First Look: 2012 Kia Rio

Joel Arellano

After Kia's continuing product overhaul, the Rio subcompact is one of the oldest cars in its lineup. However, this is set to change later this year with the debut of the 2012 Kia Rio, which has been revealed today, prior to its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show.

As with the rest of Kia's recent product introductions, the all-new Rio receives Kia's familial face and styling. It sports the corporate grille, flanked by headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights. Three air intakes in the sculpted, lower front fascia and chunky flared wheel arches help to lend the new Rio a sportier look.

From the photos Kia has released we can tell that the Rio also looks similarly sporty from the rear. The roofline looks to have been designed for a mixture of practicality and style -- it's not as steeply raked that of the Ford Fiesta, but nowhere near as upright as the Volkswagen GTI. A new character line that runs from just aft of the front wheels continues up through the taillights and across the rear hatch. Overall, the new Rio looks good and vastly different from the current Rio5's extremely bland and boxy styling.

"This new model is a big step forward," said Soon-Nam Lee, director of Kia's overseas marketing. "The Rio has always been successful, and with this new incarnation we have a car which is extremely attractive, that people will want to buy for its looks."

Unfortunately, the four-door hatchback model shown here may not come to the U.S. A., as previous Rio5 sales were rather lackluster. A sedan model and a two-door hatchback are planned as well however. Kia will reveal which bodystyles are headed to which markets at a later date.

As with the bodystyles, powertrains will vary by market, but a variety of engines are planned. The U.S. is slated to receive Kia's 1.6-liter, direct-injected I-4 that produces 140 horsepower and is available in the new Hyundai Elantra. Kia also has plans for an all-new, 1.2-liter turbocharged I-4, which may be introduced in the States after 2012.

Kia knows it has a boatload of competition in the hotly contested European B-segment, and is hoping the all-new Rio will help it make a bigger impact in the marketplace. The new 2012 Kia Rio, which will be available in both three- and five-door flavors, makes its world debut at the 2011 Geneva show.

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