Rios through the years

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Kia Rio -

Kia Pride/Ford Fes­tiva/Mazda 121 (1993 to 2000)

Co-de­vel­oped with Ford and Mazda, the Pride fea­tured Mazda-sourced B-se­ries en­gines and boxy styling. It was avail­able in three-, four- and five-door (CD5) form. While not in­de­struc­tible, you could main­tain a brace of Pride taxis for the same cost as a sin­gle Corolla.

Kia Rio (DC, 2000 to 2005)

The Rio that re­placed the Pride was a cute, stylish small sedan that was also avail­able in wagon form. These were the last to use Mazda en­gines and tech­nol­ogy.

Kia Rio (JB, 2005 to 2011)

Built on a plat­form shared with the Hyundai Ac­cent, this Rio was only avail­able lo­cally with a 1.4-liter gaso­line en­gine, de­spite Hyundai of­fer­ing the Ac­cent with a more po­tent 1.5-liter tur­bod­iesel. The wagon vari­ant was shorter and sportier this time around, but a bit dearer than the sedan, which saw mod­est suc­cess as a taxi.

Kia Rio (UB, 2012-2016)

The Peter Schreyer-re­designed Rio was sporty, mus­cu­lar, and com­pact. The 1.4-liter Gamma en­gine was stan­dard across the range, but a taxi vari­ant with the rorty lit­tle 1.2-liter Kappa en­gine soon fol­lowed.

taxi than the Hyundai Ac­cent with which it shared plat­forms. The 2012 Rio that fol­lowed was a quan­tum leap in style and re­fine­ment— some­thing this 2017 model builds upon nicely. While the Ac­cent has fully em­braced its no-frills diesel taxi rep­u­ta­tion, the Rio takes the high road, of­fer­ing agility, re­fine­ment, and style.

I’d trade a lit­tle bit of style, how­ever, for the ‘base’ Rio SL with its 15in wheels and six-speed man­ual gear­box. Our GL tester has the same 98hp 1.4-liter vari­able-valve-equipped en­gine, but the four-speed slush­box does lit­tle to flat­ter it. Sec­ond gear is good for over 100kph, third for 170kph, and fourth for an as­ton­ish­ing 240kph. A speed that the 1.4-liter Rio could never reach. Else­where in the world, the model gets a more fru­gal 1.4-liter diesel as well as a 1.0-liter tur­bocharged gaso­line good for 120hp and a sub-10sec sprint to 100kph. Here? No such luck.

Thank­fully, the Rio’s toys and re­fine­ment make up for its lack in the trousers depart­ment. That four-speed au­to­matic idles along at a few ticks over 2,000rpm at 80kph. Even with its new­found agility and firm damp­ing, the ul­tra-stiff chas­sis takes the sharp edge off bumps and ruts eas­ily. While the tires hum oddly over paint stripes, noise sup­pres­sion over­all is com­mend­able.

De­spite the lack of a fancy touch­screen, the six-speaker au­dio sys­tem fills this silent void with sweet mu­sic, piped in via Blue­tooth. It may lack that last bit of oomph, but it’s pretty good none­the­less. Sync your phone, flip through your playlist via the steer­ing-wheel-mounted au­dio con­trols, set the cruise con­trol, and en­joy hours of re­laxed cruis­ing. And once off the high­way, the Rio is a co­coon of quiet (or mu­sic-filled, if you pre­fer) soli­tude in chaotic rush-hour traf­fic. At night, the dual-func­tion head­lamps light up the side of your car in turns, while park­ing sen­sors help guide you into tight dark spots.

None of these fea­tures were on the 2006 Rio, which was as bare-bones as it could get. But its suc­ces­sor has evolved into a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to the com­mon Ja­panese car, sit­ting com­fort­ably at the sharp end of a crowded class. While it could use a lit­tle more power, there are pre­cious few com­peti­tors as good to drive as this. And fewer still that are any­where near as good-look­ing. In fact, I’d say this is the best-look­ing car in its class to­day, bar none.

Now, about that turbo op­tion...

‘I’d say that this is the best-look­ing car in its class to­day’

The funky de­tails add some flash to the comfy cabin

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