Korean Capers: Kia’s Next-Gen Rio, Hyundai’s Curb

Kia Rio rendering

If its new Rio does come to pass in something like the above form, Kia could spearhead a much-needed revolution in small-car design. The Rio concept will appear at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

All we have now are some sketches and company blah-blah in a press release. The latter does tell us the current Rio sold over 205,000 units in overseas markets in 2010. What it doesn’t tell us (but the Wall Street Journal does) is that in the U.S. “Rio sales totaled 24,619 in 2010 compared with 34,666 a year earlier.” That’s a 29 percent drop, which may give us some idea why Kia is doing a radical redesign.

Small cars don’t have to look like minimized Camrys or plain-Jane cereal boxes. But it isn’t easy to design subcompacts with both flair and utility. Kia’s small cars have been pretty dreadful in the past, in both looks and performance. With a raw engine and a teaser base price ($12,295, which doesn’t include basics like an automatic and air conditioning), the 2011 Kia Rio is bare-bones transportation. Bare-bones is a tough sell in the U.S.

Hyundai CurbHyundai takes a different path with its compact crossover, the Curb. This concept got a lot of press in Detroit, where the car debuted, largely because of this line in the press release: “Hyundai designers wanted to create a vehicle loaded with technology that was at home in an urban environment with potholes and densely packed nightclubs on the streets.”

And you know this car ain’t just designed for young nightclubbers. Clever marketing: Instead of highlighting all its techy features, the company talked about its curb appeal (sorry) for potential buyers: “’We wanted the Curb to be urban tough without looking like a Brink’s truck,’ said Jason Brown, Hyundai designer.”

This car is a weird, slick, and interesting styling concept. Check out the video, which is thankfully without sound.

I think Hyundai’s Curb could beat the Nissan Juke any day. Do you agree?


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  1. Absolutely, the Curb would kick the Juke to the, well, curb, all day long. At least in the styling department!

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