LIT­TLE CAR HAS BIG IM­PACT

KIA RIO LOOMS LARGE IN THE SMALL CAR MAR­KET

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Driveway - Peter Barn­well

PLENTY of new car choices are avail­able for un­der $20,000 on the road, but pretty much all are in the light car or smaller mi­cro car seg­ments.

In to­tal, some 26 mod­els are avail­able from 15 man­u­fac­tur­ers, which gives con­sumers a wide se­lec­tion to choose from.

Of­fer­ings come from all quar­ters: In­dia, Thai­land, Ja­pan, Korea and Europe, with the lion's share of sales go­ing to Mazda2 and Toy­ota Yaris, with Hyundai's i20 and Suzuki's Swift on the scent.

Kia is in there too with the Rio, ar­guably one of the bet­ter look­ers in the seg­ment and priced from an af­ford­able $15,990 plus on roads, which takes it to about $18,000 drive away.

We were in­ter­ested in the bot­tom dollar car – the one that, on price alone, would get the buyer through a Kia dealer's door.

We couldn't ac­tu­ally do that be­cause the ab­so­lute base model wasn't avail­able, so we drove the next one up – the five door, man­ual, Rio S hatch that sells for $16,990 plus on roads.

Kia re­cently fresh­ened Rio, adding some kit and fid­dling the model range, adding some more choices.

Rio's sporty style has been en­hanced with a re­vised bumper, grille and other mi­nor body hard­ware changes while the in­te­rior gets a new style cen­tre fas­cia, au­dio unit de­sign and metal­lic high­lights.

Not much, but enough to stay in the race in the face of a new gen­er­a­tion Mazda2, Honda Jazz and re­vised Yaris.

The Rio S is pow­ered by a 1.4litre, fuel in­jected, four-cylin­der petrol en­gine that achieves 79kW/135Nm. If you want the di­rect in­jec­tion en­gine, you'll have to go for the 1.6-litre car at sig­nif­i­cantly more money.

It also gets an op­tional sixspeed auto whereas the 1.4 en­gine makes do with an old school four-speed auto.

The man­ual across all Rio vari­ants is a six-speeder of­fer­ing a smooth shift ac­tion and rel­a­tively closely spaced gear ra­tios.

It needs them in the 1.4 be­cause en­gine per­for­mance is OK as long as you are pre­pared to work the gear­box.

Fuel econ­omy is a claimed 5.7-litres/100km, a fig­ure we got close to on test and it runs on regular un­leaded.

Kia Australia takes great pains to give its cars a sporty 'Euro' feel on the road and such is the case here, with the Rio S de­liv­er­ing a sporty ride with a de­cent level of com­fort and con­trol. The same ap­plies to the car's steer­ing and over­all dy­nam­ics and it has disc brakes all round, un­like many com­peti­tors, which have drum rear brakes.

Kia takes its cars out into the Aussie coun­try­side with a bunch of sus­pen­sion parts, lap­tops and en­gi­neers to get the ride/han­dling right.

The process works a treat with the Rio ahead of most ri­vals in this area.

The test car had a rea­son­able amount of kit in­clud­ing air­con­di­tion­ing, trip com­puter, Blue­tooth phone and au­dio, mul­ti­ple steer­ing wheel au­dio, trip com­puter and phone

con- trols, hill start as­sist, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, gear shift in­di­ca­tor, rea­son­able seats and a 60/40 fold­ing rear pew.

Hap­pily, the Rio has a full size spare, which isn't matched by many of its com­peti­tors.

It scores a five-star crash rat­ing with all that brings. Rio is OK on the road, at the bet­ter end of the scale – thanks to its dy­nam­ics but is no fire­cracker.

The si­lent at idle en­gine is 'ad­e­quate' and when you put the foot down, you get more noise and a bit more ac­cel­er­a­tion.

We like the look of the Rio with its dis­tinct Euro­pean lines set­ting it apart from most of the com­pe­ti­tion. Rio is a hand­some lit­tle beast from all an­gles and is ac­cept­ably mod­ern in­side even though there's too much hard grey plas­tic.

Ver­dict: A bit more go from the 1.4-litre en­gine would be wel­come but as it is, the price, war­ranty, capped price ser­vic­ing drive feel and look of the car are hard to re­sist.

The Rio S adds up to a good value pack­age.

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