By on September 1, 2016

2017 Kia Rio

Kia Motors has pulled the wraps off of its next-generation Rio subcompact ahead of its Paris Motor Show debut later this month, revealing a newfound love of straight lines that couldn’t be more different from the bulbous previous generation.

A longer, flatter hood, longer wheelbase, high beltline and upright C-pillar aim to make the 2017 Rio appear more mature and refined. Kia engineers adopted the 1950s “longer/lower/wider” approach for the redesign, as the hatch hits a growth spurt.

2017 Kia Rio

The new Rio isn’t in danger of moving up to a new size class, but it is bigger. Wheelbase is up four-tenths of an inch, while overall length grows six-tenths of an inch. Width grows by two-tenths of an inch, while body height drops by the same amount.

Actual growth is modest, so Kia turned to its designers to boost the appearance of length and width. The high, flat beltline, as well as ruler-straight character lines running the length of the vehicle stretch the model like Gumbi. Gone is the marshmallow of past years, which this writer felt resembled the late (and unlamented) Daewoo Lanos.

Foglights are moved as far to corners of the redesigned face as possible. Kia calls the new front fascia the latest version of its corporate “tiger-nose” grille. (Here’s an actual tiger for comparison.)


The “straight lines are great” motif continues in the cabin, with the dash redesigned to make the interior look wider. A redesigned center stack and a cockpit dash angled towards the driver aim for a modern look. Don’t worry, econobox fans, grey fabric is still available, but Kia would probably prefer you opt for the fake leather.

The next-generation Rio starts production in Europe towards the end of this year, but the automaker hasn’t announced when to expect U.S.-bound models or if we should expect any powertrain changes.

[Images: Kia Motors; Wikimedia Commons]

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35 Comments on “Her Name Was Rio, and She Looks Bigger Than Before...”

  • avatar

    Much MUCH improved. I’m glad they’re getting their lineup together, stylistically.

    Though I still maintain the roof line and panels on the Optima is a hot mess.

  • avatar

    Suddenly it’s 2007! Keep going backwards and drag the rest of the industry with you.

    “body height drops by the same amount”

    • 0 avatar

      Just imagine if this were a bit taller and had AWD.

    • 0 avatar

      Backwards? This is a very healthy step in the right direction. I’m almost ready to forgive them for not offering any more BOF SUVs in our market, and for not building the GT4 Stinger concept. Why Hyundai sells the awful Veloster (sp? nevermind, I really don’t care), yet Kia couldn’t see fit to build that stunning car is beyond me.

      • 0 avatar

        KIA is focused on bringing out the GT sedan instead of the Stinger. If anything they’d launch the sedan first and then the Stinger.

        Of course what the market has been demanding is a 1.6T AWD Soul of which they have not responded to yet.

        • 0 avatar


          The 1.6T Soul has been announced to be on sale before the end of calendar 2016. No AWD though.

          • 0 avatar

            So where’s the proof then? KIA has not made any official announcements, other than a marketing screw up which announced as “Winter 2016”– nothing else has been said.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m with you, John. It’s been an era of how many ways can we torture sheetmetal. And the Veloster? The Juke’s sporty kid brother: a mangled mess. Wrecked, rolled and back on it’s wheels.

        Though at least one of the rear windows actually rolls down.

        No stupid bulges over the front wheels that make the car look like the back end of a horse, no big ugly grille,no discordant character lines going down the sides. From the Spark to the last Gen Sonata, CUVs, etc this has been a period as ridiculous as the late 50s.

        A little taller side glass would help visibility, but this is clean and a nice departure from the regular hash we’ve been seeing.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Looks nice. There is a lot riding on Kia’s best-selling car.

  • avatar
    V owner

    Not much to see here. This looks like the same body as the long-ago-shown (’16 Chicago Auto Show) Kia Niro hybrid. A better article would have the covered these as a pair and shown some of the differences between the two. We need to have information on the powertrains, cargo area, tech package and option list. However I realize we are all recipients of manufacturer’s carefully laid out marketing plans.

  • avatar

    Though the Golf is probably VW’s most reliable model… I wonder if this Golf look a like will be more reliable in the long term?

    FWIW… I do like the styling…especially the rear tail lamp treatment.

  • avatar

    Didn’t KIA poach some VW stylists? It shows.

  • avatar

    Looks good, though I still prefer the Forte, particularly in SX hatchback trim. But it’s good that Kia’s lineup is solid from top to bottom. If they managed to cut some weight out this thing will be kind of quick with the 1.6 they had in it before. Same power to weight as something like an old TSX or 325i.

  • avatar

    VW look with Kia price and lower cost of ownership.
    Could be a good seller.

  • avatar

    Hey you guys did TTAC ever review the new 2017 Cadenza

  • avatar

    I like the additional “Audi-esque” styling of this. No surprise, of course. Toss in those rims, a sunroof and a pleasant manual trans, and it’d be perfect (not to mention it would sell all of what, maybe 5 copies?).

  • avatar

    Looks OK, but the important thing with the new Rio is that the truly pathetic powerplants of the last outing have been junked in favor of something with some power.

    if not now, Hyundai/Kia will at some point have to figure that you can’t compete in the subcompact segment with hand-me-downs and cast offs. It appears to me that the company’s attitude to this point has been that dated tech is fine for people buying cars such as the Rio, as these customers couldn’t possibly care about how their car performs.

    • 0 avatar

      The Rio’s base engine makes the most HP in its class, and is one of like two of the engines in its class with direct injection. It’s probably the best engine in its class.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m guessing you don’t have the 1.25 gasoline or 1.1 CDTI as we do in the UK? In addition to having the power of 15W bulb, the mid-80s mileage estimate is nothing less than bollocks.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Thank God the swoops are gone.
    And it looks so much like a tiger!
    Tasty, though.

  • avatar

    I kind of like it. Its like if you took an old subcompact, like a early Civic, Datsun 210, Dodge Colt, Rabbit, etc., and evolved it forward 35 years, but without the typical evolutionary bloat that accompanied each model change of those cars.

  • avatar

    About this girl Rio. Some of us around here wonder how she dances. Cause we’ve heard about her…on the radio.

  • avatar

    I’m glad to see at least one manufacturer who’s not affraid to offer a subcompact that doesn’t look like something made to appeal to 5 year olds!

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