There has been a shuffling of standard equipment with big pluses and a couple of losses to balance the cost. The GT-Line, in a first for Rio, comes with autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist as standard, plus an ‘Idle Stop and Go’ system to help reduce emissions. Navigation, however, now requires mobile phone connection, instead of the excellent built-in system in the previous Si and SLi grades. Manual heating and air-conditioning controls also replace the more upmarket climate-control system. Less disappointing is the absence of the sunroof which was standard on the SLi.
Like the S, the Sport is powered by a 1.4-litre engine, still with the option of a six-speed manual, but the automatic is a conventional six-speed unit. It’s the smartly dressed GT Line that really steps up the pace with a more sophisticated 1.0-litre direct-injected, turbo-charged petrol engine driving the front wheels via Kia’s seven-speed automatic-shifting, dual-clutch transmission.
Although smaller in capacity, the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-charged engine produces a handy 88kW of power at 6300rpm and 172Nm of torque from 1500 through to 4000rpm. Having an extra 14kW and 39Nm not only means the GT-Line is quicker, but the broad spread of peak torque delivers much stronger driveability for everyday use.
In the past we’ve described the performance of the 1.4-litre Rio with its hard-working four-speed auto as lacklustre, but the extra grunt of the 1.0-litre turbo and additional gears puts it right up among the best of the mainstream models in its class. The GT-Line we drove coped easily with city and suburban traffic, cruised comfortably and had plenty in reserve for the hills or safe passing. Rio’s new stop-start function, however, wasn’t always as smooth as expected.
Not only is the GT-Line a more enjoyable drive, it also uses less fuel than the 1.4-litre versions under similar operating conditions. Official fuel consumption is 5.4L/100km, while on test, mainly around town, we averaged 7.8L/100km.
Kia’s Australian-tuned suspension has been a standout feature of the Rio for some time now and continues to deliver a good balance of surefooted handling, well-controlled ride and light, accurate steering. The brake pedal feel can be a little touchy and may take some familiarisation, but the system provides good stopping power.