Currently reading: Kia Rio supermini gains mild-hybrid petrol powertrain
New technology is said to improve efficiency, while style updates and interior upgrades are also added
2 mins read
26 May 2020

Kia has upgraded its Rio supermini, introducing a raft of new technology, styling tweaks and a new mild-hybrid petrol engine with an innovative clutch-by-wire manual transmission.

The new powertrain, which is the key upgrade alongside the design changes, comprises Kia's ‘Smartstream’ 1.0-litre T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine and a 48V electrical system.

These enable the Rio to offer electric torque assistance and regenerative braking, maximising fuel efficiency. This differentiates the Rio from most superminis, which are yet to receive mild-hybrid technology.

Further setting the Rio apart is the introduction of Kia’s Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) technology, which enables the engine to switch between different combustion cycles depending on load to maximise efficiency, and a new clutch-by-wire intelligent manual transmission.

This latter innovation means there's no mechanical connection between the gearstick and gearbox and clutch - believed to be a market first. It's said to contribute to the mild-hybrid powertrain's greater fuel efficiency while maintaining the driver engagement of a conventional manual gearbox.

These upgrades also increase performance over the Rio’s previous ‘Kappa’ 1.0-litre T-GDi engine, with a 16%-higher peak torque output.

Peak power, however, is unaltered, for the Smartstream engine produces the same 99bhp or 118bhp as the unit it replaces. Full performance figures will be announced at a later date.

As well as the new mild-hybrid system, the Rio now offers a choice of Smartstream petrol engines: the 98bhp 1.0-litre T-GDi and a new version of Kia’s 83bhp naturally aspirated 1.2-litre unit.

The former is also now offered with a six-speed manual gearbox, replacing a five-speed manual, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.


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The Rio’s upgrade continues inside, where an enlarged 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system leads the improvements.

New safety kit also features, including Lane Following Assist, which uses camera and radar sensors to maintain a safe distance from the car in front while monitoring road markings to keep the car in the centre of its lane.

On the outside, the Rio receives several styling updates. The front grille is now narrower and the front bumper lower and wider, while new full-LED headlights have been added.

Two new paint colours are introduced with the upgraded Rio, bringing the number of options to nine, depending on specification and market. The upgraded car is also offered with a new eight-spoke 16in alloy wheel design.

There’s no word yet on UK specs or pricing for the mild-hybrid Rio, but expect prices to rise by a small amount when the facelifted model goes on sale in the third quarter of this year.


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26 May 2020

1. Dumpy, though not unattractive hatchbacks nobody in Europe wanted

2. More stylish exteriors, low rent interiors and still old tech powertrains. Long warranties 

3. Competitive styling, inside and out, still old tech engines and cheap interiors

4. Excellent styling, competitive interiors

5. All round excellence, powertrains more than competitive, possibly class leading (today)

6. Highly desirable premium product, better than VW in every class 

7. Best sellers in every class


Who'd have thunk?


A View from Down Under


26 May 2020
That gearbox clutch combo sounds interesting.

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