Its name is Rio — and although it isn’t destined to dance in the sand, Kia’s next-generation subcompact hatchback will be quite stylish, should these preview sketches bear any resemblance to the final product.
That’s a good thing, as the current Rio, which first debuted in Europe back in 2005, is starting to show its age in an increasingly competitive segment. U.S.-market Rios received some upgrades (notably a USB audio input and Sirius satellite radio as standard equipment) in 2009 and a slight facelift in 2010, but the model still lacks the visual pizazz offered by competitors like the Ford Fiesta or the Mazda 2.
The new Rio, however, appears to put that issue to bed once and for all. Design director Peter Schreyer describes the new car as “sporty and elegant,” and although we’ve yet to see the finished product in person, we’re inclined to agree. The sketches suggest the next Rio, at least in five-door form, will receive taut, muscular bodywork from head to toe, and a stylish (dare we say sophisticated?) interior to match.
Apart from these images, Kia isn’t saying much about the new Rio, other than it will make its first public appearance at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show in March. It’s safe to assume that it’ll share its underpinnings with the forthcoming Hyundai Accent replacement, and has some pretty big shoes to fill: the car was Kia’s third-best seller outside of Korea last year (205,000 units were exported last year), and given new competition from Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Chevrolet, among others, the battle for B-segment superiority in the U.S. and around the globe is more intense than ever before.