Kia Rio EX 2012 Review

Kia Rio EX 2012 Review

Long gone are the days when you can criticize a Kia for rubbish styling and dodgy mechanicals. Now they’re showing some of the Euros the way and the new Kia Rio aims to stay on the straight and narrow.

The Rio is a lot of car for your money. A piffling $25,790 for this top-spec Rio gets you an extensive list of safety features and internal accoutrements.

Interior storage is where the Rio shines. The enormous glovebox is more spacious than some inner city apartments. There’s a convenient rubber-lined space in the dash that’s perfect for a phone, a receptacle behind the gear stick, room for water bottles, plus a central binnacle.

The boot is sizable. too. It is very deep, and that does mean that the boot lip is relatively high. You can also split the rear seats. The total cargo area is a very reasonable 923 litres with the seats folded down, and 288 with them up.

As this is the top-of-the-line EX you get 195/55R16 tyres on 16-inch alloys. These ride well – not harsh at all – and set off the revised frontal treatment. A new feature at the front is the LED daytime running lights. The main headlights can be set to automatically come on, as can the rain-sensing windscreen wipers.

The multifunction steering wheel looks like it belongs in a more expensive car. You can control the stereo, cruise control, trip computer and Bluetooth-connected phone from buttons on the wheel. The trip computer gives average speed, average fuel economy, trip kilometers and more on an LCD in the middle of the instrument cluster.

The stereo is designed so you can see the frequencies relating to each of the stored programs – something that can be a bit of guesswork on some cars. I.e. you can see at a glance that program 4 is The Rock and program 5 is George, and so on. Plus, it comes with MP3/iPod integration.

The EX also gets a ‘supervision cluster’ so you can see who isn’t wearing seatbelts, auto light control (the headlights stay on for a short time after you’ve left the car to illuminate your walk up the driveway), climate control, and smart cornering lamps that illuminate to the side when you turn a corner.

After all this internal prowess, driving it, though, proved to be a slight disappointment. Press the accelerator and nothing happens. Initially I thought I’d accidentally locked it in a high gear, but no, that’s what 80kW and 137Nm of torque does: not much. The Rio mostly starts in second and nothing happens until 3000rpm, with peak torque at 4200rpm and peak power at 6300rpm. You have to plant your foot firmly, beyond the notch in the accelerator travel that overrides the cruise control, then it kicks down into first, more noise occurs and it’s capable of being reasonably brisk. It’s like there’s too big a gap between first and second gear. This will have been done to make the petrol as economical as possible. As a result the fuel economy is good – just 6.4l/100km, or 5.3 if you go for the cheaper Manual 1.4LX.

The rest of the driving experience was OK as long as you don’t push it too much. A rainy drive through the Hunua’s exposed its main flaws – no get-up-and-go out of the corners unless you put it in the sequential manual mode, and it’s a little bit vague through the steering wheel. Braking is solid, though and it has the full complement of electronics to keep you on the tarmac – ABS, EBD, BAS and ESP. However, if you are in the market for a Kia Rio, it’s unlikely you’ll be hankering to thread it through the windiest switchbacks at pace. It’s manoeuverable in the city, and comes with reversing sensors to help your parking.

Therefore I think the Kia Rio really does appeal to a certain target market and they will be very pleased with their purchase. You’re getting a car almost as big as a Corolla for ten grand less, and with an excellent specification. As swish as it looks, and as well-appointed the Rio is on the interior, if you are prepared to live with the sluggish engine I can’t see why you’d be disappointed in it.


  • Better looking than the very boring-looking previous model
  • Good interior storage
  • A lot of car for the money – an impressive list of features that you would usually pay a lot more for.


  • Sluggish performance really compromises what could be a good value car

Price: $25,790 for the top-spec EX; $22,990 for the bottomof the range LX Manual.


