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It seems Kia is producing better and better cars with every new model launch. Almost every new product from this Korean manufacturer moves the goal post a little further, and makes life a little harder for its competitors. The new Kia Rio is a case in point.
The Kia Rio, here in 1,4 petrol TEC specification level, slots in almost perfectly – in terms of size – between the new Toyota Yaris and a Volkswagen Golf. Parked in our test car garage, it surely stands out, especially our test unit’s red body colour and shiny – standard – 17-inch alloys. Overall, it is a neat looking hatchback.
Inside, the perceived quality is good while the centre console draws some real attention. Apart from the standard fitment of an auxiliary and USB port for the sound system, there are easy-to-use rocker-type switches horizontally laid out on the lower part of the console.
The seating position for the driver is spot on with all the controls within easy reach. The rest of the cabin offers enough space, even for passengers at the rear. For a significant part of our journey during the course of the weekend, we were travelling four-up, and yes, with only 79 kW and 135 N.m you need to work the transmission. Even so, the 1,4-litre engine is still a fairly good performer and once you realise that sixth gear should only be used for cruising, one can happily use the rest of the slick shifting transmission.
Faced with a steep hill it is best to shift from sixth gear to fourth gear, and by doing this, you’ll discover an engine that is reasonably eager to be taken through the rev range. Other than that, this 1,4-litre is impressive and lively, just remember to use the revs.
The only slightly controversial characteristic of the driving experience could be the steering feel and feedback. By now we have – sort of – become accustomed to the rather artificial steering feel of most of Kia’s products. Still, in the Rio it seems less of a nuisance than some of Kia’s other products we have tested during the course of the past year.
Another fact that scores several brownie points for the Rio is its price and specification level. For R168 995 you get climate control, six airbags, alloy pedals, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry, a cooled glovebox, leather seats, LED daytime running lights and automatic wipers to name a few. The only optional extra our test car had was the sunroof.
Take into account that the price includes a four-year/60 000 km service plan and a five-year/100 000 km warranty, and this package looks more than just attractive.
Look out for road test of the Kia Rio 1,4 TEC in a future issue of CAR magazine.
Model name: Kia Rio 1,4 TEC
Engine: 1,4-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Power: 79 kW at 6 300 r/min
Torque: 135 N.m at 4 200 r/min
0-100 km/h: 12,55 seconds (tested)
Top speed: 183 km/h
Price: R168 995
Service plan: 4 years/60 000 km
Warranty: 5 years/100 000 km
Service intervals: 15 000 km