SEOUL - Kia Motors Corp.'s all-new Rio subcompact, the replacement for the Avella/Ford Aspire, bears one major scar from the company's brush with bankruptcy and liquidation: A three-door hatchback was dropped from development.
The cut leaves Kia with just a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback.
Kia gave the Rio an all-new platform with virtually no carryover from the predecessor. The Rio's 2,410-mm wheelbase is 200 mm longer than its predecessor. The new model also is 240 mm longer and 100 mm wider than its predecessor.
The Rio also receives all-new 1.3- and 1.5-liter four-cylinder engines.
The 1.5-liter, rated at 108-hp, comes with a choice of double overhead camshaft or single overhead camshaft, while the 84-hp, 1.3-liter is limited to a single overhead camshaft. Engineers promise an engine that is significantly quieter, smoother and more powerful than its precursor.
At home, the Rio's most serious competitor will be parent Hyundai Motor Co.'s new Accent, which was launched last summer.
The Rio was developed under the BIII project name, which was completed in 33 months and required a 280 billion won (U.S. $233 million) investment, including prototyping, engine development and production retooling costs.
Because production and sales of the Avella/Aspire never really hit stride, Kia has high expectations for the Rio. After peaking at 115,576 units in 1994, the year after its introduction, Avella/Aspire production rapidly dwindled to a low of 27,850 units in 1998.
The line at Kia's Sohari plant, on the outskirts of Seoul, is tooled up to annually build 150,000 units.