1.4 LX Diesel Manual 1.4 LX Manual ISG 1.4 LX Automatic 1.4 EX Automatic
MECHANICAL Engine type 1.4L CRDi DOHC Diesel Turbo 1.4L DOHC CVVT Petrol Engine
Displacement (cc) 1396cc 1396cc
Compression ratio 17 10.5
Max. power 66 kW @ 4000 rpm 80 kW @ 6300 rpm
Max. torque 220 Nm @ 1750 – 2750 rpm 137 Nm @ 4200 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 4.3L/100km 5.3L/100km 6.4L/100km
Co2 emissions (g/km) 113 124 150
TRANSMISSION Gear Box 6 Speed Manual 4 Speed Automatic with Sequential Sportshift
ISG (Intelligent Stop & Go System) x x
Hill Start Assist Control x x x x
SUSPENSION Front suspension MacPherson Struts with coil springs and gas shock absorbers
Rear suspension Coupled torsion beam axle with coil springs and gas shock absorbers
WHEELS Tyres 185/65 R15 195/55 R16
Braking system Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs with ABS, BAS, EBD and ESP
Wheels 15″ Steel 16″ Alloy
Space saver spare wheel and tyre x x x x
STEERING Steering system Electric Power Steering
Minimum turning radius (m) 5.26
SAFETY FEATURES ABS brakes with EBD and BAS x x x x
Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) x x x x
Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) x x
Dual front airbags w/ passenger isolating switch x x x x
Dual side airbags x x x x
Dual (Front to Rear) Curtain airbags x x x x
Child safety rear door locks x x x x
Remote keyless entry with alarm x x x x
Engine immobiliser x x x x
Front seatbelt pretensioners / load limiters x x x x
3 x rear ELR diagonal belts x x x x
ISOFIX Childseat Anchors x 2 x x x x
Seatbelt Reminder for all seating positions x x x x
Reverse Warning Sensors x x x x
EXTERIOR FEATURES Projector Type Headlights x
Daytime Running Lights (DRL) Bulb Type LED Type
Smart Cornering Lamps x
LED rear tailights x
Wing Mirror Mounted Indicators x
Electrically Adjustable Heated Mirrors x x x x
Fog Lights Rear Only Front & Rear
Front and Rear Mud Guards x x x x
Roof Mounted Micro Antenna x x x x
INTERIOR FEATURES Interior Trim Woven Cloth Tricot Cloth
Soft Touch Dashboard Fascia x
60:40 split folding rear seats x x x x
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat x x x x
Tilt and Telescopic Steering Wheel Adjustment x x x x
Drink Bottle Holders in all 4 Doors x x x x
Dual Front Cup Holders x x x x
Vanity Mirrors incorporated into Front Sunvisors x x x x
Centre Console Sliding Armrest x x x x
Illimunated Glovebox x x x x
COMFORT & CONVIENIENCE Radio/CD/MP3/RDS Stereo System with 4 Speakers x x x x
Bluetooth Handsfree x x x x
Air Conditioning Manual Climate
Steering wheel mounted audio controls x x x x
Steering wheel mounted cruise control with speed limiter x
Power windows with driver’s auto down x x x x
Remote Central locking x x x x
Supervision Cluster x
Auto Light Control with Escort function x
Rain Sensing Wipers x
Trip Computer Basic LCD Type Full Dot Matrix Type
Leather Steering Wheel and Gearknob x x
In Cabin Headlight Adjustment x x x x
DIMENSIONS Overall length 4045 mm
Overall width 1720 mm
Overall height 1455 mm
Wheelbase 2570 mm
Min. ground clearance 140 mm
WEIGHTS AND CAPACITIES Kerb weight min. / max 1164 / 1266 kg 1066 / 1173 kg 1093 / 1198 kg
Cargo capacity (Seat up/seat folding) VDA 288 / 923 Litres
Fuel tank capacity 43 litres
Towing Capacity (Unbraked) 450 kg 450 kg 450 kg
Towing Capacity (Braked) 1100 kg 1050 kg 850 kg

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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