A sense that Kia has a fine-tuned ability to bring extra polish to products developed from those of parent-company Hyundai, is further cemented by the latest generation of the Rio small hatchback.
It seems there is potential for this fourth-generation Rio to overshadow its Hyundai i20 sister model. Longer and wider, but also a little lower than the previous Rio, the new Kia is offered in a four-variant line-up at prices ranging from $22,490 to $26,990.
Like the i20, the Rio is powered by a long-serving 74kW/134Nm 1.4 engine. There's a six-speed manual available at entry level, but Kia expects 90% of buyers to opt for the four-speed automatic.
Performance-wise the automatic Rio is, to be frank, a little short on spunk. It does deliver reasonable thrift, at a standard cycle 6.2l/100km for the automatic.
As well as being a little more lively performance-wise, the manual returns superior economy, at 5.6l/100km for the standard cycle.
At time of writing, there's uncertainty about whether it will sustain the same safety score knockback, from five stars to four, meted on the i20, since the Rio also lacks the
autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring whose absence from the Hyundai was Ancap censured.
Nonetheless, Kia's strong value-conscious audience will delight in a product that, while not totally chic, is still compelling and colourful.
Well kitted, too: all variants of the Rio feature a seven-inch centre touchscreen and the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces that Hyundai swore it could not get for the i20. Parking sensors, a reversing camera, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system also feature in entry-level LX trim. The EX adds features such as uprated exterior lights, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, and satellite navigation. The flagship Limited gains leather rather than cloth trim, more soft-touch surfaces, and rear privacy glass.
Running on 15-inch alloys at entry level, and graduating to 16-inch alloys for the EX and 17-inch rims for the Limited, The Rio rides very well for a small car but road roar on coarse chip is obvious. Handling is tidy and predictable.
In 2016 Kia enjoyed 5287 sales, a 60.7% year-on-year growth, and Kiwi boss Todd McDonald thinks 5400 registrations are possible this year, with Rio contributing strongly because
the light car sector is booming right now.
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