Kia has become the latest vehicle manufacturer to play its hand in the low-CO2 emissions game, with its fourth generation Kia Rio setting a new benchmark in CO2 ratings.
Four engines are being offered in the new Rio range: two diesel (1.1- and 1.4-litre) and two gasoline (1.2- and 1.4-litre). CO2 emissions range from 150g/km down to 85g for the EcoDynamics model. To get it down to 85g CO2/km (3.2 litres/100km), the 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel-powered Rio EcoDynamics has been equipped with, amongst other things, low rolling-resistance tyres and a rear spoiler; to further reduce load on the engine, it comes without air-conditioning. At the time of launch, and notwithstanding any announcements planned for the 2011 Frankfurt motor show, Kia believes the Rio EcoDynamics emits the lowest level of CO2 of any commercially-available non-electrified vehicle in any segment, beating even the most frugal versions of strong contenders like the smart fortwo, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Nissan Micra, Toyota Yaris and Fiat 500.
At the time of launch, and notwithstanding any announcements planned for the 2011 Frankfurt motor show, Kia believes the Rio EcoDynamics emits the lowest level of CO2 of any commercially-available non-electrified vehicle in any segment
According to data provided by Kia at the recent European launch of the all-new Rio, the European B-segment accounts for around 4.5 million units, and will rise by another half a million units by mid-decade. On a world-wide basis, Kia says B-segment sales will rise from 9.2 million units next year to 14 million in 2014. The European B-segment is currently the largest of any of the major global automotive regions, accounting for 27% of European car sales. It’s a crowded place to be, with 45 different name plates to choose from (compared to 27 in 1999).
In this segment, one issue dominates: CO2 emissions. Whilst CO2 emissions have fallen by 15% across the industry over the last decade, says Benny Oeyen, VP Marketing and Product Planning, Kia Motors Europe, the CO2 emissions improvements in the B-segment have outpaced the industry, falling by 21% over the same period.
That fall has occurred in parallel with – or because of – a rise in the segment’s use of three-cylinder engines. In 1999, three-cylinder engines accounted for 5% of the European market; ten years later, they accounted for 15%, and Oeyen believes this trend will only accelerate.
Ironically, 85g might in fact turn out to be, if not too low, then at least lower than ‘necessary’ in some markets, where the fiscal benefits to motorists kick in at a higher CO2 emissions level.
So, 85g – an achievement, marketing gold dust, and a new benchmark. An achievement, because the Rio is a large B-segment car – dimensionally, it’s close to the upper limits of the segment. Marketing gold dust because Kia can lay claim to a new model range which includes the most frugal, environmentally-friendly and efficient model of any segment. Ironically, 85g might in fact turn out to be, if not too low, then at least lower than ‘necessary’ in some markets, where the fiscal benefits to motorists kick in at a higher CO2 emissions level. By strategically adding options to the basic EcoDynamics model, such as air-conditioning, the shrewd customer could still benefit from a sub-100g model and the associated tax benefits.
With downsizing and CO2 reduction at the top of the agenda for all vehicle development and marketing programmes, Kia is unlikely to hold on to its lead for long. Nonetheless, “85″ is a new benchmark, and the new number to beat.
A full interview with Joachim Hahn, Manager Powertrain Engineering Design/Testing, Hyundai Motor Europe TC, will be published here shortly.
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