The second-generation of Kia’s mid-size Rio hatchback first reached New Zealand back in 2006 arriving as a capable and modern option for the budget conscious driver. But the Kiwi love affair with the hatchback meant competition was fierce and the plucky Korean compact didn’t stay new for too long. For 2010 the Rio has been given a facelift and a new lease on life, but will this be enough to iron out the wrinkles on this ageing model. Car and SUV spent a week with the reworked Rio to find out more.
As the latest vehicle to be updated in the Kia range the Rio receives the new corporate tiger-nose grille. That’s just the centrepiece of a completely restyled front end that incorporates a more aggressive front bumper with a gaping lower air dam and more pronounced fog lamps. The headlights are also new and use a split two-light design. It’s all very tidy along the sides with body coloured mouldings, door handles, a curved window line and wing mirror mounted indicators. At the rear a new bumper with a black plastic diffuser surrounds a chrome-finished exhaust tip. Completing the clean-cut look are eight-spoke 15-inch alloys and a subtle high-mounted hatch spoiler.
Inside the cabin there’s a lot to like with a new textured dashboard that mixes grey and black plastics with bright orange illumination. There’s nothing dated about the cabin looks or the functionality, with all switchgear wrapped around the driver and close to hand. The centre stack has curved sections separating audio and climate controls with stereo buttons repeated on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. The six-speaker CD stereo is a feature with a decent sound quality and full iPod integration through a supplied auxiliary cable. Other standard equipment includes climate air conditioning, trip computer, remote central locking and power windows front and back. The cloth seats are comfortable but could use a touch more lateral support and thanks to the flattish roofline headroom is ample for all passengers. Luggage capacity isn’t bad in the hatch with 270-litres available expanding to an impressive 1145-litres when the 60:40 split rear seat is folded down.
Under the Rio’s bonnet lays Kia’s 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine. This CVVT (Constantly Variable Valve Timing) motor produces 82kW of power and 145Nm of torque. While this isn’t a lot, it’s just enough to give the lightweight Rio a little pep. It feels most comfortable around town and does require foot-to-the-floor treatment on motorway on-ramps or during open road passing, but it will always get there. However, it’s not the most refined small engine around and it can sound coarse under heavy load.
For the NZ market the petrol powered Rio’s engine is exclusively mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Despite not having a fifth gear ratio it allows the Rio to return a respectable 6.8l/100km fuel economy. The auto box isn’t the latest in transmission technology but does work the engine hard with swift, well-timed shifts. There is no sequential manual change option or ‘sports mode’ just the old fashioned ‘2’ and ‘L’ ratios – useful for navigating hilly terrain.
If a dated powertrain is the Rio’s weakness then handling capabilities are its strength. It feels well planted on the road and stays nimble when changing direction rapidly. Pushing the Rio through corners poses no problems with its light, crisp steering and predictable body roll. It also stops firmly by using a strong ventilated disc brake system. The suspension is quite firm and during regular driving the cabin is comfortable, but on coarse or broken surfaces small shudders are too easily sent through the car. The steering is light but precise and overall the Rio is a pushover to control in urban and open road environments.
Safety features are excellent for a car at this price point with an Electronic Stability Programme included as standard. There are front, side and curtain airbags and ABS braking with EBD. The Kia Rio might not make any ‘most stolen’ lists but just in case an alarm and immobiliser are factory fitted.
So what’s the verdict on the 2010 Kia Rio?
It’s undergone a very successful facelift, with the changes making a substantial difference particularly in terms of exterior looks and interior functionality. Under the surface the engine and 4-speed gearbox do feel like old technology but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with either. With a $24,990 price tag the Rio makes for a tempting prospect and comes with Kia’s 5-year/100,000km warranty programme. For the budget conscious buyer looking for a practical hatchback the Rio is still worth a look.
What we like:
- Interior functionality
- Sharp handling
- Safety spec
What we don’t like:
- Dated powertrain
- No petrol manual option
- Hard suspension
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Other reviews of interest (click link):
Kia Rio EX (2010) – Specifications
Engine type 1.6L DOHC CVVT Petrol
Displacement (cc) 1599 cc
Compression ratio 10:3
Max. power 82 kW @ 6000 rpm
Max. torque 145 Nm @ 4500 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 6.8L / 100km
Co2 emissions (g/km) 165
Gear Box 4 Speed Automatic
Front suspension MacPherson Strut
Rear suspension Torsion Beam
Tyres 195/55 R15
Braking system Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
Overall length 3990 mm
Overall width 1695 mm
Overall height 1470 mm
Wheelbase 2500 mm
Min. ground clearance 155 mm
Kerb weight min. / max 1281 kg
Luggage capacity (seat up / seat folding) 270 / 1145 litres
Fuel tank capacity 45 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 453
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 800
To find out more about the Kia Rio, click here to visit the Kia NZ website.