Weekend Courier - - Driveway - Bill Buys

YOU score a date with your Miss World, take her to a restau­rant of note and ev­ery­thing is just dandy un­til the sur­prise dessert ar­rives; and it turns out to be a small tub of yo­ghurt.

That sort of sce­nario came to mind when we drove the lat­est Kia Rio, a beau­ti­fully built and styled hatch, all new from front to back, but with a dis­ap­point­ing en­gine un­der its shapely, so-called Tiger snoot.

The Rios – there are three of them – are slightly big­ger, bet­ter equipped and pret­tier than last year's mod­els, and the good news is prices have not risen.

The S, the sole one with man­ual trans­mis­sion, is still $16,990 and there's a $2100 op­tion of a four­speed auto, while the Si, at $21,490, and the $22,990 SLi have the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion as stan­dard.

All have a colour 7-inch tablet­style touch­screen with a re­verse cam­era, dig­i­tal ra­dio, and Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto.

Our SLI also sported leather trim, cli­mate con­trol, a sun­roof, LEDs, smart-look­ing 16-inch al­loys, cruise con­trol, auto-on lights and wipers, and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion.

Other handy items in­clude a USB port and 12V socket in the front and an­other USB for rear seat pas­sen­gers.

The thick-rimmed steer­ing wheel is tilt and reach-ad­justable and the driver gets well looked af­ter with clear in­stru­men­ta­tion, in­clud­ing a very wel­come dig­i­tal speedo.

Safety-wise, it has six airbags, the usual suite of elec­tronic driver aids and the re­verse cam­era is backed up by rear park sen­sors. It also has a stronger floor­pan.

It’s cer­tainly a good-look­ing car, with a wider, stur­dier stance and an attractive grille, and the in­te­rior qual­ity has been stepped up.

There's good seat­ing front and rear, with lots of head­room, though rear legroom is a bit tight and the cargo area's a tad big­ger.

More stor­age is avail­able on an un­der-dash shelf, a con­sole bin and in the glove­box, and the door lin­ings are shaped to ac­cept bot­tles.

Kia has long made a point of tun­ing the sus­pen­sion of its prod­ucts to Aus­tralian roads and the lat­est Rio is an­other ex­am­ple of that good work.

It gives a fir­mish, com­fort­able ride and has an ex­cel­lent steer­ing.

It would be a joy­ous thing to drive but for its out­dated en­gine and trans­mis­sion.

Last year, the Rios could be had with a 1.6litre mo­tor and six-speed auto, but the brand has in­ex­pli­ca­bly opted for the 1.4litre mo­tor and four-speed auto, and the 1.4 from last year's base model has been de­tuned to 74kW in a bid for bet­ter fuel econ­omy and fewer emis­sions.

The car runs quite well around town, but power drops off as soon as it sees a hill.

Fuel econ­omy is rated at 6.2litres/100km, but we couldn't come within cooee of that, no mat­ter how much we pussy­footed the ac­cel­er­a­tor. Our av­er­age was 7.4. The Rio does, how­ever, come with the in­dus­try's long­est war­ranty: seven years.

A stylish, welle­quipped city car, if you live in or close to the city.

The new Rio has the 'Tiger nose' but not the snarl. Ver­dict:

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