KIA RIO was launched in 2017, and got a quick update in late 2018.

Some the Sport model replaced the old mid range offerings, and an updated equipment list was offered. This brought loads of tasty goodies such as active lane control and monitoring, and AEB. Most importantly, the GT Line and it’s 1.0L engine came in to being.

Kia is slowly rolling out the range topping GT Line as models receive refreshing.

2019 Kia Rio GT exterior front 3/4.

Exterior

GT Line added a body kit adding some extra meat along the under the doors, and 17” alloy wheels. Low profile tyres look great but make the ride slightly harder, and the cabin slightly noisier.

Headlights include a static turning light. Instead of the headlight turning as the steering wheel turns, a side light illuminates instead. This less expensive solution is equally effective, and arguably more reliable.

Reverse camera and rear sensors top off a range of accoutrements every driver will want to have.

2019 Kia Rio GT exterior rear 3/4.

The profile is muscular and begs to get a hot hatch maker.

Doors open reasonably wide but like all small cars, there is only so much metalwork to work with.

Rio has the kind of body that would look good with outrageous kit additions like fat wheels, fat arches, a scoop bonnet and spoiler. Hot hatches look fabulous, but need hot engines. Currently none in the range are even vaguely approaching warm let alone hot.

It is handsome enough to make its owner proud.

2019 Kia Rio GT exterior front 3/4.

Interior

GT Line has a couple of bespoke additions to give the cabin a touch of exclusivity.

Carbon fibre look dash inserts, and sports seat fabric look good. Seats are comfortable with firm support. Fabric has the feel of a quick-dry gym shirt. You’ll either love or hate it. I prefer it to leather because it will never burn you on a hot summer day.

Clever storage includes cup holders and cubby holes in the centre console, and cleverly designed bottle holders and stowage bins in the doors. The glove box isn’t huge, but with the other storage more than taking the slack, it hardly matters.

2019 Kia Rio GT interior.

Space in the front is excellent with a steering wheel adjustable for reach and tilt. The rear is snug with 4 tall adults on board. Rear seats includes 2 ISOFIX points. With the seat set for me, my knees were right up against the front seat, so back seats are probably best for shorter passengers.

Air conditioning is manual, as is the cruise control.

Kia’s always take a lot of care getting the ergonomics right. It is something you never notice unless it is wrong. Controls are within easy reach, made even easier with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and the brilliant voice control which comes with it. Instruments are clear and easy to read. In short, the cabin is well designed and efficient.

Keeping in mind Rio is built to a price, materials have a corresponding touch to them. There is a 7 year warranty so they must be confident everything will last.

Generally, the cabin feels airy, snug and cosy.

2019 Kia Rio GT

Features

Kia always packs their models full of stuff, and an entry-level car is no different.

Front and centre is the 7” tablet with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. It is flanked by quick access buttons to get to features fast. There is a STAR button where your most used feature can be programmed.

Some say the 7 year warranty/capped price service/roadside assist isn’t a feature, but a benefit. I say, it it a feature I couldn’t live without.

Additionally, GT Line has AEB and active lane monitoring. It will steer you back in to your own lane should you wander. It isn’t too intrusive, so is something you can leave switched on without it annoying you.

The doors lock themselves to prevent hijacking, and this is something you’ll feel secure with when you’re out alone at night. How many times have you seen someone trying to jump in to a car in traffic on those news broadcasts?

2019 Kia Rio GT interior.

Auto headlights come on at night all by themselves. Wipers make do with an intermittent function with 2 speeds.

None of these things seem special in expensive European cars, but this is a car for cost-conscious entry-level buyers. Why should they miss out?

Drive and Engine

Everything about Rio screams economy.

A 1.0L 3 cylinder turbo petrol engine runs on regular unleaded, with a combined economy of 5.4L/100k. It is as low as 5.0L/100k on the open road which rises to 6.2L/100k around town. Like most small engines, this 3 cylinder needs to be worked hard. Our fuel useage was closer to 10L/100k. It begs to be taken by the scruff of the neck and thrown about.

Kia uses its in-house designed 7 speed DCT (dual clutch transmission) automatic 88kw/172Nk to the front wheels.

There is a strange raspy tone thanks to the 3 cylinder engine’s firing order. It’s strangely sporty, but not sporty enough for Kia to publish a 0-100kph figure.

The direct injection 3-pot feels leisurely as a city car should.

Steering and suspension have been given Graeme Gambold’s magic makeover. He is Kia’s Australian performance and handling expert and prefers a sportier stance.

Despite Rio’s humble claims, it is still fun in corners. Steering hasn’t got a lot of feel, but it is horses-for-courses. Rio isn’t a sports car.

We kept our duties to those a buyer of a city car might do on a regular basis.

2019 Kia Rio GT

An airport run and some food shopping were dispatched with ease. When it came to parking, the diminutive Rio got in to tight spaces easily with a reversing camera and loads of sensors. You have to be blindfolded to hit something going backwards. Although there is no automated parking assistance, it isn’t a feature you’d miss.

Brief stints on a tollway showed Rio was comfortable on the open, but there isn’t quite the performance to make a long road trip pleasurable. You could manage it with just 2 on board, but you might find Cerato better for distance driving.

Rio is a basic, fun little car, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Safety

Rio received a 5 Star ANCAP rating in 2017.

 

GT Line standard features include:

  • Lane keep assist
  • Reverse sensors
  • Reversing camera
  • AEB
  • Forward collision warning
  • Hill start assist
  • Driver attention alert
  • Stability control
  • 6 airbags
  • Impact sensing door unlocking
  • 3 child restraint and 2 ISOfix points
  • Side impact beams
  • Childproof rear locks

Good Bits:

  • price
  • equipment and safety features
  • smooth DCT automatic

Not so Good Bits:

  • some cheap plastics
  • no smart entry/start
  • road noise

Summary

Kia Rio GT Line finds a sweet spot between price and practicality.

It is a perfect commuter car you wouldn’t feel precious about if you had to leave it in a lonely car park. Car makers want everything they make to be the object of desire, but sometimes all a buyer wants is a comfy car that doesn’t cost a lot.

There is a surprising amount of gear on board in a cabin that is comfortable enough even the tallish among us to be contented.

GT Line gets AEB which I think is a must-have. It applies the brakes to help lessen the effects of accidents, but it doesn’t take the place of careful driving.

Rio is made in the Sohari plant alongside my favourite Kia, the Stinger.

I rate Rio at 8/10.

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  • Engine: 1.0 L 3Cyl Turbo producing 88kW/172Nm
  • Transmission: FWD 7speed DCT Auto
  • Warranty: 7yr/unlimted km, 7yr capped price, 7 yr roadside assist
  • Safety: Five stars
  • Origin: Sohari, Korea
  • Price: from $21,990 (drive away)