Typical Kia front end with the tiger nose grille
Typical Kia front end with the tiger nose grilleKia Motors

Upgraded Kia Rio revealed internationally

The Kia Rio is set to debut the brand’s first mild-hybrid system for petrol cars. Can this technology make it to Hyundai Motor Group's existing portfolio in India?
Premium hatchback like proportions of the Kia Rio
Premium hatchback like proportions of the Kia RioKia Motors

Kia Motors has announced an upgrade to the fourth-generation Rio that’s sold internationally. The upgraded model features a range of enhancements including more features, minor design changes inside and out, but most importantly, a mild-hybrid powertrain.

The Rio hatchback is the first Kia powered by a petrol mild-hybrid system. The new ‘EcoDynamics+’ powertrain is paired to Hyundai Motor Group’s 1-litre turbo-petrol engine that also does duty in the Verna, Venue, Grand i10 NIOS and the Aura in India. The T-GDi engine with Kia’s 48V MHEV system, improves fuel efficiency with electric torque assistance and regenerative braking. The engine is available in two states of tune – 100hp and 120hp.

In principle, this system can be compared to Maruti Suzuki’s Smarthybrid powertrains. It is connected by belt to the engine’s crankshaft, and switches between torque assistance and brake energy recuperation. During acceleration, the mild hybrid system provides electric power assistance to reduce engine load and emissions and as the car decelerates, it recuperates energy from the crankshaft to recharge the battery.

That said, the Rio is also one of the first models from Kia to be equipped with the intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT). The ‘clutch-by-wire’ system aids in fuel efficiency and lowers CO2 emissions, while retaining the driver engagement of a conventional manual transmission. Instead of a mechanical linkage, the iMT’s clutch is controlled purely electronically. It integrates with the mild-hybrid powertrain to switch off the engine when coasting to a halt, improving overall fuel efficiency.

On the features front, the Rio reminds a lot of the Kia Seltos that’s currently very popular in India. It gets the brands UVO Connect telematics system integrated into an 8-inch central touchscreen infotainment system. Common features include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth. International models get a range of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) alongside safety nets that include ABS, ESC, VSM and cornering brake control.

There’s no official word from Kia Motors India if they are considering the Rio. However, it seems like a compelling option given that fact that hatchbacks still account for majority sales figures in India. That said, Hyundai Motor Group could possibly introduce this mild-hybrid technology for its existing portfolio in India thanks to the rising focus towards better efficiency and performance. The next Kia car to be launched in India will be the Sonet compact SUV, a close to production version of which was showcased at the Auto Expo 2020.

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