Kia Rio Ltd

A well-equipped small car that has an im­pres­sive ride.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

While sales of “tra­di­tional” cars in gen­eral are strug­gling un­der the mighty weight that is the mas­sive pop­u­lar­ity of the SUV, small city cars still make up a rel­a­tively healthy chunk of new car sales in New Zealand. Of course the Suzuki Swift ut­terly dom­i­nates the seg­ment, but there is enough de­mand to make the seg­ment one of in­ter­est to most main­stream man­u­fac­tur­ers, and Kia is no dif­fer­ent, hav­ing re­cently launched the lat­est in­car­na­tion of its chal­lenger in the seg­ment, the Rio. The LTD we test here sits at the top of­ten Rio range and comes stan­dard with 17-inch ma­chine-fin­ish al­loy wheels, pro­jec­tion head­lights with cor­ner­ing lights, LED day­time run­ning lights, LED tail­lights, ex­te­rior chrome trim, rain sens­ing wipers, pri­vacy glass, ar­ti­fi­cial leather up­hol­stery and dash trim, al­loy ped­als, key­less en­try and push but­ton start, cli­mate con­trol, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, 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 LTD is pow­ered by a 1.4-litre four­cylin­der petrol en­gine that pro­duces 74kw of power and 133Nm of torque, which is on the mod­est end of the spec­trum, but it is a will­ing and rel­a­tively flex­i­ble lit­tle unit. The big prob­lem comes from the trans­mis­sion it is hooked up to. For some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­son Kia has seen fit to sad­dle the Rio with a four-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. While this nugget of in­for­ma­tion may prompt you to check the cover of this mag­a­zine to see if you have picked up an is­sue from 1999, you can re­lax – you haven’t, Kia re­ally have gone old-school with the trans­mis­sion in the Rio. While the en­try level Rio can be had with a mod­ern six-speed man­ual, lit­er­ally no-one buys those in New Zealand, so the four- speed auto is the only choice as you move up through the range. While the trans­mis­sion – for some rea­son – per­forms bet­ter in the Rio than it does in the me­chan­i­cally iden­ti­cal Hyundai i20 (most likely due to the pro­gram­ming of the trans­mis­sion, as it seems far more ea­ger to kick down in the Rio), it is still a mas­sive im­ped­i­ment out on the open road where the Rio strug­gles to be in the right gear at the right time, sim­ply be­cause there aren’t enough of them for the Rio to ac­tu­ally have the right gear for the right time. Around town things get far more bear­able, as the trans­mis­sion’s lack of ra­tios is barely no­tice­able and it is a rel­a­tively swift shifter. Just stay around town and both you and the Rio will be happy. Head out of it, how­ever… Which is a mas­sive shame, be­cause the Rio’s chas­sis is pleas­ingly re­spon­sive and sur­pris­ingly ag­ile for a car in this seg­ment. It also boasts an im­pres­sive ride, feels nicely com­posed over seven rough sur­faces and has some pleas­antly weighted, de­cently com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing as well. The Rio LTD costs $26,990, which is rea­son­able for such a well-equipped small car that has an im­pres­sive ride, fun han­dling and hand­some looks, plus is well made and com­fort­able. But that four-speed auto re­ally just doesn’t do the rest of the car jus­tice at all.

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