Those Japanese blokes should be keeping a careful eye on the Koreans. The Koreans started out as cheap and cheerful, a tag they are now fighting as hard to get away from as they did to achieve in the first place.
Do they deserve to be taken seriously? Any car maker who ignores Kia, does so at its peril. You have to ask yourself why no other car maker offers 7 years in warranty/capped price servicing/roadside assist. Of course, it says Kia has confidence in the cars they make, and since it is fully transferrable, the 2nd hand owner benefits too.
The handsome exterior screams euro-chic. There is not a hint of the entry-level misery and hideous, misguided cost cutting as if designed by an accountant. The range starts at a smidge under 14 grand for a 2 door to S manual, to $25,556 for the 5 door SLi auto. $14,000 represents fabulous value, and at that level, has not a lot of competition. Obviously, extras like auto headlights etc. are thrown in as you move up the range. As well as a slightly nicer cabin, you get smart daytime running lights which give the front an aggressive and slightly angry look as they curve though the light cluster. It looks far more expensive than it has any right to and you have to wonder how Kia does it. Both 2 coupe models come with a full size spare, something which you should treasure especially if a can of repair goo has ever let you down.
The 25 grand Sport get auto headlights (with the led daytime running lights), but no auto wipers. The seating is fairly comfy and will take 4 easily, 5 if we are all good friends. The sound system perfectly adequate and about what you expect at this price. Importantly the Bluetooth is easy to use. The air conditioning is manual but in most cases that’s not a bad thing. Some auto climate systems don’t seem to be able to make up their minds what the exterior temperature is. You turn the knob to cold if you’re hot and to warm if you’re cold. Simple.
Surprisingly the rear side windows are fixed. On those days when you have 4-up, it might be nice if the rear windows pushed out like they used to on a classic Mini. I’m not keen on any coupe with fixed window for the pauper seats.
The ride is rather surprising. There is a smoothness and sophistication from the Macphersons up front and torsion bar at the back so. You get a base 1.4L 79kw 4 pot in the base model and the 103kw 1.6 in the Sport. The 1.6 is nippy off the mark but runs out of puff on the highway. It feels like the auto kicks down a few too many cogs making the engine buzz a bit intrusive. None the less, it would be an easy drive should one choose to throw a few things in the back and head off for weekend away.
There is a bit of fun to be had even in the corners but I wouldn’t go so far as to call the handling sporty. It doesn’t feel as sharp as a Fiesta of a Polo, but is much nicer looking.
I loaded a few chaps on board for a city run and found the big doors give the blokes in the back easy access. The highway was nice and quiet and for a change the fuel figures weren’t a million miles away from the manufacturer’s claims. Like most Kia’s, you don’t have to waste money on the posh petrol either. Regardless of the claims of the Europeans, paying an extra 40 cents a litre does absolutely nothing for your performance and only serves to rob you of even more of your hard-earned cash.
There is a feel about the Rio that’s not dissimilar to the Pro C’eed GT which I love so much. There is a premium look which I quite like. The Sport has smart red stitching and red highlights. The seats have Kia’s premium leather look upholstery and the plastics feel soft touch.
If your other car is a 2 seater convertible, Rio would be just the ticket for carting things about that won’t fit in your weekend wheels. After all, the less you spend on your second car, the more you can spend on your midlife crisis car right?
Would I buy one?
Prices: Sport 3door $25,011. Range from $13,990 (3 door S) to $26,556 (5door SLi)
Engine: 79kw/135Nm 5.7L/100k, or 103kw/167Nm 6.1L/100k, 4cyl 16valve GDi, Euro 4,
Trans: 6 speed manual/or auto
*prices are On-road in NSW, engine/trans combos vary between grades