What is it?
Rio sits a size above Picanto and below the Cerato sedan and hatch.
There is only a hatchback version and in a three-model range, comprising S, Sport, and GT-Line.
It’s verging on needing a proper update, but for now it’s a winner in its current form — or is it going off the boil?
What’s it cost?
At the moment it’s $24,990 driveaway, with premium paint another $520.
The GT-Line doesn’t get silver but it does come in Mighty Yellow (our test car), Sporty Blue, Aurora Black Pearl, Signal Red, and Perennial Grey.
It’s a lower, flatter, more squat looking machine than Picanto, and more blocky than the sleek Cerato.
Add some ride height and it could be the starting point for the soon-to-be released Stonic.
Quad cube daytime running lights sit under their own black eyebrow and under a black insert in the tiger grille.
The grille itself is a slimmer design than other Kia vehicles.
Sleek headlights have a semi-circle set of LEDs as well.
The roofline is flat, joining the front and rear pillars which have similar angles.
Side skirts in body colour and a strip of piano black complement the front and rear strips.
Seventeen-inch alloys with 205/45 series rubber underpin the GT-Line and Continental supply the Contisport Contact tyres.
Reverse park sensors are standard.
Inside and it doesn’t exactly scream GT-Line.
The seats are cloth centred, black with thin white piping, and have leather bolsters. These are also white stitched.
Hints of piano black are a contrast with the standard black plastics and light grey upper cabin colour.
This is located around the gear selector, air vents and around the 8.0-inch touchscreen.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the three model range.
Aiming at adding a sporting feel are alloy pedals and a faux carbon-fibre strip across the dash.
Safety levels are good with Lane Keeping and Lane Following Assist, reverse camera, and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Forward Collision Warning.
Four bottle holders and a pair of USB ports add to the convenience factor, while 325 to 980 litres for cargo make it good for singles or a couple.
What’s it go like?
Here we find the three cylinder 1.0-litre turbo engine once found in Picanto.
The transmission is a dual clutch auto in the GT-Line.
Peak power is 74kW at 4000 rpm while maximum torque is 172Nm between 1500 and 4000 rpm.
Tank size is 45.0 litres with fuel consumption for the lightweight (1197kg) Rio GT-Line a miserly 5.3L/100km.
Our final figure was 6.2L/100km, with a best of 4.1L and worst of 7.0L/100km.
There are three drive modes, as expected. Eco is not worth your time, with Normal putting much needed pep into the Rio’s driving manners.
Sport is exactly what is expected and great for when a quick stop sign or traffic light getaway is needed.
The steering is moderately weighted, with a sense of the driven front tyres being under-pressured in Eco, but more normal in Normal.
There is plenty of grip from the premium Euro rubber.
It’s the acceleration from a standing start and rolling runs that we were looking for and they’re there.
The standing start picks up pace as revs climb, with the character changing from 3000 to 3500 rpm.
There’s the familiar three cylinder warble that has a metallic keen, a sharp edged note once it hits those aforementioned revs.
So far it’s sounding good.
The ride though is where the Rio’s shine gets a bit of tarnish.
It’s not as supple, perhaps as plush . . . as it could be?
It feels more wooden plank than metal coil springs absorbing the lumps and bumps, and overdone as a result in trying to achieve a sporty ride.
It’s just too taut, unforgiving and inflexible around town, for genuine enjoyment.
That’s a shame as the engine, when wound up, puts a sparkle in the eye.
It works well with the DCT, with sharp and crisp changes underway, and only a hint of delay when changing from Reverse to Drive and back.
What we like?
- Energetic engine
- Good safety features
- Not unattractive
What we don’t like?
- Ride quality isn’t quite up to expectations
- Eco drive mode saps enjoyment
The bottom line?
Kia’s Rio is no paradise city, rather it’s one that has reached its limit and needs expansion.
It’s not a terrible drive nor is it as sporting as it perhaps could be. A rejigged suspension tune and a better power to weight ratio (bigger engine, Kia) would move it from undercooked to a warmer experience.
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Kia Rio GT Line, priced from $24,990 driveaway
- Looks - 7/107/10
- Performance - 7/107/10
- Safety - 7.5/107.5/10
- Thirst - 8.5/108.5/10
- Practicality - 7.5/107.5/10
- Comfort - 7/107/10
- Tech - 7/107/10
- Value - 7.5/107.5/10