Yes yes yes oh YES: quality cabin, pricing, attractive styling
Oh dear me no: 4 speed auto, lack of power/torque
We would like to take a moment to remember those involved in the very sad incident in the Melbourne CBD, 20/1/17. Those who witnessed, and those who survived, as well as those who passed shall remain in our thoughts. Domestic violence and mental disease can never be underestimated, and certainly never ignored. If you see something, say something.
Kia is making big claims about its shiny new bread-n-butter Rio City Car.
Kia is a fairly quiet achiever that has steadily increased market share year by year by bringing sensible products to market at the right time. Last year Kia sold 42,668 cars giving them 3.6% of the Aussie market. More importantly Kia moves into the strategically important “top-10” for the first time and sits proudly in 10th place.
Building on this, Kia expects 48,000 sales this year with the new Rio accounting for 7,000 sales. That makes Rio a bread-and-butter item on their South Pacific menu.
S manual: $16,990
S auto: $19,090
Si auto: $21,490
SLi auto: $22,990
1.4-litre MPI, Petrol, 74kW/133Nm, 4-sp auto in the Si and SLi, either the 4sp auto or a 6-sp manual for the S model.
The DOHC 16-valve D-CVVT engine produces peak power at 6000rpm and maximum torque at 4000rpm. All models drive through the front wheels
How About the looks?
Our launch drive took us out of stately Melbourne into the verdant Dandenongs. As luck would have it, a stop at a set of light gave us a chance to see the rumps of the old and new Rios side by side, and the new one gets the thumbs up. The rear has a squarer look with more space inside and a smart new set of tail lights
The look is an evolution of the previous mod. The tiger nose grille is elongated incorporating a smart set of auto headlights.
Kia continues its efforts to give their cabins a bit of spit and polish. The fabric feels nice to the touch, and most would be fooled by the simulated leather on the top model. As with all brands, I prefer fabric under my bottom, especially in hot weather.
The seating is supportive without being too firm.
An excellent layout makes instruments easy to read, and switch gear easy to use. I particularly like the steering wheels controls. The top model gets auto A/C but I’m perfectly happy with a manual system. In fact, most of the time I use fully auto climate control in manual mode to get the fan speed I like.
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard across the range.
The only thing I disliked was the facia on the dashboard. It is in an odd metallic-silvered plastic and looks nasty. A simple textured matte black would have looked better.
A sneaky look at websites in other countries show what Kia is capable of offering. Take a look at the updated Soul, then put you finger to the corner of your mouth and say, “hmmmm”.
Although a 1.0L turbo, 1.6L and a 6 speed auto or C VT combination can be offered in other markets, Australia gets the 1.4L mated to a 4 speed auto. Kia says it is because of the plant where our models are made, but the offering almost ruins what is otherwise a great car. 4 gears simply will not do in the twilight of the second decade of the 21st century.
I loathe CVTs and would not miss that if it never showed its face here, but 6 speeds for an automatic is the bare minimum for industry standard. Kia also has a 7speed DSG.
Kia have gone for economy over performance, and no one can blame them for that. I’ll be watching this space with interest. I predict some fancy footwork to get a better spec for the top 2 models toot sweet. S.H. will no doubt be scrambling as we speak.
The steering is extremely light at low speeds. Once you’re used to it, it is a real pleasure. At higher speeds, it has a slightly vague feel. It does the job once you become accustomed to it. Local tuning has improved the feel so Kia says. Korea and the USA are keen on extremely light steering and need to be reined in by our local management.
Overtaking has to be planned. There is a strange dead spot between 2nd and 3rd gears, then another between 3rd and 4th making hills a challenge if you haven’t gotten a decent run-up. This is where Kia’s 1.0L 88kw engine and 6 speed auto would have been much appreciated. Kia says other engines and transmissions are being evaluated, but any reports of their impending arrival have been greatly exaggerated. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Our local tuning is done by Graeme Gambold who also his wand over the suspension, so it rides beautifully. City cars often sacrifice ride for convenience. Rio feels soft and compliant over most surfaces with only the most challenging of ruts and potholes intruding into the cabin. Kia has put a lot of time and money into sound deadening which has paid off. Road noise is kept to a minimum with only the afore mentioned bumps, and the awful bitumen-chip road surfaces making much of an impression.
The Yarra Valley presents some jaw-dropping scenery and clever old Kia presented Rio in the best possible atmosphere. Leaving Melbourne behind, we climbed into the ranges to tackle almost every road condition a city car could ever be asked to tackle. The tighter turns felt competent and the chassis felt tight. There was even a picnic lunch in the back to be enjoyed in a picturesque spot where bushfires had once ravaged. Whilst the picnic blanket was not gingham, the basket was wicker. Couples spread through the park with the cars shining with pride nearby. Somehow, it made weekend drives seem not only possible, but enjoyable. This is how a young couple would use their wheels right?
On leaving Healesville, we took a brisk route back to Melbourne airport though yet more postcard perfect vignettes.
Any misgivings about the engine/transmission are offset in part by the ample 7 year warranty/roadside assist. Kia proved Rio can be competent in town all day, and equally capable for the odd weekend sojourn.
The mid-range is well spec’d and the top model gets a sunroof. They cost a few thousand so I’d rather save money and do without it.
Hill start assist is a simple thing but makes life so much easier. It costs almost nothing since it is a simple programme in the ABS, but means so much to anyone not completely at ease with manual transmissions.
I’ve love DAB radio, and the touch screen is such a vast improvement over the old model. Apple and Android integration is genius and appeals to us all, especially the millennials.
There have been big steps made in active and passive safety meaning entry level is not a compromise for the sake of price. As yet there is no Autonomous Emergency Braking, but there is no doubt that will come.
Last year was Kia’s best ever, and with even more new models coming, this year also looks bright.
Good luck to them. Rio is a great offering, and although there is room for further improvement, it remains an excellent proposition.
Kia is trying hard to get onto buyer’s lists and Rio, along with the Cerato, give those with an economical bent, cause to think.
Even cars made to a budget should be as good as they possibly can be. What a buyer never wants to hear is, “but”. A buyer in the 21st century as choice, Australians particularly so and if things aren’t tickety boo, they’ll simply move on
Would I buy one? Yes. I’d also consider Spark, Fiesta and Polo.