Kia Rio LX ISG Diesel Review

Kia Rio LX ISG Diesel Review

You can hear the silence of this Kia Rio saving fuel every time you pull up to an intersection, put it in neutral and take your foot off the clutch. It’s because the engine quickly shudders to a stop meaning you’re not burning up precious diesel while waiting for all those other idiots who decided to take their journey (inconsiderately) right at the same time you did.

Push the clutch in again and the engine fires into life in a split second – about the same time as it takes to put it into gear – and you’re away. This is Idle, Stop and Go, or ISG in Kia’s vernacular, and it enables the Rio’s to get down to

4.3l/100km (compared to the petrol version’s 5.3l/100km)

On the motorway you’ll be registering between 3.5-4l/100km which is an excellent achievement for a vehicle of the Rio’s size. I did a lot of driving around town and very little on the motorway and my average was 5.6l/100km.

We’ve already experienced the ISG in the Kia Picanto and it’s now available in the manual versions of the Rio (both petrol and diesel). Eventually we suspect it will come to the automatic versions, too.

ISG works by monitoring a number of systems in the car. First, the engine has to be warm enough for it to work. The battery must be above 75%, and you can’t be cranking the air conditioning. If those conditions are met, when you are in neutral and your foot is off the clutch the engine will be turned off as you come to a stop (and, disconcertingly at first), as you are rolling slowly to a stop.

I lost count of the number of times I instinctively jammed my foot back on the clutch as the engine turned off, thinking I’d stalled the car, but by the end of the week I was used to it. I also wondered whether people outside the car would have thought I’d stalled it, too. But then I realized that 99% of people walk around in an iPod daze, speakers firmly wedged in their ear canals.

To further help you with driving the engine as economically as possible arrows will appear on the dashboard indicating whether you should change up or down a gear.

Being manual, Kia has included hill start assist which stops you running backwards on hill starts when you take your foot off the brake.

If you check out the specs of the the 1.4-litre CRDi DOHC diesel turbo your initial assumption might be that it accelerates, to paraphrase Edmund Blackadder, like an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping. But there is a good dollop of torque (220Nm) that gets you moving. Regarding stopping and handling, the Kia is predictably benign. There’s the usual ABS, electronic stability programme, vehicle stability control and six airbags that help the Kia reach its 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Other welcome features are reversing sensors, an immobilizer and alarm.

Taking a walk around the outside of the Kia you’ll find a very tidy design with even shutlines. Everything is screwed together well. Drop into the driver’s seat and the cabin is plasticky (as is to be expected from a car costing just $22,990), but all switches are easy to operate and fall nicely to hand. The electric power steering is light, as is the gearchange and clutch. There’s plenty of leg and headroom and adults can fit with no problem in the back despite there being a good sized hatchback boot (288 litres with the seats up and 923 with them down).

As I mentioned in the review of the petrol version of this car, at this point I tell you about the few things that annoyed me, but there aren’t any. I like the styling, I like how easy it is to drive, I really like the fuel economy and I damn sure like the price. At only $22,990 it’s a bit of a steal.

Price: $22,990


  • Value-packed
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Good interior storage options


  • An automatic version is bound to sell more

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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