Rios through the years
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