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Kia Rio, Picanto to get turbo power

The range-topping Kia Rio GT-Line will be motivated by a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine.

Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) will liven its Rio light hatch and Picanto micro car ranges with the addition of a new turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that's likely to arrive before year's end.

Available in flagship GT guise for the Picanto, and in the up-spec GT-Line for the Rio, the new engine drops capacity to 1.0-litre and is set to provide a significant bump to power outputs.

For reference, the aforementioned Picanto is currently powered by a 62kW/122Nm 1.2-litre unit, and the the Rio GT-Line makes use of a 74kW/133Nm 1.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder.

Once the turbocharged powerplant rolls out, the 1.2- and 1.4-litre engines will carryover in lower-grade variants.

It is expected that – with the new engine – outputs will increase to around 74kW/172Nm in the Picanto and 88kW/172Nm for the Rio, with the Rio winning out on grunt to compensate for its heavier kerb weight.

The Rio will also score a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), though it has yet to be confirmed if a manual gearbox will be available.

According to KMAu product planning manager Roland Rivero, the decision to add sportier Rio and Picanto variants comes after the unexpected success of the brand's 'Australian Open' (AO) special-edition vehicles that were offered earlier this year.

"We trialled it as an AO edition in Picanto, of which every car we ordered all sold very quickly, and the dealer network screamed at the regional general manager asking for more," he said.

"It's selling very well, and we're up to about 70 per cent market share in that micro segment, with that GT-Line variant being incremental (bringing new customers to the brand) and higher margin."

Mr Rivero did not disclose an on-sale date for the up-specced Picanto, but suggested the business case was strong.

"The (Picanto GT) 1.0-litre turbo is still under study… but it is looking very well," said Mr Rivero.

"It would make sense in the Australian perspective for that to be called the GT, with a unique suspension tune and obviously the powertrain advantages. And while it will be a five-speed manual only, for the weight and what it represents... it will do very well for us, and another incremental opportunity for us towards the tail end of the year."

Will turbo-power help the Rio and Picanto on the showroom floor? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.