With a name like Rio conjuring up the Brazilian carnival you’d expect a car to embody the ground-trembling surdo drums — the heartbeat of samba — punctuated by the shrill whistle of the mestre as he conducts the ensemble. Accompany this with the glitz of the dancing girls in sequined bikinis and colourful feathers as a parade of intoxicating rhythmic energy sweeps down the street lighting up everyone’s faces. No, that’s not it: the Kia Rio is very sedate, and comfortable in ways sequined bikinis definitely are not (so I’m told).
Car manufacturers are free to call their cars whatever they want — I wouldn’t want to drive a Ford Laser if it really was like a laser. Actually, I wouldn’t want to drive a Ford Laser, full stop. Rio also means river in Spanish, and that contains more apt similes — flowing, calming, peaceful.
This Rio cannot (and will not) become a raging torrent, despite what inclemency you rain down upon its accelerator pedal. With a 1.6-litre DOHC CVVT petrol engine producing 82kW mated to a four-speed auto, it gently trickles to 100kph. It is fairly frugal. Kia’s figure for the auto is 7l/100km, though on a typical run we averaged around 8.5l/100km. The manual sips only 6.5l/100km, according to Kia.
A walk around the outside reveals nothing offensive. A small boot lip spoiler balances up the lines at the rear of the car; the rest of the exterior is fairly anonymous. In fact (I’m embarrassed to say), we had a gig at the Wintergarden in Auckland last night. On returning to the car at 11:30pm the key remote wouldn’t work. The key wouldn’t fit into the lock either. Then I noticed: I had returned in the dim light to someone else’s Kia Magentis of the same colour, parked 5 spaces from the Rio, which was obscured by a van. I’m glad I didn’t set off the burglar alarm — like the Rio, the Magentis comes with an alarm as standard, along with an immobiliser
I often joke that my partner only notices if I’ve changed cars if the colour is different, so now she’s got something to fight back with. The really embarrassing thing is, the Magentis didn’t even have the boot spoiler that the Rio does. It was dark, though (that’s my excuse).
On the inside the Kia is pleasant with its faux brushed aluminium fascia detail, and the occasional bit of faux chrome (on the gearstick). Often cars in this bracket come with tacky seating cloth, but not the Kia — it’s a good, tasteful choice. The driver’s seat has a nice, soft fold-down armrest, but the seats themselves seemed hard, especially the seat backs. This could have been because the Kia had only 600km on the clock and they may wear in.
External MP3 players are supported via the stereo, a small, lined tray being supplied to house it. The stereo is lively once the EQ is tuned a bit.
Kia is making a habit of offering cars for the budget conscious that feature excellent safety measures. The Rio comes with ESP as standard on EX automatic and Sports manual models, along with ABS and six airbags (except the base model which only has two). Along with the five-year 100,000km warranty with roadside assist, and fairly good interior appointments for the price (climate control air conditioning, trip computer and electric mirrors) the $24,145 asking price for the EX Sedan Automatic is fair.
If raging torrents of speed are not high on your list of requirements, and you just want a car that you can slip into like a snug-fitting, comfortable but cost effective glove in relative anonymity, the Kia will do you proud. Or was that a Magentis. Someone turn on the lights please.
Price: from $24,145 (base model manual is $20,645).
What we like
- It’s great value for money
- Good warranty
- Inclusion of ESP
- Rides well
What we don’t like
- Styling is bland
- Seats seemed hard (could be because it was very new)
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
KIA RIO HATCHBACK EX AUTO
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): 7.0L/100km
CO2 emissions (g/km): 162
Gearbox: 4 speed automatic
Front suspension: MacPherson strut
Rear suspension: Torsion Beam
Tyres: 195/55 R15
Braking system: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
Alloy wheels: 15″
Full size spare wheel
Steering system: Power assisted rack & pinion
Minimum turning radius kerb to kerb (m): 4.92
ABS brakes with EBD
Electronic stability programme (ESP)
Dual front airbags
Dual side airbags
Child safety rear door locks
Keyless entry with burglar alarm
Front seatbelt pretensioners/load limiters
High mounted stop lamp
Body coloured electric outside mirrors
Heated rear mirrors
Front & rear fog lamps
Front & rear mudguards
Stereo Radio/CD/MP3 sound system
Auxiliary audio input (iPod)
Power windows with driver’s auto down
Dual map lamps with sunglasses case
Leather steering wheel
Air conditioning: Climate
60 : 40 split folding seats
Height adjustable headrests (front & rear)
Rear seatbelt pockets
Overall length 3990 mm
Overall width 1695 mm
Overall height 1470 mm
Wheelbase 2500 mm
Min. ground clearance 155 mm
Kerb weight min./max.: 1129/1232 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