ISG a classy touch to Kia's Rio

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Kia's decision to add ISG from the smallest models in its range up, rather than trickling it down, is commendable. Photos supplied

A few months back, Drivesouth enjoyed its first taste of Kia's ISG (Idle-Stop-Go) technology, behind the wheel of the company's Picanto supermini.

The ISG system has now been added as a standard item on manual transmission versions of the larger Rio hatchback as part of a roll-out that will eventually extend across the Kia range, covering automatics as well as manuals.

ISG-type technology is now so commonly deployed at the premium upper end of the market as to warrant only a passing mention.

The same isn't true of the mass market, and Kia's approach - rolling out ISG from the smallest models in its range up, rather than trickling it down - is commendable.

The $22,990 price tag for the petrol LX manual, as tested, is $500 less than the equivalent automatic. A standard-cycle fuel economy return of 5.3 litres per 100km gives it a substantial 17% efficiency edge.

The ISG's operation is straightforward: once you have come to a stop at an intersection, put the gearbox into neutral and removed your foot from the clutch, the engine stops; engage the clutch, and it restarts.

By and large, the system operated seamlessly on test.

There were, though, two occasions when the ISG system seemed not to kick in and restart the car. Both were at intersections, and so I was forced hurriedly to restart the car manually. Whether this was due to some quirk of my own doing, or of the car's, I'm not sure.

The 80kW and 137Nm peak outputs produced by the Rio's 1.4-litre petrol engine are hardly stellar, but this is much less obvious with the six-speed manual sampled here than with the four-speed auto Rio featured on these pages late last year.

Dynamically, the car is set up for ease of use and comfort rather than razor-edged handling; fine ride and light controls count as two strengths in this respect.

On the downside, its Hankook Kinergy tyres (which are especially designed with economy in mind) transmit a fair amount of road noise over coarse-chip surfaces, and promote early understeer during hard cornering.

Even without the economy of ISG, the neatly styled Rio has plenty else to commend it.

Not least, it is well appointed for the price, with Bluetooth connectivity, audio controls on the steering wheel, reversing sensors, hill-start assist, and an alarm all included on the standard specification list.

The key safety boxes are ticked, too, with front, side and curtain airbags and full electronic stability programming provided.

The car's official safety score, which was still pending at the time it was tested by Drivesouth, has been confirmed as the maximum five-star European NCAP rating.


ISG a classy touch to Kia's Rio
At a Glance


Rating: 3+ stars

For: Neat styling, interior space, equipment, and economy

Against: Stop-start technology faltered on test

Verdict: The ISG manual is the pick of the Rio range


Price: $22,990

Engine: 1396cc four-cylinder fuel-injected petrol with idle-stop-go (ISG), max power 80kW@6000rpm, max torque 137Nm@4200rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Brakes and stability systems: Disc/drum brakes, ABS, EBD, BAS

Wheels, tyres: Steel wheels and 185/65 R15 tyres

Fuel and economy: 5.3 litres per 100km (on European combined cycle), 43-litre capacity.

Dimensions: Length 4045mm, width 1720mm, height 1455mm.