KIA RIO Si
The Rio brings a lot to the party mechanically but not in features. This generation of Rio doesn’t get a touchscreen and the radio and digital driver’s display are in old-school calculator red. There are 17inch alloys and cruise control and the Bluetooth connects readily. In the conventional Korean cabin, build quality and (most) plastics and switchgear look and feel premium. Leading seven-year warranty pairs with seven years’ annual servicing at about $2400 all up.
Still no turbos among Rios. Nothing wrong with the direct-injection 1.6-litre but, as it needs to rev harder than the Clio to do its best, it feels slower — and sounds thrashier — when pressed to perform from a standing start. It is more flexible on the move, thanks to a smooth six-speed auto that will drop a couple of cogs when provoked. Official fuel use is 5.4L/100km; Carsguide got 6.7L.
Smart but no standout. The recent refresh gives a distinctive appearance with a narrow-nosed grille and deeply straked air inlets. Same can’t be said for the generic hatch rear. The inside is spacious and the Kia feels more grown-up than the Clio, albeit with more subdued palette of trim options.
The Rio comes with six airbags and five ANCAP stars. It was rated at 34.99/37, having lost a full point when a rear door was found not to be fully latched after the side-impact test.
Default driving is the Rio’s reason for being. It is inoffensive and responsive on the school run or the suburban slalom. Wind up the four-cylinder and it is an enthusiastic amateur. The suspension rightly favours city commutes over country crusades, so it is genuinely supple around town with progressive roll as the pace picks up. It doesn’t set the world on fire but does the job capably. The switchgear feels good but is decidedly old-fashioned. All-round vision is good but a reversing camera would be reassuring.
VERDICT Conventional and less controversial, the Rio does all things for all folks, right up to carrying four in comfort and safety. That gives it the edge in this
contest, even without the touchy-feely bits.