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by Tim Beissmann

Kia has released the first official images of the all-new 2011 Kia Rio small hatchback, revealing a significantly more upmarket design drawing influence from its European competitors.

Sporting the latest interpretation of Kia’s signature Schreyer tiger grille and sporting flush alloy wheels similar to the larger Optima sedan, the Rio has an athletic appearance, and overall is an interesting combination of aggressive and playful.

From the back, it looks like a modern take on the first generation Seat Leon, a vehicle from the Volkswagen Group where Rio designer Peter Schreyer worked before assuming the head role at Kia.

Available in four-door sedan and three- and five-door hatch body styles, the new Rio is set to step out of the entry-level segment with higher prices, improved equipment and all-new drivetrains.

The wheelbase is 70mm longer than the outgoing model, promising more space and comfort for passengers. Overall it is 55mm longer, 25mm wider and 15mm lower than the Rio it replaces, and luggage capacity increases to 292 litres in the hatch (from 270 litres) and remains at 390 litres in the sedan.

Around the world, the 2011 Rio will be offered with six different engines, ranging from a 51.5kW 1.1-litre diesel for Europe to a 103kW 1.6-litre GDI petrol for North America. A high-performance 1.2-litre turbocharged direct-injection petrol engine will be offered in Europe from 2012.

Kia Motors Australia confirmed last month that the all-new Rio would arrive in local showrooms in the third quarter of the year, and was hopeful that it would be launched in July.

The 2011 Kia Rio will be joined on the stand at Geneva by the all-new 2011 Kia Picanto and the Kia Optima Hybrid.




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