Home » The Kia Rio-Replacing 2024 Kia K3 Would Be A Perfect Small Car For America

The Kia Rio-Replacing 2024 Kia K3 Would Be A Perfect Small Car For America

Kia K3 Rio Replacement
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The Kia Rio is dead, long live the Kia K3. Look, the current Kia Rio is a great car, but Kia had changed so much over the past two decades that some of its long-running model names are up for re-branding. After all, nobody really wants to remember the first-generation Rio. As such, Kia’s next-generation entry-level sedan — unveiled Wednesday in Mexico — will be called K3, and it’s just the right size to succeed in America, should Kia dare to bring it here.

Sitting halfway between a Rio and a Forte on footprint, the K3 stands at 178.9 inches long, or roughly the length of a decade-old Honda Civic. Now that’s more like it. In profile, we can see a handful of touches from the K5 midsize sedan, from the backswept quarter panel windows to the fastback-style roof, but there’s enough unique stuff going on that the K3 doesn’t suffer from “same sausage, different length” syndrome. Unusual for a sedan is the unpainted plastic trim around the wheel arches and on the sills, which should do a solid job of shrugging of rock chips.

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On the inside, the K3 looks functional but not basic. Sure, I’m not crazy about the capacitive touch radio and climate panel, but everything else has an actual button, knob, or separate display. Interior temperature isn’t buried in the infotainment system, separate volume and tuning knobs are on deck, all your cold-weather controls from heated seats to the windshield defroster are operated using physical buttons, and there’s even an honest-to-god old-school handbrake in the center console.

Speaking of old-school touches, Kia’s managed to build a full-scale digital instrument cluster with just a 4.2-inch multi-function display. That’s because speed and revs are displayed on massive alarm clock-style displays, a nifty cost-saving throwback that nostalgic consumers and the farsighted are sure to love. Oh, and did we mention that the K3 has a positively huge trunk? Kia claims 19.2 cubic feet of capacity, which is bigger than in any current midsize sedan. Now how’d the engineers manage that?

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Under the hood of the new Kia K3 sits a standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine pumping out 121 horsepower and 114 lb.-ft. of torque. That sounds like a perfectly economical powertrain, but it’s not the only option. Some markets will get a 1.4-liter four-banger making double-digit power, but the headlining act here is an available two-liter, 150-horsepower four-cylinder engine, which sounds a lot like the two-liter Nu engine standard in America’s current Forte. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic, although the big motor will launch in an automatic-only configuration.

Now I know what you’re thinking — is this thing a deathtrap? After all, small cars launching in developing markets aren’t known for their safety. Well, Mexico has recently stepped its safety standards up substantially, and the new K3 gets six airbags, electronic stability control, and an available advanced driver assistance suite including every nanny currently available on a U.S.-spec Forte.

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The Forte is currently called the K3 in Korea, which makes us wonder what will happen to Kia’s next-generation compact sedan. Could this new K3 be replacing both cars with one right-sized product? Will the next-generation Ceed European Golf-sized hatchback be a global car? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Until then, production of the new Kia K3 starts up in Mexico this December, and we can only cross our fingers and see if it makes it to the United States. With the Rio’s run in multiple markets wrapping up, a proper successor only seems fitting.

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(Photo credits: Kia)

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Fjord
Fjord
10 months ago

I would welcome more small sedan options. I have to question the wisdom of putting expensive-looking lighting in the area most vulnerable to Honda-dents though.

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