Car I.D: On Seeking Clarity When I Killed My Senses.

I had quite a lot to drink this Saturday night. I was taking part in an annual Wassailing festival, drinking plenty of warm mulled cider and singing incantations to any apple trees within earshot who happened to be listening, with the dual aims of increasing this year’s fruit harvest through spiritual means, that and getting royally slizzard.
I can report considerable success in the latter (I’ll keep you posted on how the apples turn out), and the late phases of the evening saw the whole group of us grinning our way through the program of music and dancing, until our conscious mindsets were quite a long way removed from reality. It was as I was headed towards this higher state of being that I found myself out in the car park and confronted by a piece of car that I genuinely didn’t recognise. I actually began to panic. I’m usually so completely immersed in the world of cars that I can identify pretty much everything at all likely to be found on the road with my eyes closed, my nose blocked and my ears taped shut. Yet here I was looking at a section of sheet metal that, as far as I was concerned could have come from outer space.
I was losing it. My brain had turned to mush. I don’t do drugs (er, aside from alcohol and caffeine) but I was quite clearly tripping.

Pause. Deep breath.
I grabbed the above photo as a means of restoring cognitive balance the next morning. I would not let my own mind defeat me; one day I would find the answer. At that moment, though, there were so people milling around and other obstructions that I couldn’t see any other visual clues as to what the hell this thing was. All I could do, using the extremely addled mental processing power I could muster that night, was to analyse elements of the DNA of that three foot square section that might apply to brands and models that I was familiar with.
It’s not exactly a wild piece of engineering. There’s nothing that shows any particular radical engineering or transcendent design thought, but it is undeniably neat. The shut lines are tight and consistent,  those for where the rear bumper fits being especially impressive. Quality, I would say, was high.
There was one thing about the whole assembly of lines which particularly struck me. Look at the treatment of the door shut line and how it runs perfectly parallel to the rear light cluster and the rear bumper. This gives a really cohesive appearance yet, despite this, is seen on a relatively few five-door cars. I first noticed it on the MK5 VW Golf, where it lent the car a suggestion of strength and integrity.
In truth, even the door handles looked a bit like VW ones, so perhaps I was looking at some kind of VAG product? I referenced my internal databanks, at quite less than even dial-up speed and with a cognitive resolution way below CGA standard; the fuzzy images that popped up still didn’t quite match what was in front of me. It’s definitely not an Audi, nor a Skoda, I’m pretty sure it’s not a VW, that window frame just doesn’t speak of anything that could come from Wolsburg…. then I thought I had my Eureka moment.
I could see a section of one of the rear lights, and the way the lens colours were distributed made me think SEAT. The cluster on this car had a three dimensional form to it, you’re not just looking at it side on but also slightly down on it, there’s a section of the lamp surface which runs almost horizontal, becoming part of a vestigial rear deck area. It’s pretty neat, and, in fact, from what I could see in the gloomy, flickeringly lit shadows of the car park when the crowds moved around, the rear screen of the car was quite severely raked, not upright like a Golf, more like on the old SEAT Leon.
This was great news. I was beginning to question my sanity less, and felt a swelling relief that the signs were that I hadn’t done my brain any lasting damage through over consumption of mulled cider, Hobgoblin, Maldon Gold and Bingle Jells. All would be well. It was a SEAT, albeit one that I hadn’t seen before. No great loss. I’d see one again soon enough. I could move on. Recognition failure of a SEAT is nothing to panic about.
And then the crowds parted. The Morris Dancers had conceded defeat to frostbite and the Essex tundra had reached so far below zero that the bonfire flames had turned to frozen glowing orange fingers. The SEAT was left exposed, before I went inside to thaw out I would have another squint at it to enrich my education. I drew closer… and was suddenly struck by a violent fist of truth.
It’s a New KIA Rio. It’s a bloody KIA Rio. How the hell did that happen? Despite my heroic imbibement I was sober enough to recall that a KIA Rio was, historically, one of the most wretched motor vehicles ever to have offered “transport” to the unwary. A miserable appliance which stretched the definition of “car” to its very most elastic limits. In its first incarnation the Rio was bad enough to put a non-motorist off cars for life; its replacement with the same name was a huge improvement yet still looked gormless and had an interior which made you feel as if you were sealed for life inside a counterfeit Tupperware box. Yet here I am, today, and the car with KIA Rio emblazoned on its rump is a contemporary, relevant, neat looking car. Yet perhaps I should read something into the fact that these have been on British roads for a good few years and it’s not been until tonight’s revelry that I’ve noticed one.
Though relieved that my brainfart wasn’t a sign of impending binge-fuelled mental breakdown, I was still shocked that such developments had passed me by. When I came back inside my friends asked me if I was OK; I seemed quiet and detached. I told them something about being cold, and the night went on.
 (First image by Chris Haining/Hooniverse 2015, middle one from netcarshow, bottom from Motor Trend. No permission sought, if you’re cross then put your hand up and I’ll take them down)

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  1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
    PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

    <img src=""&gt;
    So why do KIAs look German, and VAG at that? Well because their head designer is from Audi.
    The key in the picture is that the filler door is on the driver's side. A VW wouldn't do that as they have it always on the passenger side. I remember hearing that it was that way so that you weren't filling up while standing in the road if you ever ran out of fuel. But it could just as easily be because the passenger should fill up your car since you are driving them somewhere and that is what polite passengers should do..

