Brian Joss –
Full disclosure: I own a Kia, not a new one, but apart from a few hiccups, it has given me good service, so I like the product. And the “new” Kio Rio which made its debut at the Paris Motor Show has arrived in South Africa. And you can see that Kia’s president and chief design officer, Peter Schreyer and his team, have been hard at work. The changes on the Kia Rio 1.4. Tec Auto which I had on test, are all cosmetic but under the skin it is as good as it was. The design team in Korea has updated the Rio’s ‘tiger-nose grille’, and says Kia, given the hatch a newly designed front bumper, fog lights and lower air intakes. The sedan, which was the test car, has a stylish and integrated design.The exterior dimensions remain unchanged but three new alloy wheel designs have been added to refresh the Rio’s profile and you can see them on the flagship, the 1.4 Tec. A new paint finish Urban Blue has been added to the colour line-up. For reasons I won’t go into now., this is the first Kia product I have been given for a few years, so I didn’t get to test the Rio when it made its debut in 2011. Then it won several Car of the Year awards including in Ireland and Australia as well as a Good Design Award in America. Updates to the Rio’s interior have been limited to upgraded materials and trims. The cabin gets chrome accents around the four dashboard air-vents, while a newly designed centre-stack around the audio system now features piano black trim.
Although the inside is roomy, the dark trim makes it appear smaller than it is. All other interior dimensions and specification levels remain unchanged. The 1,4 Tec Auto features climate control, a six-speaker radio/CD system, Bluetooth, the usual USB and auxiliary inputs, automatic headlights and wipers as well as electrically folding side mirrors. Also unusual in a car this size is that it has side and curtain air bags. The Kia Rio has a multifunction steering wheel. The test car was equipped with a sun roof, but that’s an optional extra at R7 000. “The immense popularity of the Rio shows that our designers and engineers got most things right when creating the fourth-generation of our compact B-segment challenger in 2011. The Rio retains the core attributes that have proved so popular with owners, while enhancements to the 2015 model include a slight visual makeover, giving it a fresh exterior and interior look,” Schreyer said. Engine line-ups in the Rio range include a 1.2 manual, a 1.4 manual, a 1.4 Auto, the 1.4 Tec Manual and the 1.4 Tec Auto which is also available with CVT. The test car had a four speed automatic and it worked well, although up some of the steeper gradients there was some slight hunting but nothing to be concerned about. Power output is 79kW @ 6 300rpm and 135 N.m @ 4 200 rpm. We were four up in the car when I took it on a test route to Riebeek Kasteel and back to Milnerton through Melkbos. The route is challenging with some hills, narrow roads, where no overtaking is possible, even though some idiots did try, and quite a few heavy container trucks and assorted delivery trucks on the road. Going downhill into Malmesbury is tricky: there is a 60 km/h speed limit with cameras on both sides of the road and it was hard to keep the Rio to the legal speed. The cameras will catch you and the Malmesbury traffic police take no prisoners. I should know. Once I was caught both ways, on the same day. But back to the Rio. The front seats are not that comfortable, they are somewhat hard and don’t give enough lateral support, I found. The back seat passengers didn’t complain though and there was enough leg room and head room for the two adults: you could squeeze in another, if you have to. The Rio is not a pocket rocket but the engine is quite peppy. Performance is adequate if you judge a car by how long it takes to get from 0 to 100 km/h. In the Rio’s case it gets there in 13 seconds. Top speed, says Kio, is 183 km/h. The Rio’s ride quality is impressive: it holds the road well, sails over corrugations and pot holes with ease. Steering too is responsive and I found it easy to get into a comfortable driving position, as the steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach. Fuel economy is good. Kia claims 6.4 litres/100km. My fuel use was slightly higher at about 6.8 litres/100km in a town and country cycle.
It has a 43 litre fuel tank and if you don’t keep the pedal to the metal you should get a little over 600 kilometres. The carbon dioxide rating is given as 151 gm/km. The boot, which has a full size spare underneath, has enough space for holiday luggage or a weekly shop. In summary, the Kio Rio 1.4 Tec Auto is an appealing package. it handles well, it is economical, attractively styled, and with the nice-to-haves it is good value at R224 995 (but check with your dealer for the latest price). Put it on your shopping list if you’re in the market for a new car.
As a matter of interest, the Rio, with 471 000 units sold in 2014 alone, remains Kia’s bestselling model globally and in South Africa it is a top seller. The Kia Rio comes with a 5-year/150 000km warranty and a 4-year/60 000 km service plan.