Kia Rio

New Rio is small but well formed, com­ments Damien O’car­roll.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

While the cars in the light seg­ment may be lit­tle, the sales num­bers are not so lit­tle, with the light car seg­ment be­ing the sec­ond largest in the pas­sen­ger car sales charts by quite some mar­gin, with a 28 per­cent slice of the mar­ket, com­pared to medium cars with 14 per­cent and large cars with an ever de­creas­ing eight per­cent. Of course, SUVS still dom­i­nate in first place with a whop­ping 39 per­cent share of sales.

But de­spite their over­whelm­ing pop­u­lar­ity, an SUV won’t suit ev­ery­one’s needs and there is still clearly a de­cent de­mand for small city cars, and that is where Kia’s new Rio comes in – it has been a strong seller for the Korean com­pany in pre­vi­ous forms, and the com­pany hopes to build on that suc­cess with the new model it has just launched here. The all-new Rio comes to New Zealand in three forms – LX, EX and the new LTD – with a choice of man­ual or au­to­matic trans­mis­sions in the LX, while the EX and LTD are auto only.

The LX costs $22,490 for the man­ual and $23,490 for the au­to­matic. The EX costs $25,490, while the LTD lands at $26,990. All mod­els of Rio are pow­ered by the same 1.4-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine that pro­duces 74kw of power and 133Nm of torque and, while the man­ual trans­mis­sion is a six-speeder, the au­to­matic is only a four­speed unit. The LX comes stan­dard with 15-inch al­loy wheels, key­less en­try, a 7-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Carplay, a re­vers­ing cam­era and rear park­ing sen­sors, cruise con­trol and hill-start as­sist.

The EX adds 16-inch al­loy wheels, pro­jec­tion head­lights with cor­ner­ing lights, LED day­time run­ning lights, LED tail lights, ex­te­rior chrome trim, push but­ton start, cli­mate con­trol, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and rain sens­ing wipers.

The new LTD trim adds 17-inch ma­chine-fin­ish al­loy wheels, pri­vacy glass, ar­ti­fi­cial leather up­hol­stery and dash trim and al­loy ped­als.

While the Kia Rio shares the same en­gine and trans­mis­sion as the Hyundai i20, both feel far live­lier in the Rio, with the trans­mis­sion hap­pier to kick down than in the i20.

Hooked up to the man­ual trans­mis­sion, the Rio’s en­gine seems even more ea­ger and the trans­mis­sion has a nice feel and a good shift ac­tion, while the clutch is nicely light, yet still also nicely pro­gres­sive. The Rio’s chas­sis is a thing of sur­pris­ingly broad abil­ity, with an im­pres­sive big­ger-car ride al­loyed to nim­ble and ag­ile han­dling.

The nose turns nicely into cor­ners in re­sponse to in­put through the pleas­antly weighted and de­cently com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing and the Rio felt nicely com­posed, even over rough sur­faces.

How­ever, what­ever way Kia chooses to jus­tify it, a four-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion sim­ply isn’t good enough these days. While it isn’t too bad around town – and works bet­ter than the same trans­mis­sion in the Hyundai i20 – out on the open road its lack of ra­tios quickly be­comes ap­par­ent.

That said, the Kia Rio is an ex­cep­tion­ally well-equipped car at a sharp price. It hand­ily out­does its Hyundai i20 cousin in terms of equip­ment and pric­ing, if not quite in build qual­ity and ma­te­ri­als.

The avail­abil­ity of a man­ual is a bonus, but the whole pack­age is ac­tu­ally a rather im­pres­sive one.

Kia’s pre­dicts it will sell 700 Rios in the next year (an in­crease of 20 per­cent), and to us that would seem more than rea­son­able. Even with a four-speeder.

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