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Kia Pulls a Surprise With Rio and Rio5

Not just a Hyundai clone.

by on Apr.22, 2011

Kia sets out a more distinct visual brand identity with the NY Auto Show introduction of the 2012 Rio re-make.

When Hyundai unveiled its next Accent subcompact on the first press day of the 2011 New York International Auto Show, almost all in attendance expected that Kia would follow with the debut of the related Rio sedan and Rio5 hatchback.

After all, the two brands have historically relied stuck with a badge engineering approach that has yielded a steady stream of Hyundai and Kia clones.  But if the Rio is any indication, the Korean carmakers are making good their word to develop their own visual brand identities.

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That’s not to say they don’t have some key features in common.  Like the Accent, the two redesigned Kia subcompacts get their power from a 138-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that mates to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. Also like the Accent, the Rio is expected to have maximum fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

Kia tweaks the design of the popular Soul for 2012.

Some of these fuel-savings will be due to the introduction of items like electric power steering and a start/stop system that turns the engine off when the car is stopped.

Traction control and an antiskid system are now standard, and a wireless cell phone link and heated front seats are available. The Rio and Rio5 also gain some length and width over the previous generation.

Trim levels are LX (base), EX (mid-level equipment), and SX (sporty). Kia’s UVO multimedia system is standard on SX and available on EX, and a fuel-economy Eco package can be had on EX. SXs have special trim inside and out and a rearview camera. Available features include remote access and starting, leather seats, and a navigation system.

The Rio and Rio5 go on sale later in 2011 with prices that start under $13,000.

Kia also showed off a refreshed Soul, with updated styling and more power. The base 1.6-liter four-banger jumps from 122 ponies to 135 thanks to direct injection, and a new 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder in all other models has 160 horsepower, a gain of 18 from before. Six-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions replaced the previous 5-speed stick and 4-speed auto.

Trim levels and features remain more or less unchanged.

Pricing will probably rise slightly when the updated Soul hits showrooms this summer.

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