Turbodiesel versions of the revitalised Rio range are set to cost only £495 more than their petrol-fuelled stablemates under plans to extend the appeal of the South Korean brand in the corporate sector.
Pitched at less than half the usual premium over petrol, the diesel option should secure a strong ownership cost proposition for the five-door hatchback range, believes Kia UK’s managing director Paul Williams.
He said: ‘We still have to finalise our pricing, but making diesel more affordable is a key factor in reducing ownership costs and our research shows that is what customers want.
‘Meeting that need is consistent with everything we have done in Britain and it is the reason our models win better market share than more established rivals.’
Kia first cut the diesel premium when it launched the CRDi-powered Cerato earlier this year and the company claims the move is generating a high level of interest in the Ford Focus-sized car, which will be replaced in 18 months’ time by a fresh competitor from a new European assembly plant in Slovakia.
Williams added: ‘Rio has a longer future than the Cerato. It is our first proper B-sector contender and it will be our best-seller next year with at least 15,000 registrations. We regard it as a flagship model which takes us to the next stage of our development.
‘After growing sales by 29% in the first half of 2005 in a market which has declined by 5%, we’ve already revised our total sales forecast to 47,500 units this year and the Rio will help take us to 55,000 registrations in 2006.’
Likely to undercut the Fiesta, Corsa and Polo at prices starting from just over £8,000, the Rio is the biggest car in its class and boasts the highest power outputs from 1.4-litre petrol and 1.5-litre turbodiesel engines.
On sale from October, the car will be offered with air conditioning as standard in both GS and LX trim levels. Safety equipment will include front airbags and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force control as standard.
Williams said: ‘This car shares only its name with its predecessor and is a vehicle no-one should feel embarrassed to be seen driving. We’re not claiming it comes with a unique selling proposition, but I do think the Rio will make a compelling case in terms of value.
‘With features like CD with MP3 player, electric front windows and seat height adjustment, it will be superior to its rivals and we expect local authority and Motability buyers to account for half of the 4,000 models we will supply to fleets next year.’
Behind the wheel
KIA claims the new Rio matches or surpasses the best of Europe’s supermini models in several key areas and there is no doubt it has the most spacious interior by a comfortable margin, providing adequate rear seat leg and headroom for adults.
But the prototypes we tried also revealed this little car to be big in terms of quality and refinement.
Good standard trim and low noise levels make it comfortable transport with either engine, although in its latest Euro IV-compliant guise, the CRDi engine offers a particularly pleasing blend of power with the potential of 60-plus mpg economy.
Thanks to sophisticated engine mounts and considerable attention to noise isolation, the diesel Rio is muted at all times and particularly quiet during motorway cruising.
The steering is positive and light enough to make the car nimble around town and a tight turning circle allows easy parking. But parts of our test route showed the suspension to be over-supple, with ride characteristics too soft for UK tastes. However, revised settings are promised for production versions.
RIO might be seen as a name for bottom-rung motoring, but with a brand new platform offering a high level of refinement, the latest version is more than just a lot of metal for the money – and it is good looking into the bargain.
|Engine (cc)||1,399||1,493 diesel|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||97/6,000||110/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||92/4,700||173/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||110||109|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||45.5||60.1|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||149||121|
|On sale:||October 1||Prices (est): from £8,000|