LITTLE CAR HAS BIG IMPACT
KIA RIO LOOMS LARGE IN THE SMALL CAR MARKET
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 from 15 manufacturavailable ers, 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 interior gets a new style centhe tre 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 shift action and relativesmooth ly 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 round, unlike many competiall tors, which have drum rear brakes.
Kia takes its cars out into the Aussie countryside with a bunch of suspension parts, laptops and to get the ride/hanengineers dling right.
The process works a treat with the Rio ahead of most rivals in this area.
The test car had a reasonable of kit including aircondiamount trip computer, Bluetioning, tooth phone and audio, multiple steering wheel audio, comtrip
puter and phone controls, 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 scale – thanks to its dynamthe ics 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
The Rio S adds up to a good value package.