Electrification is a top buzzword of the new decade, just after COVID-19. And like the coronavirus, cars are being infected with electricity in one form or another. Unlike the disease, going electric is actually a good thing. However, with substantial investments required in new electric powertrains needed, mild-hybrid systems seem like the next best way to strike a balance between economy and affordability.
Kia has realised this and brought the best of both worlds with the facelifted Rio compact hatch, featuring the company's first petrol mild-hybrid powertrain, dubbed EcoDynamics+. This new powertrain pairs Kia's new 'Smartstream' 1.0-litre T-GDi (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct injection) engine with a 48V MHEV system.
The new 1.0-litre turbo four-cylinder 'Smartstream' series engine replaces the old 1.0-litre T-GDi 'Kappa' generation of engines. Although power output remains the same at 98hp to 118hp depending on variants, the new engine produces more torque at 200Nm for the 118hp options.
The new 48V system has been engineered to extract maximum efficiency from the petrol engine, providing additional electrical assistance to reduce engine load. The compact 48-volt lithium-ion battery powers a Mild-Hybrid Starter-generator (MHSG), which is connected to the crankshaft. This allows the MHSG to recuperate energy from the crankshaft during deceleration, as well as through the regenerative braking system.
The refreshed Rio now comes equipped with either a seven-speed dual clutch auto or a six-speed manual that comes with the brand's new intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT). The iMT system uses a 'clutch-by-wire' system that replaces the mechanical clutch linkage with an electronically controlled unit that integrates seamlessly with the MHSG during coasting and stop-start traffic to improve overall efficiency.
Besides the powertrain, the new Rio packs upgraded technology on the inside as well. With an upgraded touchscreen satellite navigation system, the Rio also features Kia's 'Phase II' UVO telematics that enhances vehicle connectivity. The range of on-board services, including live traffic information, weather forecasts and points of interest, work seamlessly with the navigation system to take the strain out of long journeys. The UVO smartphone app also features 'Phase II' so that drivers can send route information to the car before the drive as well as monitor key vehicle parameters.
Equipped with a larger 8.0-inch central touchscreen and a 4.2-inch display for the driver, the Rio's new infotainment system features multi-device Bluetooth connectivity, allowing hands-free mobile phone and multimedia synchronisation. Additionally, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, the central display also has a split-screen function to allow control and monitoring of various vehicle settings.
In terms of design, the outside of the Rio features only subtle changes, with a narrower and sharper 'tiger-nose' grille, matched with a lower, wider front bumper with integrated fog lights. Together with two new exterior colours and a redesigned 16-inch alloy wheels, all models of the Rio will have full LED headlights with integral running lights.
The interior has more visually appealing upgrades, starting with the larger central touchscreen and drivers display previously mentioned. The Rio is now available with a new customisation option, adding coloured seat bolsters and trim, matched with contrasting stitching. GT-Line models are offered with a black single-tone interior with white contrast piping and stitching on the seats, and a carbon fibre-effect dashboard for added visual impact.
Kia has given the Rio a complete overhaul when it comes to safety, introducing updated versions of the marques Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS). Among the systems included are Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with new cyclist recognition, Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Driver Attention Warning and Blind Collision Warning. Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance and Smart Cruise Control are additional safety features available only on the Rio variants equipped with the seven-speed DCT.
Working at speeds below 180kph, the Rio's Lane Following Assist (LFA) uses the car's radar and cameras to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front, while staying in the centre of the lane. Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA) and Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) are also available on the Rio, making it one of the safest compact hatches on the market today.
Finally, the Rio also features a first-in-class Leading Vehicle Departure Alert that prompts the driver if the vehicle in front has moved away when stopped at a junction or red-light. Definitely a welcomed addition to Malaysian roads.
The updated Rio is expected to be available for sale in European markets somewhere in the third-quarter of 2020. Although not confirmed by Kia Malaysia, the facelift can be conservatively estimated to arrive on our shores sometime next year. When it does come, we wonder if the new Rio will get the new powertrain or forced to settle on the current 1.4-litre engine.