THE second-generation Rio was launched in South Africa in October 2005 with a complete moderni sation of styling and 1,4- and 1,6-litre engines replacing the outgoing 1,3- and 1,5-litre units.

The 1,4 produces 70 kW and 127 N.m and the 1,6, which was introduced in 2008, delivers 82 kW and 146 N.m of torque. Both engines use double overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder, while the 1,6 adds variable valve timing. Gearbox choices are a fi ve-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Both a hatchback and saloon are available.

WHICH MODEL?

The hatch is more practical and offers a luggage/utility capacity of 172/938 dm3, while the saloon boasts 320/928 dm3. The 1,4 models have steel wheels and the 1,6 alloys, but all versions include dual airbags, ABS, an audio system and air-conditioning. From 2008 onwards, the 1,4-litre models were designated “High” and the 1,6-litre models “Sport”.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR ENGINES

On one brand-new vehicle, a cracked radiator was put down to a manufacturing fault and replaced. Some of the usual culprits in the form of ignition coil failures were mentioned. The 1,6-litre engine may suffer from a rough idle/misfire when cold, which is solved with an ECU programme upgrade. One owner was unlucky enough to have cylinderhead issues due to a manufacturing fault, while a few mentioned radiator cap problems, so keep an eye on the temperature gauge (there is one).

The timing belt needs to be replaced at 100 000 km. Note that this is an interference engine so, if the cambelt breaks, you might end up with bent valves. This will mean a top-end rebuild that will cost anything between R8 000 to R12 000, or more if you use a main dealer as it is a time consuming job. Also note that a belt break is seen as a maintenance problem and not a manufacturing defect, so will not normally be covered by Kia’s long warranty.

TRANSMISSION

An automatic transmission refused to change gears at a reasonable engine speed, but rather when maximum revs were reached. Another car would sometimes refuse to crank, the culprit being a switch in the gearbox detecting that the selector was not in park.

Another vehicle jerked when shifting down from top gear. The dealer could not locate a fault, but fortunately the problem disappeared with more kilometres under the belt. On one Rio, a manual gearbox suffered from worn synchromesh from first to second. The owner considered a second-hand gearbox, but note that it shouldn’t be too expensive to simply have the rings replaced.

SUSPENSION, BRAKES AND WHEELS

Accelerated front-tyre wear was an issue for some owners.

ELECTRICAL

A couple of security-chipped keys gave trouble and had to be replaced. If you experience power loss or other concerns that appear to be of an electrical nature, first try your spare key and see if that solves the issue. One electric window motor failed.

INTERIOR

A couple of plastic (cosmetic) item breakages were recorded, but nothing serious.

SUMMARY

The Kia Rio is an underrated, quality vehicle that, especially with the new model around the corner (read a driving impression in next month’s CAR), should make a sensible and affordable second-hand purchase.

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