The Kia brand has been on the rise for some time now and a testament to this has been the key appointments it has made in its design department in the recent past. These changes together with the substantial investment in the quality of its cars has capitulated the brand to being one of the most leading car brands in the world. This means that Kia is no longer fielding cars for the sake of it or for ridding the budget wave but it is producing cars that are as good as the very best in each segment it plays in. None says this more than the new Kia Rio. The Kia Rio was launched in South Africa last year and recently we drove the 1.4 TEC.
The Rio is Kia’s best-selling vehicle globally and is also a favourite in the local market. Factoring in Kia’s rising global ambitions of being a leading car manufacturer, the stage was set for Kia to deliver an exceptional product that would compete with the very best in the subcompact cars out there with its fourth iteration of the Kia Rio segment. Kia has done exactly that with the latest version of the Rio and the local market has responded favourably. Kia has consistently been selling in excess of 400 units of the car in one of the most competitive segments in our market.
The exterior of the new Rio has grown quite a bit compared to the previous model. The car is longer in length (as can be seen with the more stretched out bonnet) and, has an extended wheelbase. Although the car is slightly shorter (height wise) when compared to the previous model, this together longer bonnet and extended wheelbase gives the car a much sportier look. The new look with a more pronounced Kia tiger nose is immensely pleasing to the eye. , The new U-shaped LED lights in some models will have many asking themselves when did the Kia Rio grow up to be such a handsome fellow. Whilst other models are offered with 15-inch steel or alloy wheels, our 1.4 TEC model came standard with 17-inches alloy wheels and this added to the overall sporty look of the car.
Kia has done a lot to improve Rio and this is also clear if you step inside the car. The interior looks and feels good. Although some materials could be improved still, overall Kia has stuck to quality materials and also thrown in some chrome materials and finishes. The straight lines of dash make the car appear wider and roomier. The upper versions like our test 1.4 EX TEC boast a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. We tried out the Apple CarPlay and it worked like a charm. A thumbs-up to Kia for that. The new Rio also offers USB and auxiliary-in ports and a 12V power socket. The latter has become critical for staying connected in the smart phone era. Overall the cabin feels spacious both for the front and back occupants. The 325 litres boot is commendable and very decent by segment standards. It is exceeds the VW Polo’s boot space by a whole 45 litres. Impressive!
The new Kia Rio range is offered with naturally aspirated engines that come in 1.2 or 1.4. The 1.2 produces 62 kW of power and 120 Nm of torque whilst the 1.4 produces 74 kW of power and 135 Nm of torque. This is perhaps the new Rio’s Achilles heel. The engine is decent for city traffic and will do the highway drive decently with the odd shift down to from the sixth gear to the fifth gear. Take nothing away from the car’s comfortable ride, fuel efficiency, good handling and responsive steering, the 1.4 engine felt slow and often overwhelmed on take-off. The gradual climb to higher speeds in the highway felt delayed. This is in stark contrast to the competition, especially those who employ turbo engines. They are quick and more pointed. Navigating through traffic seems slightly less laborious. Perhaps Kia should explore the options of bringing a turbo unit to South Africa. This would not only put the Rio on par with the competition in this department but would confirm the Kia Rio’s stature as one of the go-to vehicles in the segment.
The Kia Rio range is priced as follows:
Rio 1.2 LS Manual – R219,995
Rio 1.4 LX Manual – R234,995
Rio 1.4 EX Manual – R249,995
Rio 1.4 TEC Manual – R274,995
All models are available with an optional automatic engine for an extra R13,000.
The prices include a 5-year or unlimited kilometres warranty, a 5-years or Unlimited Kilometres Roadside Assistance and a 4-year or 60 000km Service Plan.
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