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First Look: 2012 Kia Rio

Kia Soul facelift also debuting at NY Auto Show.

by on Apr.15, 2011

A very different Kia Rio debuts in NY.

The Korean carmakers are making record inroads into the U.S. market – and are determined to keep the momentum going.  So, look for some big news from Kia when it gets its turn in the spotlight at the upcoming NY Auto Show.

The smaller sibling of Hyundai has several big announcements coming at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, including the global debuts of the 2012 Kia Rio sedan and Rio5 hatchback, as well as the unveiling of the much-anticipated update of the quirky Kia Soul.

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The maker is keeping images of the latter box-mobile close to vest but we’ve gotten our hands on several shots of the next-generation Rio, shown here.  The updated model clearly adopts the aggressive new styling language we’ve already seen on models like the ’11 Optima and the new Elantra.

Chief designer Peter Schreyer’s team has come up with a small car that manages to look a lot more sporty and up-market than the old Rio, which was a classic econobox.  Both the sedan and Rio5 hatchback get more aggressive wedge shapes with broad, sloping shoulders.  In keeping with the latest styling trends, the two body styles feature large wheel wells and deeply sculpted door panels.

Kia will offer both a 4-door sedan and the Rio5 hatchback for 2012.

Both models are wider and longer than the vehicles they replace – but still deliver better mileage, a bit more than 40 mpg on the highway.  To get that additional economy Kia adopts new Direct-Injection technology, as well as Idle Stop-Go, which instantly shuts off the engine when idling, auto-restarting when the driver’s foot lifts off the brake.

The updated Soul, meanwhile, is expected to boast about 35 mpg on the highway, even though Kia hints it will announced a “significant” increase in performance during its NY news conference.  Give credit there to a new 6-speed gearbox.

Grainy spy shots suggest the basic shape of the wildly popular Soul won’t change much, though it is always about details.  New LED projector headlamps help Kia round out the overall silhouette of the 2012 Soul update.