The all-new fourth-generation Kia Rio has been unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, around six months ahead of its launch in Australia.

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Kia Motors Australia today confirmed the five-door Rio hatch was expected to arrive in local showrooms in the third quarter of this year.

A four-door sedan version will follow before the end of the year, and a three-door hatch variant will complete the line-up in around 12 months’ time. Neither model has been revealed yet, but production designs of both are expected to surface in the coming months.

Today’s Geneva unveiling provides us with the first look at the Rio’s new interior.

The cabin doesn’t have the usual cute small car look about it. It is rather square and serious, although if any of the German manufacturers revealed this design it would be referred to as ‘sophisticated’.

Any way you look at it, it’s an enormous step up from the interior styling of the outgoing Rio. The multi-function steering wheel and the sleek climate control air-conditioning panel in particular would not look out of place in a premium European offering. Kia says special attention was paid to the quality and refinement of the interior materials, and fit and finish were design priorities.

Exact specifications are still to be finalised, but Kia says certain variants of the Rio will be available with a large range of features including smart key entry with start/stop button, CD player with AUX/iPod/USB connectivity, Bluetooth handsfree (with voice recognition from December 2011), cruise control, climate control, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Integrated satellite navigation will also be an option in some markets.

The new Rio is 20mm longer, 25mm wider and 15mm lower than the model it replaces, and has a 70mm longer wheelbase. Kia says the growth has led to greatly enhanced passenger space, cargo capacity and road-holding characteristics. Boot space has increased seven percent over the old model, and now offers 288 litres with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats in the upright position.

The exterior styling – as we have already seen in preview images – is also a significant departure from the third-generation Rio. Embracing the new Kia design language of the Optima and Sportage models, the Rio gets its own small-car interpretation of the tiger nose grille and dynamic face, and inherits a high shoulder line, coupe-like roof and strong rear bumper. Kia says the Rio will be available in 10 different body colours.

In Europe, Rio buyers will have the choice of four different engines: two petrol units and two diesels.

The entry-level 1.25-litre Kappa petrol engine produces 63kW of power and 118Nm of torque. Combined cycle fuel consumption is an impressive 4.8 litres/100km.

The larger petrol engine is a 1.4-litre unit with 80kW and 136Nm of torque. This ‘Gamma’ engine will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 11.5 seconds.

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The larger 1.4-litre diesel engine produces 66kW of power and a punchy 216Nm of torque at 1750rpm, promising both solid performance and tidy fuel consumption.

A six-speed manual transmission will be standard on all but the 1.25-litre model, which will come with a five-speed manual gearbox. A four-speed automatic transmission will be available with the 1.4-litre petrol engine.

Kia is yet to confirm which engines and transmissions it will offer in Australia.

Electronic stability control will be standard on all Australian models, and six airbags are also expected to be fitted across the range. Other optional safety equipment will include hill-start assist, cornering headlamps, adjustable speed-limiter, rear parking sensors and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Emergency brake lights, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lamps and LED rear lights will also be available, depending on model and specification level.

All fourth-generation Rio models will be manufactured at Kia’s Sohari plant in South Korea, with production set to commence shortly.

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