I am trying to find out if any these have survived.

Many years ago (~2007-8 I’d guess) was trawling Autotrader.ca for cheap manual cars when up popped a relatively new Kia Rio with a hood scoop, big wing and a body kit.

Advertisement

It would have looked like this except in white or tan.

Waaait a minute...
Waaait a minute...
Advertisement

My first thought was that some cretinous owner had gone mad with the eBay accessories but the ad assured me this was how it rolled off the lot.

What you see here is the rare Kia Rio “sport pac”

As a big fan of homologation and other random hot specials I was intrigued, had Kia slapped a turbo on their entry level car and created a budget rally rocket?

Advertisement

In short, Nope! The only mechanical upgrades were slightly lower suspension and alloy wheels; the hood scoop was as fake as a Buick’s ventiports but I guess the wing was real.

Illustration for article titled In search of the imposter: the Kia Rio Sport-Pac
Advertisement

This was basically an appearance package released to cash in on the popularity of the tuner style from the Fast and Furious which came out in 2001.

I grew up watching Colin McRae and later Richard Burns (RIP both) ripping up rally stages in blue Subarus with gold wheels so I get the appeal. In fact it was pretty common to see blue base imprezas with those wheels and wings addded in the UK back then.

Advertisement

The sport-pac originated in Australia and is credited to a marketing manager who saw the popularity of high performance sport compacts and in particular the WRX/STI so decided to offer a dealer installed package for the Rio sedan that mimicked it.

Seems legit
Seems legit
Advertisement

Here’s a contemporary Australian car mag piece where they actually did a side by side comparison - it’s an entertaining read.

Advertisement

It sounds like the package proved quite popular and so was rolled out to other regions including Canada.

I managed to find some contemporary griping on the WRX forums about it (I hope the commenters have aged better than some of their comments....)

Advertisement

And to prove I’m not going mad, here it is at the Montreal autoshow.

Illustration for article titled In search of the imposter: the Kia Rio Sport-Pac
Advertisement

This must have been circa 2002/3 because in the background you can see the Rio RX-V wagon that Kia ran in the inaugural Targa Newfoundland that year. Driven by autowriter Bob English and “local radio personality” Ken Ash, I cannot find much on the net about this car despite reading lots of coverage on later Kia runs at the targa on wheels.ca. [Particularly one where the driver “money shifted” their Kia Koup so a local dealer swapped a motor out of a car on their lot to get them back in the race next day!]

That is quite incongruous
That is quite incongruous
Advertisement

My efforts to find an example of the Rio sport-pac for sale have also come up empty, in fact there are barely any early 2000s Kia Rios left for sale at all. The RX-V wagons seem to have more longevity due to their utility but I guess the sedans were disposable.

I hope there are a few of these tucked away and being lovingly cared for as they represent a foreshadowing for some of the legitimate performance bargains that Hyundai/Kia are now making (Stinger, Genesis, Veloster N etc).

Advertisement

With 20:20 hindsight I’d say these cars were as aspirational for Kia as they were for the the wannabes who bought them. Kia had only been in Canada a couple of years at that point and were generally regarded as lowest common denominator worldwide. Fast forward to the present and Hyundai/Kia are a major force in the car market and seem like one of the few manufacturers that are expanding their enthusiast car lineup while others just push more and more SUVs.

The WRX fanbois may have mocked these gussied up econoboxes when they came out but Subaru haven’t competed in the top flight of the World Rally Championship for over a decade while Kia’s big sister Hyundai won the constructor’s championship last year!

Advertisement

I hope a few Sport-Pacs survived to have the last laugh.

Road salt likely took most of ours, wonder if there’s more left in Oppostralia?

Let me know if you see one.

Illustration for article titled In search of the imposter: the Kia Rio Sport-Pac

Share This Story

Get our newsletter