Life for the Kia Rio started over ten years ago, at the turn of the century in fact, when it was the cheapest mass-produced car on-sale in the United States. It may have been cheap and looked cheerful, but it also brought a frown to many a face when it came to build quality and the actual task of driving. A new chassis, based on that of the Hyundai Accent, together with new engines, meant the second generation Rio moved up the satisfaction index slightly. It’s this third generation, however, that’s got people practically queuing outside dealerships to give their little tiger a pat on the nose and take it home.
Quite frankly it isn’t hard to see why. It’s one of the best looking compact sedans on the road, chiefly because Kia have done well to avoid the tacked-on impression of the boot area, which is so often a by-product of the adaptation from hatch to sedan. Instead, the C-pillar flows neatly into the bootline that tops a high rear-end, but one which is given definition in the form of a spoiler lip; Cerato Koup-inspired tail-lights; and a faux-diffuser. From the front, the Rio sedan can be identified by its slightly revised bumper, which features a single lower-grille area versus the hatchback’s three-piece design.
Inside, the Rio comes into its own in terms of specification levels. Overall it offers enough space and features some more endearing materials than in years past, but it’s still a very plastic laden affair. The predominantly black trimmed interior is given a lift thanks to satin-look silver finishes around the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) controls, on the door handles and base of the steering wheel.
The controls are logically arranged and include those mounted on the steering wheel for the audio and trip computer. The steering wheel is tilt and reach adjustable, while the height adjustable driver’s seat also offers a generous range of fore and aft movement. The all-important boot can accommodate 389-litres (the hatch holds 288-litres), and the rear seats also fold down in a conventional 60:40 split. Rear legroom is also commendable by B-segment standards.
In general the Rio has a good amount of storage space, with three cup holders up front and a 1.5-litre glove box. A simple yet much valued feature is that of the roughly 5 mm deep cut-out in the storage area ahead of the gear lever, which is perfect for holding your cell phone and prevents it from sliding around. The interior is better insulated from wind and road noise than one might expect, which makes it easier to hear the 4-speaker sound system that offers Bluetooth, auxilliary and USB connectivity. Other features include: electric adjustable door mirrors; electric windows; height adjustable head lights; air-conditioner; as well as driver and passenger front airbags. In addition to airbags, safety aids include ABS and EBD, as well as an alarm/immobiliser linked to central locking.
On the face of it, a non-turbocharged 1.2-litre engine might sound futile in anything more than a Kia Picanto, but I seem to remember hearing something about Kia and surprises. The 1 248 cc engine produces 65 kW at 6 000 r/min and 120 Nm of torque at 4 000 r/min. A quick glance at some of the 1.2- to 1.4-litre engines on sale today, shows that the Rio is more powerful than the Chevrolet Spark 1.2, Citroen C3 1.4i, Nissan Micra 1.2, Peugeot 207 1.4 Pop Art and Renault Sandero 1.4, to name few.
Some of the main contributors to the performance of the Rio’s engine are dual CVVT, a cast aluminium block, offset crankshaft and low-friction ‘beehive’ valve springs. Acceleration to 100 km/h takes 13.1 seconds and top speed is 168 km/h. At the same time, Kia claim average fuel consumption of 5.4 L/100km and although the on-board computer indicated 7.2 L/100km after 325 km, that figure was achieved at an average speed of 74 km/h. The five-speed transmission is easy to direct and features a taller 5th gear ratio for quieter and more economical cruising. In reality it works out to around 3 400 r/min at a steady 120 km/h, which is approaching the Rio’s 4 000 r/min peak torque output, meaning the little engine still has enough ‘go’ when you put your foot down.
The suspension on the Rio Sedan consists of a typical MacPherson strut configuration in front and a coupled torsion beam axle at the rear. The ride favours comfort over handling and, together with light steering, makes for easy progress within the city limits. The turning circle is particularly good, at 10.52 meters, but despite good maneuverability, the rear view is somewhat restricted thanks to the high boot line.
Putting the pedal to the metal will quickly have the car protesting, as the dash begins to creak as a sign of chassis flex, the 15-inch wheels and tyres begin to squirm under pressure and the car battles to stay on your chosen line. Of course the Rio was not designed to be driven with such levels of exuberance and the brakes, together with ABS and EBD, do an adequate job of slowing things down to speeds at which the Rio is far more comfortable.
Stylish, comfortable and with levels of equipment the competition finds hard to match at the price, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rio owners have developed a purr.
What we like…
- Remains stylish even with a boot.
- Solid levels of specification, specifically music and phone connectivity that usually costs more.
- Solid performance from the 1.2-litre engine.
What we would like…
- More rigidity in the bodyshell.
- Not much else for the asking price.
|Base Price||R141 995|
|Warranty||5 year / 100 000 km|
|Engine Capacity||1 248 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||4-cylinders, In-line|
|Power||65 kW @ 6 000 r/min|
|Torque||120 N.m @ 4 000 r/min|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 13.1 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||168 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||5.4 l/100km (claimed combined)|
|CO2 Emissions||129 g/km|