    1. Devin Avatar

      Not very interesting fact: I've only ever owned cars where the filler is on the driver's side.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        Mine have been all over – on the left ('64 Grand Prix, '66 Corvair – front fender, '95 F-150, '13 Tacoma), on the right ('75 and '76 Vegas, '78 Fox), and in the middle of the rear, behind the license plate ('68 Bonneville).

    2. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      I'm pretty sure all Golfs have the filler on the right hand side irrespective of where the driver sits. I've been wrong before

      1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
        PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

        Maybe, but most countries are LHD including its domestic market. Also, if the reason is to keep you from standing in traffic if you run out of fuel, well it wouldn't be the first time Germans are trying to kill the Brits.

        1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

          The Germans are already killing quite a lot of folk over here with crippling car finance payments already…

    3. Marc Avatar

      FWIW, VW is not always on the passenger side. I have a '97 VW Eurovan, fuel filler is right behind the driver's door.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        On so called "Nutzfahrzeuge" (trucks, vans, lorries), the placement of the fuel filler is EU mandated, if I remember correctly.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          I'm not surprised to hear that. The news was full of run-over truck drivers that were looking for the filler until ten years ago.

    4. dukeisduke Avatar

      Yes, Peter Schreyer, right?

      1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
        PotbellyJoe ★★★★★


  2. JayP2112 Avatar

    The Rio turbo is interesting. Has that SEAT look that is very euro.
    But the turbo engine is just 200hp or something. Can't compete with Ford and the discounts.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      I think you're thinking of the Forte – Rio is sadly just available with the N/A 1.6 (although, with 140hp, it goes along just fine). Not that I'm exceedingly interested in the Forte, but 200hp for the low 20s is pretty decent, and not really meant to compete with the marginally more expensive Focus ST or Golf GTI (it sounds like the Cee'd is available in proper hot hatch spec, but the turbo Forte is just a more powerful Kia).

      1. JayP2112 Avatar

        I was just over on the Kia US site trying to spec out a turbo Rio… Yes. I have been drinking.
        Edit- for the record, Shiner.

  3. monkey_tennis Avatar

    You're right about the shutlines on the rear quarter of the Mk 5 Golf; one of the few really strong features of an otherwise largely forgettable design. Once you had seen it, that small patch of sheetmetal drew your eye every time you saw the car.
    For me, the example par excellence of a single shut line that leaps out as a moment of purity in an otherwise messy design is the rear quarter of the Mk2 Renault Megane: the ruler-straight, almost vertical, line that separates c-pillar from hatch, then defines the rear light clster, then dives straight through the wheelarch. Each time I see a Megane of that era I check to see that line is still there, doing its job, seemingly oblivious to the arbitrary 'styling' that every other line on the car bends to…
    <img src="; width="600">

    1. Vairship Avatar

      I guess with the Megane they were forced to do something unusual with the rear of the car, because from the C-pillar forward it just looks like a Clio in that picture.

    2. Rover_1 Avatar

      And the slightly larger Renault Avantime from the same stylists at the same time played a different shutline trick in the same place.
      <img src=""width="600"&gt;

  4. UDMan Avatar

    Rusty, I wrote a review of the Kia Rio way back in October 2011…

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Yet another reason the Rio not being on my radar is inexcusable!

  5. 1977chevytruck Avatar

    You think a stock Kia Rio is awful? I believe I have come across the worst of the breed. Here, let me paint you a picture. Murdered (all blacked out), straight piped, and I believe one cylinder wasn't firing, so it was a three cylinder instead of a four. All this was purchased by a classmates friend for $650 from a Wal-Mart parking lot. It was total abuse to the eyes and ears, and I doubt I'll ever forget it.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      At least it sounds more interesting than was out of the box! Sounds like your average quality of Wal-Mart purchase.

  6. Maymar Avatar

    I recognized that on first glance – I was genuinely excited when this Rio first came out. It's pretty easily the best looking car in its class. Then I drove one. Fine, but underwhelming, still feels like they've tried to save money with the materials, even if they're assembled well, and just no visibility out of the back.

    1. Devin Avatar

      My overriding memory of driving the Rio was that it's pretty bouncy.

  7. Tiller188 Avatar

    For whatever it's worth, the first thought into my completely-sober (at the time…) mind was Mk. 6 or -7 Golf. Adding insult to injury, a buddy of mine has a Mk. 6 GTi, so I really should have known better.

  8. Rover_1 Avatar

    Or the Mk4 Golf which did this shutline trick first.
    <img src=""width="500"&gt;

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      I was going to use that example but the shutlines aren't quite parallel. Nice XJS, too…