Kia’s prize fighter Rio is the brand’s best-selling vehicle globally and has enjoyed much success in the local market with sales averaging over 200 units per month in 2014. The facelifted Kia Rio was introduced to market in February 2015 with some minor exterior and interior changes to keep it relative and competitive, but it faces serious competition in the B-segment from cars such as the Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio, Opel Corsa, Ford Fiesta and Mazda2.
Has Kia done enough with the updated Rio to take the fight to its competitors? We spent a week with the Kia Rio 1.4 Tec to see how it squares up in this segment.
Attractive StylingOne way to attract customers is to blow them away with attractive styling and Peter Schreyer, President and Chief Design Officer at Kia Motors, has done just that with this facelifted Rio. It’s difficult to deny the Rio’s good looks and it’s probably a big reason why it’s selling so well. This revised Rio comes with a re-worked ‘tiger-nose grille’ and a new front bumper with lower air intakes and fog lights which gives the Rio a bit of sporty flair. It also comes fitted with some snazzy-looking 17-inch alloy wheels which rounds off a good-looking offering.
Average InteriorStep inside the Kia Rio and you are met with a predominantly black interior with hard plastics dominating most surfaces. The interior layout is simple, neat and well put together. This facelifted model features chrome accents around the air vents as well as new piano black trim around the radio, which in the opinion of some reviewers, looks rather tacky as opposed to being perceived as being upmarket. The CD radio interface also appeared to be dated, which is disappointing. Overall, there’s not much to get excited about inside the Kia Rio as it seems to be rather ordinary.
This Kia Rio comes with a multifunction steering wheel with mounted audio and Bluetooth controls and the steering wheel is also height and reach adjustable. This particular model is fitted with comfortable leather seats and the driver’s seat is also height adjustable. There are also USB and Aux inputs for connecting devices.
In terms of space, the Kia Rio offers a fair amount and rear passengers will be happy with sufficient leg and head room. The centre rear passenger will however have to make do with a lap seatbelt which could be scary in an accident situation. Family orientated buyers will appreciate that the Rio comes fitted with rear ISOFIX child seat mounts. Boot space is in line with its competitors at 288-litres and expands to 923-litres with the rear seats folded flat. The loading sill is high though, which means you may pull a back muscle loading heavy items into the boot. This test unit also came fitted with an optional sunroof (R7 000) which brightens up the interior somewhat.
How does it drive?Our Kia Rio test unit is powered by a naturally aspirated 1.4-litre petrol engine that offers 79 kW and 135 Nm of torque driving the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission. In real terms, those figures are sufficient for your average daily runabout, but if you are looking for punchy performance, you won’t find it in the Rio. It soon became clear, that despite its sporty looks, the Rio’s performance is rather sedate and you really have to hammer the pedal to get the most out of it. A turbocharged engine in the Rio would offer more flexibility and make the drive that much more exciting. Thankfully, shifting through the gears is relatively smooth and comfortable, making the Rio an easy, fuss-free car to drive on a daily basis, albeit lacking in the power department.
At higher speeds the Rio copes well but due to the lack of tractability, overtaking requires a bit of planning and downshifting to access the necessary power. The suspension is also quite stiff which translates into a firm ride. As a result, the Kia Rio doesn’t deal with poor roads very well and imperfections are felt crashing into the cabin regularly. Fuel consumption is decent though with Kia claiming 6.4L/100km on the combined cycle. We managed to crack that claim with the trip computer showing 6.3L/100km at the end of our week with the car.
The Rio comes fitted with an impressive six airbags, ABS, EBD and rear park distance control, but that’s where the safety features end. Most of the Rio’s rivals, such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta, offer traction control and ESP, which puts the Rio on the back foot in terms of safety spec.
Kia Rio Hatchback Price in South AfricaThe Kia Rio 1.4 Tec manual on test here is priced from R216 995 excluding the sunroof (R7 000). The hatchback range starts with the Rio 1.2 which is priced from R179 995, while the standard Rio 1.4 comes in at R203 995. Prices include a 5-year/150 000km warranty as standard, as well as a 4-year/60 000km service plan.
VerdictThe Kia Rio won us over with its good looks, but excitement deflated the moment we stepped in for a drive. For a car that looks so pretty, we feel Kia could have done better with the interior execution as well as improving the ride quality. The Kia Rio, for some of us at least, is a firecracker that never sparked. Nevertheless, the Rio isn’t all bad as it offers decent space, a solid warranty and competitive pricing, which may be enough to keep buyers happy. The absence of ESP and traction control may be of concern to safety conscious buyers, especially when considering other cars in this segment have moved the game forward in this regard. If looks and warranty matter above all else, then the Rio may be for you.
This is an ultra competitive segment and even though the Kia Rio is well-built and affordable vehicle, it gets outgunned by its turbocharged rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo, Opel Corsa and Renault Clio. The new Mazda2 is also a seriously good car for a lot less money. Still, it offers a great warranty and will continue to sell in respectable numbers. - David Taylor
We like: Attractive styling, good warranty
We Don’t Like: Poor ride quality, sluggish engine, dated interior
Also Consider: Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2