Kio Rio has new­found ma­tu­rity

The Star Early Edition - - NEW MODELS - JA­SON WOOSEY

BACK in 2011 Kia’s lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives were given the task of pre­dict­ing how many South Africans would want to buy the then-new, third-gen­er­a­tion Rio and, for the first year’s al­lo­ca­tion, they boldly or­dered ten times what the pre­vi­ous ver­sion had sold in its fi­nal year.

The South Kore­ans at HQ clearly thought our lo­cal lads were smok­ing their socks, and yet in the end it ac­tu­ally sold more than dou­ble that.

Since then Kia SA has gone on to sell over 7000 Rios a year on av­er­age and it’s also be­come one of the car­maker’s most pop­u­lar mod­els abroad. So a lot is rid­ing on the all­new, fourth-gen­er­a­tion Rio that you see here, which was launched to the South African me­dia in Jo­han­nes­burg last week.

The first thing you’ll no­tice is that Kia’s de­sign team has played it rather safe with the styling. You could cer­tainly ac­cuse it of be­ing con­ser­va­tive, but in my opin­ion it’s a pleas­ing kind of con­ser­va­tive, the dig­ni­fied, easy-on-the-eye, not-a-line-out-of-place kind that also seems to work well for car­mak­ers like Volk­swa­gen.

That new­found ma­tu­rity con­tin­ues in­side the cabin, where high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als and a sculpted de­sign cre­ate a more up­scale, even slightly sporty vibe, and the top half of the range gets an 18cm touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem that’s com­pat­i­ble with Ap­ple CarPlay and (sub­ject to it be­com­ing avail­able in SA) An­droid Auto.

The new Rio is 5mm lower than its pre­de­ces­sor but has grown 15mm in length, 10mm of that hav­ing gone into the wheel­base. Rear legroom is fairly am­ple and boot space has in­creased by 37 litres to what Kia calls a class-lead­ing 325 litres.

Kia won’t be of­fer­ing a sedan ver­sion of the new Rio, at least for now, as it’s not cur­rently avail­able in right-and drive. How­ever Kia is busy build­ing a new fac­tory in In­dia and it’s very likely that SA will be able to source RHD sedans from there when it comes on stream in 2019. The cur­rent sedan will con­tinue to be of­fered un­til at least the end of this year.

The new hatch is be­ing launched with two carry-over nor­mally as­pi­rated four-cylin­der petrol en­gines in the form of a 62kW/120Nm 1.25-litre and 74kW/135Nm 1.4. The smaller en­gine is mated to a five-speed man­ual gear­box only, while the larger unit can be had with ei­ther a six-speed man­ual or four-speed auto. While power is down slightly on their pre­de­ces­sors, there is more torque avail­able lower in the rev range.

I got to sam­ple a 1.4-litre man­ual model and the car felt pain­less to drive, and while en­gine per­for­mance felt per­fectly ad­e­quate for fast-paced city driv­ing, it’s not in the same league as the tur­bocharged en­gines that some of its ri­vals are of­fer­ing in this price range, par­tic­u­larly at al­ti­tude.

The cur­rent range does at least of­fer a good se­lec­tion of four trim grades. Even the ba­sic 1.2 LS of­fers air con­di­tion­ing, a four­s­peaker MP3/Aux/USB au­dio sys­tem linked to steer­ing wheel con­trols and fea­tur­ing Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity. The LS also comes with cen­tral lock­ing, elec­tric win­dows and mir­rors, and the steer­ing wheel is ad­justable for both height and reach.

Fea­tures like park as­sist, pro­jec­tor head­lights, LED tail­lights, leather seats, cruise con­trol, au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, and rain-sens­ing wipers are var­i­ously avail­able as you move up the range. All ver­sions come with a five-year un­lim­ited-kilo­me­tre war­ranty and four-year/60 000km ser­vice plan.

KIA RIO PRICES 1.2 LS 1.4 LX 1.4 LS auto 1.4 EX 1.4 EX auto 1.4 TEC 1.4 TEC auto R219 995 R234 995 R247 995 R249 995 R262 995 R274 995 R287 995

Non-turbo 1.2 and 1.4 en­gines are car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous Rio.

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