Disappointment takes many forms. Today it looks something like this – the 2017 Kia Rio.
Having shown us a stylist’s render of the forthcoming Kia Rio about a week ago, the Korean car giant’s PR machine has released the first photos of its new supermini contender. The new Rio is more ‘grown up’ and of course, ‘sportier’, which is another way of saying it’s wider, lower and longer both in overall length and in wheelbase. Autocar described it thus; “the 2017 car will evolve the design of its predecessor with an aggressive nose and more muscular and vertically angled rear”, which sounds like a straight lift from the press pack if you ask me.
Naturally, the interior is more luxurious and (that word again) premium than before, and equally predictably, is available in multiple shades of anthracite and piano black. Following the herd even further down the rabbit hole, Kia has joined the queue of car companies ditching a three-door option. Five-doors only from now on I’m afraid. Cue weeping and gnashing of teeth in some quarters.
So what do we have? Well there are shades of Mercedes’ A-Class in the side profile, mercifully without that car’s eye-watering body graphics. The rear-end has more of a VW feeling – in fact the whole car screams Wolfsburg rectitude, but without the clarity of line. I find it very disappointing, especially since its predecessor was such an attractive looking car from just about any angle. In my view this is a hugely retrograde move on Kia’s part. Far from appearing sportier, the new Rio seems more appliance-like, losing the Latinate style flourishes and excellent proportions that set its predecessor apart.
It seems peculiar that Kia are so keen to ditch the Schreyer-influenced styling of the outgoing generation and revert to the kind of ill-defined anonymity that was once synonymous with the brand. Some might describe it as maturity, I’m minded to see it more as a loss of faith.
But is it? Perhaps the sort of people who routinely purchase Kia’s don’t particularly worry about styling beyond surface-level aesthetics. They will focus more upon the extra space, better finish and up to the minute gadgetry. That might sound patronising to Kia buyers, but looking at it another way, it’s more about pandering to them. Kia’s aren’t necessarily cars bought on emotional grounds and the new Rio has probably been focus-grouped to within an inch of its short life. It will undoubtedly fulfil its brief to the letter before being consigned to oblivion in roughly four year’s time.
Clever or cowardly? Maybe it simply doesn’t matter.