the new Rio measures in at 4,045 mm long, an increase of 20 mm over the previous gen. It’s also wider at 1,720 mm, up by 25 mm, and the wheelbase has been increased by 70 mm to 2,570 mm. The only reduction is with height, by 15 mm over the older car, at 1,470 mm. As for boot space, there’s 288 litres available for storage.

DSC_7737a

Powering the Rio is a 1.4 litre MPI Gamma mill, and the DOHC with CVVT unit is good for 109 PS at 6,300 rpm and 137 Nm at 4,200 rpm. The G4FA is paired to a four-speed automatic, replete with what Kia calls a ‘manumatic’ manual shift function.

It’ll be available in two trim levels, the EX and SX, and common to both is a good spread of kit. Standard equipment includes LED daytime running lights, electric folding wing mirrors with LED side repeaters, static bending lights, tilt/telescopic steering as well as an Akarmys-enhanced six-speaker audio system with MP3 and aux.

There’s also Bluetooth connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering with audio controls, a rear spoiler, alloy pedals, 60:40 split folding rear seats and rear fog lamps. Elsewhere, the car features disc brakes all-around and EPS.

DSC_7722a

As for safety, the Rio is certainly comprehensively equipped, with Isofix mountings, six airbags (front, front side, front/rear curtain), electronic stability control, ABS/EBD, TCS, brake assist and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) on the list.

Befitting its higher specification, the SX adds on front fog lamps, a sunroof, a Supervision cluster instrument panel, full auto air-conditioner with an integrated cluster ioniser as well as a Smart Key system with push-start ignition, the EX making do with a standard keyed ignition. The SX also gets five-spoke 17-inch alloys with 205/45 series tyres, while the EX is clad with five twin-spoke 16-inch units and 195/55 rubbers.

Ahead of the car’s launch, there was a preview drive for it two weeks ago. A simple enough outing, involving a day drive out to the Golden Palm Tree Resort in Sepang and back. At this juncture, I have to apologise for the rather small batch of photos (none of the engine and rear seat), as well as limited driving notes about the car, but we’ll get to the reason why this is so in a bit.

DSC_7716a

Nothing much to add as far as looks go, except to say that the UB is a pretty sharp looker in the metal; Kia is aiming its sights at the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Swift with this one, and in its SX guise, the Rio should win many new friends based on its flash. It’s certainly eye-catching, especially with those 17-inchers and clad in Electronic Blue.

The cheer continues on to the interior. The layout of the dash bears Teutonic styling hints, which will appeal to those into such fashion, and the plastics are good to the sight, if a little less so to the touch.

Still, the contact points are very well done, the feel of the steering, switchgear and gearshift adding a sense of premium to things. The rear is an acceptably comfortable place to be in; despite reduced leg and shoulder room than previously, space perception is good, aided by improved headroom (45 mm up) and additional distance between first and second row seats. The seats themselves could be a bit firmer though.

DSC_7760a

On to the driving dynamics. In this regard, the Rio doesn’t veer too much away from its ilk, but what’s on should be good enough for most buyers. Korean cars aren’t really renowned for their outright handling in base form, and so when pushed, the Rio’s suspension shows up its soft legs, all the more evident as a rear seat passenger.

Nonetheless, the assisting electronics keep things honest – I only managed to provoke the car once inside a turn, and the Rio kept its composure ably enough, and it even felt impressive doing so. Driven in more sedate fashion, the car does very well.

Pace-wise, the Gamma mill isn’t racy, and lags a little off the blocks, but once it gets going the response picks up. It also sounds zingy when pushed, but otherwise noise and vibration levels on the whole are good. The ride is a bit on the firm side with the 17s, but not jarring. Presumably, the EX and its 16s would be better in this regard, but I never got to it, because a golf buggy put paid to everything.

DSC_7781a

Ah yes, a golf buggy. Arriving at the resort and lunch, the cars were being lined up, so I decided to take the opportunity to take more photos. As I was snapping away, a combination of ill-luck saw one of the resort’s buggies accelerating into me, the driver blissfully unaware that my bulk was in his path. The photo just above was taken seconds before the eventful event.

I’ll save the details of that fateful encounter for another time and place, but the short of it is that having a buggy run you down and then push you along isn’t a very pleasant experience, as you can probably surmise. That poleaxe job pretty much ended the drive for me, as well as for my camera. The term ‘suffering for your art’ has never sounded more apt. Thankfully, it didn’t turn out to be ‘dying’.

Hopefully, we’ll have a more thorough look at the car sometime soon, and issue a more complete report on it. I might even be the one to have that go, you never know. I mean, the Rio and I are interminably intertwined – I’ll certainly never forget her or that day. In any case, I’m a sucker for punishment. That I’m heading out the door after this to cover the launch says it all.