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