Mini isn’t too tinny
1 Looks can be deceiving
The entry model may look just like its more expensive siblings but it has a smaller 1.4litre engine and comes standard with a 6-speed manual. The auto is $2000 and is an oldschool four-speed when some rivals have six-speeds. Rear doors bump the price up $1000 and the alloys that came with our test vehicle are part of a Premium kit that costs another $700 and includes fog lights, cruise control, height adjustable seat belts, electric folding side mirrors with turn indicators and two extra speakers. Pick the Premium for the cruise control, especially if you spend a lot of time on the motorway.
2 Size isn’t everything
The 1.4-litre engine actually goes well and will return about 7.0L/100km in the real world. But the four-speed auto comes with the usual issues, in that it’s not as sharp and spends time hunting between gears. It’s liveable, though. If you want more sizzle the Si model is worth considering. For another $1800 you get five doors and a larger, more sophisticated 1.6litre engine that’s more powerful and more economical. Si also comes with the 6-speed auto as standard, together with larger alloys and other goodies. 3 No camera is backward thinking Rio had an update early last year. Style is of course a personal thing but we’re not huge fans of the new rear bumper treatment with its acres of black plastic. The bigger issue is no reverse camera or parking sensors of any kind. It won’t be long before a camera becomes mandatory for a car to qualify for a five-star safety tag — that time can’t come soon enough.
4 There’s no sporty version
Kia canned its Proceed GT hot hatch a few months ago. The two-door turbo Koup is still available, from $28,990 but that leaves some room for a cheaper performance hatch to take on the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST. It’s been suggested a sporty three-door Rio with a turbo could fit the bill and Kia execs overseas have done nothing to kill the rumours. No comment from Kia in Australia though. 5 A new one’s on the way With an all new, fourth generation Rio coming early next year, there will be some sharp runout deals offered, but it’s still worth shopping them against sister brand Hyundai. The closest thing it has to a Rio is the Accent, fitted with the same engines and transmissions. At the moment a five-door Accent costs the same as the three-door Rio, both with an auto. Hyundai’s smaller i20 was recently dumped from the lineup.