Ready for the runout
Kia’s classy but ageing hatch gets a makeover to maintain appeal
AS people age, cosmetic surgery becomes more palatable. This approach is equally applicable to cars — midlife makeovers “freshen” a model to maintain its appeal among buyers.
Such is the case with the Kia Rio, our 2011 Car of The Year, which was nipped, tucked and launched at the Paris show with revised front and rear styling — and who doesn’t appreciate a nose job and butt lift? — plus a raft of technology upgrades.
The base versions will be here in late November, without many of the key enhancements, including engine stop-start and optional satnav.
Kia Australia spokesman Kevin Hepworth says prices for the enhanced package will increase a little. No surprises there, given the light car segment the Rio competes in is as price sensitive as a budget beer drinker — forget the brand, focus on the value.
That means the $16,290 Rio S five-door is unlikely to climb beyond $17,000. It should also encourage dealers to negotiate hard to shift the last of their existing stock.
Haggle as if you’re in an Asian street market and the baby Kia will be a bargain.
In standard guise the Rio S has a multi-point fuel-injected 1.4-litre engine and six-speed manual transmission (fourspeed auto adds $2000).
It is one of the more accommodating in its class and a pair of adults in the back will have little cause for complaint in terms of head or legroom. The boot is equally good at 288L, if not up to Honda Jazz standards.
On the road the Rio S is a good, if not great, drive. The engine is a willing performer but needs to be worked to extract decent acceleration. In auto guide, fuel consumption increases significantly.
In contrast the 1.6-litre Si model needs far less throttle to reach and maintain the speed limit and uses less fuel as a result. It can be paired with a six-speed auto, which doesn’t hurt either.
The 1.4-litre engine is also fractionally more expensive ($2432) than the 1.6-litre unit ($2383) to maintain over the life of the standard seven-year capped price servicing.
Dynamically the Rio is all you want in a light car. It’s no VW Polo or Ford Fiesta but has well-sorted suspension and a reassuringly solid chassis. It lacks a bit in steering feel but unerringly goes where it is pointed. The only real omission is cruise control, fast approaching mandatory status.
Occupant comfort was obviously a priority and the Rio is still one of the better vehicles to spend time in. The front seats are first rate, though larger drivers may find the bolsters push on their outer thighs (a small price for lateral support). The rear pews are also up to the job of avoiding butt and back fatigue on decent trips.
The Rio is still an attraction in this field even if it is no longer at the head of the pack. Don’t pay the list price and you’ll get a car that’s engaging enough to still impress for the duration of its seven-year warranty.