When Kia launced then Rio in SA it gave the Polo, Yaris and Fiesta a real run for their money. Coupling good looks and value for money in this segment isn’t always easy to do, but Kia have managed to put together a package here that is very hard to fault.
The Rio Sedan ads a boot (dur) to the rather good-looking Rio hatch. Starting from R143 000 for the 1.2 base model (manual), I had the top of the range (TEC) 1.4 Manual on test. You can tell the top of the range apart from the base by the colour coded exterior, LED daytime running lights and black and silver 17inch rims.
Small sedans fill the gap for families that can’t necessarily afford an SUV, but need the space for baby or child and co. As popular, but not better looking than the hatch, the sedan does offer a substantial increase in boot space, bringing it up to 389litres. With a wide aperture and fairly deep boot-sill, you can get bags or prams in with ease. Only gripe here is as that you have to use the key to open the boot from the outside, there’s no button/latch, meaning your fumbling for the key when your hands are full of other things. There is however a fair amount of space when you get in the back, especially for the little ones, and should you have baby seats, there are ISOFIX child seat anchors for the rear, included on all models. The front seats are comfortable but don’t offer huge amounts of
lateral support. Leather seats in the TEC model add to the appeal, and are of a quality leather. I found the layout and quality of most of the materials on the dash quite impressive for a car of this price. Some chintzy “chrome” bits do detract from the overall feel but otherwise it’s comfortable, easy to understand and use. What I do find interesting is that unlike VW, Ford and Toyota, Kia don’t seem to have a “theme” for their interiors, the Rio having no similarity to the Optima, and visa versa.
One thing the Rio does intent to capture the market on is value for money. Standard features on TEC interior include leather seats, electric windows with one touch operation all round, auto lights and windshield wipers, automatic air-conditioning, multifunction computer, steering wheel controls for radio & Bluetooth, Aux and iPod plug in and UV-protection windscreen. At R186 995 for this model (1.4TEC), it beats every competitor on specification in class. Where you could get a 1.6 Polo Sedan, you’d have to sacrifice on spec for the bigger engine.
Also, the little things, like centre armrest, folding mirrors, cooled glovebox, lighting for the vanity mirrors, that shows attention to small details that are options or not even available on competitor vehicles.
That said, because most competitors offer up to a 1.6liter model, this little 1.4 has to perform right? Well, with 79kW and 135NM of torque it’s no rocket ship. I would be a little concerned should it be packed full for a holiday and you wanted to overtake at highway speeds. There’s precious little torque, but seeing as it has no 1.6litre to compete, Kia managed to wring out more kW and torque than the Polo Sedan 1.4 and similar Fiesta 1.4. That said, a family sedan isn’t much about the performance, and much rather fuel economy, which the Rio performs well on returning 6.4l/100km (claimed). I returned closer to 8.8l/100km, but have a heavy right foot… in my defense.
Most surprisingly was the ride, no doubt thanks to the 17inch rubber, the Rio Sedan was quite a joy to throw into the corners, with more grip than you’d expect. The suspension showed a good balance between handling as well as being a comfortable drive. Keeping things safe on the handling front was ABS and EBD (front disc, rear drum brakes). Another other gripe was the massively over-assisted steering, feeling too light in all instances, and very detached from the front wheels, but probably not something daily driver would really wine about. Again, the Rio beats the competition with 6 airbags (front, side and head) on the 1.4TEC model, as well as a 5 year 100 000km Warranty and 4 year 60 000km service plan.
Not only does it look good, but it also costs less. The Rio cannot be ignored when you’re shopping in this price range. The only reservation from buyers would probably be the trust in the Kia brand name, and reluctance to move brands / try something their family didn’t previously own.
I’d like to see how the Rio progresses in years to comes, I think unlike Toyota, VW and Ford, they chase trends too quickly, and don’t offer design synergy in the interiors of their vehicles, which could show in wear and tear in the long run. But that will all have to be seen. Right now, it’s one hell of a deal, and very hard to fault