Kia Rio LX ISG 2012 Review

Kia Rio LX ISG 2012 Review

Idle, stop and go. The methodology is fast catching on as a popular way of saving fuel in cars by shutting off the engine while the vehicle is stationary, for example while waiting at traffic lights. We have already driven the Picanto ISG and we really liked it. Is the Rio going to live up to the expectations?

Well, we drove the standard Rio EX a few months ago, too – you can read the review here. What we found was that when the engineers were specifying the car they accidentally omitted ‘acceleration’ from the list and the result is that the automatic EX is slow…dangerously so if you drive in a lot of busy traffic.

The ISG doesn’t seem to have this problem despite having the same

80kW/137Nm 1396cc CVVT petrol engine. Perhaps the six-speed manual gearbox doesn’t rob as much power. It certainly seems more spritely.

The ISG makes quite a big difference in fuel economy dropping it from 6.4l/100km in the EX to 5.3l/100km. This is despite making no other changes at all – you get the same 185/65 R15 wrapped around steelies so there’s not even any less rolling resistance.

The Kia uses electric power steering which means you don’t have a power steering pump chewing through the available kilowatts. Yes, you can liberate as close to possible as 80kW and attempt to give the traction control something to do. The Rio comes with a full 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating and the full complement of electronics (electronic stability program, vehicle stability management and ABS) and 6 airbags.

The design of the Kia is tidy. It’s modern and more interesting than the dreary previous model. It looks crisp in white, but better in the red of the EX we tried. The front lights are beautifully sutured together by the grille and the whole front end manages not to take on any anthropomorphic qualities (on some cars the front grille can look like either a smiley face or an angry face – check out Peugeots from the last few years).

The ISG in the manual car requires you to roll to a stop, take it out of gear and take your foot off the clutch pedal. The Rio will fire into life again as you push the clutch pedal. It all happens in a fraction of a second so that there are (theoretically) embarrassing moments at the lights that involve horns and people pointing skywards with a finger.

The ISG concept is simple. I first experienced it in a Mercedes Sprinter van and since then have driven quite a few models which essentially do the same thing. In fact, the Subaru XV I picked up after I’d taken the Kia Rio back also has it. The benefits of ISG, though, will completely depend on your driving circumstances. If you do a lot of stop-start city/motorway driving you might see a large reduction in your fuel bill; if you do mostly open road driving or you live in a small town where there’s no need to wait at endless sets of traffic lights it’s hardly going to make a difference.

I had to check the price of the Rio twice. $22,990 is all this car costs. That is ridiculous. It’s the cheapest in the range yet it has this ISG feature which saves you more money. It thumbs its nose at other manufacturers that would gouge extra money out of the punter because they know the ‘greener’ credentials have a greater perceived value.

Despite its low price, everything feels very well screwed together. You know you’re not driving a Lexus, but the fact Kia can do this for such a low price is quite incredible.

Usually in an article I’ll turn around at this point and start telling you all the annoying things about the car and then in the last paragraph I’ll summarise the car and because almost all modern cars are pretty good it’ll end on some positive reinforcement. Well, at this price it doesn’t deserve any criticism. Understand what you’re buying: a small, well-styled hatchback with a low-powered engine that’s going to be easy on the fuel and be fairly comfortable and easy to drive. Mission accomplished, Kia.


  • Uber-value – lots of features and quality for the money
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Good interior storage


  • At this price, who’s complaining?
  • Surely an automatic Rio ISG would sell much better?

Price: from $22,990


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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