Kia Rio Gets Major Updates

2021 Kia Rio 12

Kia has given its B-segment Rio hatchback a significant update which includes refined exterior styling, enhanced safety specification, new powertrain choices as well as featuring the brand’s first-ever mild-hybrid petrol derivative. 

The new 4th generation Kia Rio was introduced to South Africa in 2017 and Kia has now given its popular Rio a makeover in an effort to keep it relevant and competitive against rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Nissan Micra and Renault Clio, to name a few. 

Let’s take a closer look…

What’s Changed? 

Exterior and interior styling 


A fresh face and new wheels make all the difference...

The latest Kia Rio wears a revised ‘Tiger-nose’ grille as well as a lower and wider front bumper which houses new fog lamp bezels. All Rio derivatives are also fitted with new LED headlights with integrated Daytime Running Lights (DRLs). Kia has also added 2 new exterior colours to the mix and these include Perennial Grey and Sporty Blue, giving customers a choice of 9 colours in total (depending on specification and market). Furthermore, the updated Rio rides on new 16-inch alloy wheels with an 8-spoke design. 

On the inside, the major update comes in the form of a new and larger 8.0-inch infotainment system (which includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality) as well as a new 4.2-inch digital display in the instrument cluster. Kia is also offering some added customisation options such as a new blue colour pack which includes coloured side bolsters, dashboard trim and armrests with contrasting stitching. GT-Line derivatives can also be had with a black interior but with white piping, contrasting stitching and a carbon-fibre effect dashboard for some added sporty flair. The driver’s seat is also now adjustable for height (optional for passenger seat) which should make it easier to find the best driving position. 

Engine choices


The Rio is the first Kia to feature a mild-hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) powertrain.

The big news for the updated Kia Rio is that the range welcomes the brand’s first mild-hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) powertrain to the range. Called, ‘EcoDynamics+’, this new powertrain combines a new ‘Smartstream’ 1.0-litre turbopetrol engine with Kia’s 48V MHEV system with the aim of improving efficiency while providing electric torque assistance and regenerative braking. 

This powertrain is said to replace the previous Kappa engine offerings but still produces the same power outputs of 74 kW and 88 kW, but now with supplementation of a compact 48-volt lithium-ion polymer battery and a new Mild-Hybrid Starter-Generator (MHSG) unit, torque output increases by as much as 16% in the 88 kW version which takes torque output up to 200 Nm. Kia says that CO2 emissions are reduced by between 8.1% and 10.7%. 

This powertrain will also be mated with the brand’s new ‘intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT) which adopts a ‘clutch-by-wire’ system (the clutch is electronically controlled) to aid fuel efficiency while retaining driver engagement. A drive mode select system will allow the driver to choose between modes such as Eco, Normal and Sport. Kia has also revised its Idle Stop & Go (ISG) system which is now brake-linked and the engine now switches off when both the brake and clutch are depressed when the comes to a stop. The engine starts up again when both pedals are released and gear is engaged (only the clutch was previously linked). 

The Rio will also be offered with a new 74 kW, 10-litre petrol engine as well as an updated, naturally-aspirated 1.2-litre petrol engine with 62 kW. A 6-speed manual transmission and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission will also be available to customers. Engine choices for South Africa have yet to be confirmed. 

Advanced Driving Assistance and safety features


A host of new driver assistance features makes its way into the updated Rio. SA specification yet to be confirmed. 

Kia has also bolstered the Rio’s driving and safety assistance systems which includes features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with pedestrian, vehicle and cyclist recognition, Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW) and Blind Spot Collision Warning (BCW). The above-mentioned FCA is also available with Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA), Intelligent Speed Limit Warning (ISLW), Smart Cruise Control (SCC) and Lane Following Assist (LFA).

Depending on conditions, LFA and Smart Cruise Control takes care of acceleration, braking and steering at speeds up to 180 kph and uses camera and radar technology to maintain a safe distance and to monitor road markings. Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA) and Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) is also fitted. 

The Rio is equipped with 6 airbags as well as Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and Straight-line Stability (SLS).

The above specifications are intended for the European market and it remains to be seen what features will make it to South Africa. 

The updated Kia Rio is expected to reach South Africa in Q4 of 2020 and local details pertaining to powertrain, transmissions, specification and pricing will be confirmed closer to launch.

Buy a Kia Rio on Cars.co.za

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