Kia first introduced us to their Rio petrol-electric hybrid at the Geneva Motor Show and while another hybrid is hardly big news the fact that it promises to be one of the first â€˜affordableâ€™ hybrids is.
Based on the Kia Rio sedan it combines a 66Kw 1.4-litre petrol engine with a 12kW, 95 Nm AC synchronised electric motor which drives the front wheels through a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic gearbox. The Kia Rio Hybrid is the first Kia to use this type of transmission.
The electric motor is mounted between the flywheel and the gearbox and assists the petrol engine during starting and when under load. It employs regenerative braking to store energy from deceleration and uses it to assist with the re-charging of its Ni-MH 144 volt power pack. The Rio also features computer controlled shut-down and re-starting of its engine if the vehicle remains stationary for more than a few seconds. Restarting is automatic and instantaneous.
By using light weight components Kia have managed to pare 220kg off the weight of the standard steel bodied Rio. They have achieved this by fitting an aluminium bonnet, bootlid and seat-frames. Lightweight wheels and electric rather than hydraulic power-steering also assist in this dramatic weight-loss.
The Kia Rio Hybrid manages to achieve reasonable performance figures with 0-100km/h taking 12.2 seconds and a top speed of 180km/h being achievable.
However, fuel consumption is what the Rio Hybrid is all about and it uses a miserly 5.29 litres per 100km. In addition to this emissions are reduced by 37% over the standard Kia Rio. The Rio Hybridâ€™s CO2 figure is 126 g/km.
Full scale production of the Kia Rio Hybrid is due to begin in 2009 and the expected price when deliveries begin in the UK is around Â£12,500. This is currently what a Toyota Auris 3-door hatchback costs in the UK. In Australia we know the Auris as the Corolla and the hatch currently retails here from $20,990.
Even if the Rio Hybrid was to come onto the Australian market at $25,000 it would be a relative bargain for a car with the latest in hybrid technology. It would certainly put the over-priced and over-hyped Toyota Prius in its place with entry level Prius ownership starting at a hefty $37,400.
Australian availability and pricing for the Kia Rio Hybrid is not yet known.