Room to rumba
The good-looking Rio topped the small-car field with space, safety gear and warranty
KIA took only a short time to garner respect for its well-built, reliable and impressive range.
The fourth-generation Rio was so well received it went straight to the top of the small car tree for most motoring media after its 2011 launch.
The new Rio was not only good looking but was also a tad larger than the model it replaced, being 20mm longer and 25mm wider and with a 70mm longer wheelbase.
That added up to a roomier cabin with more passenger space and a larger boot.
Kia built three body styles — three- and five-door hatches and a four-door sedan — in trim ranging from entry level S to mid-range Si with a bit more gear and the range-topping SLi with even more equipment.
There were two fourcylinder engines, a 1.4-litre that could only be described as adequate and a direct-injection 1.6-litre, a much more attractive proposition with better driveability and still decent fuel economy.
Making the case for the 1.6-litre even more compelling is that it comes with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Those who chose the 1.4-litre were lumped with a four-speeder. Of course those who didn’t want an automatic could always tick the box for a six-speed manual, although not many did.
The great news was all models in the range received a five-star safety tick from ANCAP for its six airbags and electronic stability control.
On the road the Rio was impressively refined and comfortable for a small car. It had a positive feel with a reassuring balance and wasn’t upset by less than perfect roads it encountered.
The five-year, unlimited kilometres warranty was a big factor in people considering a Kia, including a Rio. That means only the oldest of this series will be at the end of the warranty period, and the majority will still have some time to run. With the warranty transferable to a new owner, anyone buying a used example now can do so with confidence of some cover.
The attractive warranty can also be taken as a measure of the confidence the company had in its cars, which appears to be backed up by the experience of the Rio owners we consulted.
None complained of any defects or problems that might be attributed to poor design or build quality. All were content with the overall performance, and were happy to say so.
The most common complaint was from owners with the 1.4-litre/four-speed auto drvietrain, who would have liked more performance.
In the past Kia was plagued by build quality issues, most of them electric related. This series Rio is part of a new generation of better-built cars though it’s worth making a thorough check of the car to make sure all switches and circuits are working.
As always check for a service record to make sure your car has been maintained as per Kia’s recommendation. It could be even more important if you want to transfer the remaining warranty. Kia might be reluctant to roll over the warranty on a car that has a dubious service record.
Peter Eisfelder My wife’s Rio has done 38,000km and has not given us any trouble. She uses it almost daily for fairly short suburban trips but about once a year I’ll take the wheel for a longer journey. We are very happy with it. David Humphreys I’m a 71year-old retiree and the Rio suits me fine. It has nice wide door openings and plenty of storage and boot space, and the long warranty is very reassuring. It is comfortable, and very economical but I would like a bit more power. Overall, I’m very pleased.
Jean Jackson My Rio has had an intermittent misfire since new. It’s been back to the dealer a number of times but they haven’t been able to find the cause. I’m not happy.
Steve Molders The spark plugs were replaced in my Rio at 20,000km to cure the hardstarting and poor fuel economy. It’s now done 55,000km and it’s becoming hard to start again. The brakes were replaced at 45,000km, and the tyres will soon need replacing.
Ian Murphy The Rio is a brilliant little car. It’s roomy and comfortable. I have no complaints about mine at all.
Beaut little car you can buy with confidence.