Rio is Kia’s largest-selling vehicle, accounting for 16 per cent of annual sales, and this 2017, fourth-generation Rio steps up in design, convenience features and presentation, while retaining Kia’s renowned seven-year warranty, roadside assist and capped-price servicing.
The reworked body architecture, with marginal increases in length and width plus a lower roofline, give Rio a sleeker, more mature appearance. Inside, the presentation is first class, especially the higher-spec versions with premium trim, multi-function steering wheel and instrument cluster. Assembly finish is outstanding, and the new body has more than 50 per cent high-tensile steel for improved structure and noise suppression. Even the top-spec SLi is built light at just 1162 kilograms, and as such we noted a lack of panel sound deadening and that metallic ring when shutting the door, and the extensive use of hard plastics inside which are prone to vibration buzzing.
Drivers do, however, get a particularly nice presentation at the wheel. The steering adjusts for reach and tilt, and well-contoured front seats provide good support despite lacking lumbar adjustment. Outward vision has also been improved with thinner C-pillars and relocated door mirrors to minimise blind spots. Better cabin space comes via a slightly longer wheelbase, stretched bodywork and subtle modifications to the interior trim. There’s more leg and shoulder room up front, and a sizeable increase in load space and versatility, with a 60/40 split-fold rear seat and, unfortunately, a space-saver spare wheel. Dominating the centre dashboard is a seven-inch touch-screen, standard on all models, and clear, well-thought-out switch gear.
Connectivity is a feature of the new car, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MP3 and digital radio in all models. The Si and SLi versions have one of the best satellite navigation systems we have used.
All models use a 1.4-litre, DOHC, 16-valve petrol engine and, apart from the entry-level S model which can be optioned with a six-speed manual, they use a conventional four-speed automatic transmission.
Without a turbo-charger, this small engine needs to be operating in the higher rev range to deliver respectable power and torque figures, which is at odds with the older four-speed automatic that trends towards selecting higher gears for fuel economy and smoothness. This is rarely an issue around town or on open flowing roads where Rio performs comfortably. But on any decent hill or when overtaking, the lack of pulling power and the wide steps between gears results in an uncomfortable hesitation as you press the accelerator, followed by a noisy rush as the auto kicks down to get the engine into its pulling zone, around 4000 revs.
The three-model range starts with the S manual at $16,990 (plus on-road costs) and the auto for $19,090. For the moment Kia is marketing a special drive-away price of just $17,490 for the S auto. The manual S, the Si at $21,490 and the SLi for $22,990 have not yet received the on-road deal. All variants have six airbags and a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
KIA RIO SLi
Price: $22,990 plus ORC; premium paint $520
Engine: 1368cc in line four
Power: 74kW @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 133Nm @ 4,000rpm
Transmission/drive: 4-speed auto/front
Tyres: 195/55 R16
Spare wheel: Space saver/steel
Kerb weight: 1,162kg
Fuel consumption RACV: 6.6 L/100km
GVG: 6.2 L/100km
Co2 emissions: 145g/km
Fuel tank capacity: 45 litres
ABS and ESC
Five-star ANCAP/six airbags
Parking sensor display
Auto lights and wipers
ISOFIX child seat mounting
7” LCD touch screen
Apple Carplay and Android Auto
Climate control air-conditioning