Kio Rio has newfound maturity
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.