Premier Automobiles has not had much success with the Rio mini-SUV. While there wasn't a problem with the finish, fit and some rough edges marred its chances. So did the 1.5-litre Peugeot TUD5 diesel engine that lacks the outright power and refinement of more modern common-rail diesels. But all that is about to change.
Our reporters have seen, what looked like the Premier Rio with a new headlamp-tail lamp treatment. Caught just off-Mumbai, the test car had its logos blanked out, but there was no mistaking which car it truly was. Manufactured by Zotye Auto of China, Premier Automobiles currently assembles the vehicle using the Peugeot-Nissan drivetrain at its facilities in Pune. Based on the old Daihatsu Terios, this is the first facelift that the Rio will undergo since its launch in late-2009/early-2010.
The new Rio has larger, double barrel headlamps, a new front bumper and skirt with integrated foglamps/receptacles, a more prominent front grille and slightly restyled bonnet as well as new outside rear-view mirrors with integrated turn signal lamps. When viewed in profile, the Rio isn't distinictly different, except for new side-cladding and wider-wheel arches. At the rear, the Rio will get new, larger clear-lens tail lamps, a new rear bumper and a tweaked spare-wheel cover design.
On the inside, the Rio is expected to get a slightly tweaked dashboard with better quality materials and a slightly better finish, but we shall reserve final judgement. We expect more features as well, to make good the lukewarm response it has received
Our sources also tell us that Premier is looking at other powertrains for the Rio. When we first drove the car nearly two years ago, we indicated to the Premier management then that a common-rail diesel engine could play a big difference towards the future of the Rio and had even indicated the idle capacity the Tata-Fiat Ranjangaon plant had as far as 1.3-litre Multijet diesel powertrains are concerned. If we are to believe it, then Premier Automobiles could indeed be shoehorning the Multijet into the Rio and give it a new lease of life. Despite turbocharging and tweaking the Peugeot TUD5 for BS-IV norms, the engine lacked adequate grunt and refinement, which an engine like the Multijet should help resolve. If it is indeed so, then the Rio could now gain by 10 bhp and 4 kgm of peak torque and infinitely better NVH and refinement levels.
This new Rio is expected to hit showrooms this festive season, around October-November. We hope, Premier have done a more thorough job this time round and ironed out refinement and build quality issues to make the Rio a success story.