2018 Rio

The latest Kia Rio hatchback was revealed at the Paris Motor Show last year, but it has taken until now for the covers to be pulled off the sedan variant. Larger and more refined than before, the new B-segment four-door will go on sale in the United States later this year.

It certainly looks more attractive than its rather ungainly predecessor, with a longer front end, a flatter beltline, a lower rear deck and a shorter rear overhang contributing to more balanced proportions. The front end is shared with the hatch, with sweptback headlights flanking a closed off “tiger nose” grille, along with fog lamp enclosures that have been pushed outwards.

Moving towards the side of the car, a strong shoulder line visually lengthens the car, while a C-pillar appliqué gives the illusion of a longer glasshouse. At the rear, there are trapezoidal tail lights and a black rear valence with diffuser-like fins. One downside is that in the US, the Rio will ride on smaller 15-inch wheels even on the range-topping EX model, rather than the 17-inch rollers found in other markets.

2018 Rio

The dimensions go some way towards explaining the lengthened, widened look – it’s now 15 mm longer at 4,384 mm, and the wheelbase has also been stretched by 10 mm to 2,581 mm. The car is now lower and wider, too, mirroring similar developments on the hatch.

Inside, the Rio Sedan is pretty much identical to the hatch, with a horizontal dashboard design that enhances the overall sense of width. Kia says that the interior features upgraded materials and improved ergonomics, as well as redesigned front seats with a slimmer design but more cushioning and padding to minimise fatigue on long journeys.

Of course, being longer and wider, it’s also roomier, with Kia claiming best-in-class space. Both front and rear passengers benefit from increased leg- and shoulder room, and despite being lower, front occupants also get more headroom, thanks to a new headliner material. Reprofiled door cards and a reshaped dashboard also free up extra space. The boot remains tiny, however, measuring just 388 litres – a litre less than before.

2018 Rio 5-Door

In terms of infotainment, the Rio Sedan is available in the US with Bluetooth hands-free functionality, six speakers and a reverse camera, with the EX also gaining a UVO3 infotainment system with a seven-inch floating touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Safety-wise, the Rio comes with six airbags, ABS, stability control and hill-start assist, and is also available with autonomous emergency braking (AEB). Kia is targeting a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).

In the US, the Rio gets just one choice of powertrain – an updated 130 hp/161 Nm 1.6 litre direct-injected four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual or automatic transmission sends drive to the front wheels. Kerb weight is 1,201 kg for the manual model and 1,231 with the auto.

Under the skin, there’s MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear axle as before, but the geometry has been completely revised for more agile handling and improved ride comfort; there’s also a revised spring and damper setup for increased compliance and comfort. As standard, the car comes with 11-inch disc brakes up front and drum brakes at the rear, with the EX gaining 10.3-inch rear disc brakes.

Meanwhile, the structure uses advanced high strength steel for improved rigidity, durability and collision performance, while body sealing and bonding adhesives dampen sound pathways throughout the construction, reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).

Closer to home, the Kia Rio hatchback is coming to Malaysia in the second quarter of this year with a carryover 1.4 litre engine and four-speed automatic transmission, although there’s no indication of whether the sedan will also make it here.