Her name is Rio

No doubt about the looks. What about the per­for­mance?

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Shake Down - Words and Pho­tog­ra­phy by Ian Magbanua

Ah yes, hatch­backs and the ’80s. Rally su­per­stars like the Lan­cia Delta, the Re­nault 5 Turbo, the Audi Qu­at­tro, the Peu­geot 205 GTi and the MG Metro 6R4 dom­i­nated my child­hood dreams back then. Throw in the Toy­ota KP61 Star­let plus the en­dur­ing and en­dear­ing Volk­swa­gen Golf, and you’re guar­an­teed to have a life-long love af­fair with hatch­backs.

The pre­vi­ous Kia Rio pretty much had my at­ten­tion (ob­ses­sion was more like it) when it first came out—a far cry from the first two gen­er­a­tions. It was a bold new de­sign for the model line, and with hints of both the MkV Golf and the Seat Leon, it seemed like it had skipped a gen­er­a­tion or two in the looks de­part­ment. Now, with the all-new Rio, the ex­cite­ment is present once more. Traces of the Golf and the Leon re­main, but they work, and very well at that. Ku­dos again, Peter Schreyer.

The car has looks that you know will age well. There’s a nice flow of lines and an­gles that come to­gether to form bal­anced pro­por­tions, as well as a more chis­eled and de­fined ap­pear­ance. This top GL vari­ant gets halo­gen head­lamps cra­dled by hand­some U-shaped LED DRLS. The at­trac­tive tail­lights are LED units as well.

Con­ve­nience comes in the form of key­less en­try, an en­gine start/stop but­ton, ad­justable head­lamps, halo­gen turn-as­sist light­ing, rain-sens­ing wipers, and an auto head­lamp mode (leave it in Auto to get courtesy light­ing as you leave or approach the car). On the GL, you’ll also find heated, power-ad­justable, and power-fold­ing side mir­rors with turn in­di­ca­tors. A modern, fully au­to­matic climate-con­trol sys­tem is avail­able, too, as are ve­hi­cle cus­tomiza­tion set­tings so you can eas­ily per­son­al­ize your Rio ex­pe­ri­ence.

I feel that de­spite hav­ing only 99 horses un­der the hood, this Kia

sub­com­pact has po­ten­tial to be a fun drive. Un­for­tu­nately, the four-speed slush­box is too re­laxed and will quell any adren­a­line-fu­eled driv­ing crav­ings. The brakes are res­o­lute and highly ca­pa­ble, not­with­stand­ing the front­disc, rear-drum setup. On Manila roads, the sus­pen­sion and the 17in wheels, which are shod with Con­ti­nen­tal tires, per­form re­mark­ably. It’s all pretty well sorted out. There’s a sound, how­ever, which I’ll get into later. Safety fea­tures in­clude rear park­ing as­sist and ABS on the GL, but dual airbags only come with the au­to­matic vari­ants.

The in­te­rior is decked out in black fab­ric, with seats that are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive. The clean lines of the dash­board lead­ing down to the cen­tral climate con­trols are vis­ually en­gag­ing. Thanks to the Su­per­vi­sion clus­ter that also comes with a 3.5in info dis­play, every­thing you need to know at a glance is front and cen­ter. The steer­ing wheel is a beau­ti­ful, func­tional piece, although it looks like a hy­brid Mazda/Volk­swa­gen item. The mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem isn’t as fancy as that of other class fa­vorites, but it’s as func­tional as it gets. And maybe it’s just me, but I kinda like the late’90s Blaupunkt vibe. There’s Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity for mu­sic and and calls, a USB port for smart­phones and gad­gets, and an aux-in jack for the more old- school folk.

All that good­ness, how­ever, only throws a spot­light on the things that don’t quite make the cut. While NVH sup­pres­sion is pretty good, there’s a sound that per­me­ates the cabin from at 1,800-2,500rpm. It’s not loud nor in­tru­sive; more of a mi­nor nig­gle, There’s also a thud in the rear sus­pen­sion that sounds like a worn bush­ing or a loose bolt (it’s not the tools or the spare tire—I checked). Hope­fully, it’s an iso­lated is­sue with this test unit, which has clocked in 1,800km so far. And as men­tioned, this car re­ally needs a bet­ter trans­mis­sion. The four-speed au­to­matic gear­box is of two minds at times, with long ra­tios that make in­ef­fi­cient use of the al­ready mod­est en­gine power. Throw in a six-speed man­ual for this vari­ant, please.

On the one hand, we have what is in my opinion the best-look­ing hatch­back in its class to­day. The in­te­rior is a joy to sit in and ex­pe­ri­ence. It has its fair share of ex­cel­lent ap­point­ments that make the drive both fun and con­ve­nient. But on the other hand, it’s clear that both the mar­que and the model still have some ground to cover be­fore get­ting any­where near class lead­ers like the Toy­ota Vios/Yaris and the Honda City/ Jazz. More prod­uct plan­ning is needed, be­cause this en­gine-and-trans­mis­sion combo has al­ready re­ceived its fair share of re­views on the out­go­ing model.

That said, I think Blaise Pas­cal un­der­stood it best when he said, “The heart has rea­sons, of which rea­son knows noth­ing.” My in­fat­u­a­tion for the car wins out, de­spite protests from my in­ter­nal logic board. For the en­tire test pe­riod, I take any rea­son to get in the car and just drive away. I find my­self just ad­mir­ing it. You see, some­times we pur­chase a car not sim­ply be­cause it fits the bud­get or has ex­cel­lent fea­tures. Some­times, it’s enough that we want some­thing so bad, with­out fully un­der­stand­ing why. Af­ter all, the heart wants what it wants.

The best-look­ing hatch­back in its class? Eas­ily

It was de­signed in Cal­i­for­nia and Ger­many

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