This Car Review Is About: The recently updated Kia Rio range, with the three model range being S, Sport, and GT-Line.
What Does It Cost?: The Kia website has the starting prices as $16,990 driveaway with premium paint at $520. The GT-Line starts at $22,990 Driveaway.What’s Under The Bonnet?: It’s virtually the same mechanical package as the Picanto GT, a 1.0L three cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Power has been upped to 88kW, but torque stays the same at 172Nm. That’s on tap from 1,500rpm through to 4,000rpm. Transmission is a seven speed dual clutch auto. Economy is quoted as 5.4L/100km for the combined cycle. That’s from a 45L tank. We finished on 6.0L/100km on a 60/40 urban/highway mix.On The Outside It’s: A harder edged look that does away with the smooth curves of the previous version. It adds a sense of extra assertiveness to the look. The 205/45/17 rubber from Continental looks broader than the 205 suggests, also adding some “in your face” attitude. The GT-Line gets Kia’s signature “iceblock” LED driving lights in the front end with black “eyebrows”, the alloys are a distinctive 8×2 design, and the air intake is a slimline design. There are also LEDs underneath the main headlight globe.
The test car came clad in Mighty Yellow, an almost desert yellow shade. The GT-Line gets a bespoke rear spoiler and side-skirts. The short rear has a manually operated tailgate, opening to a seats up cargo of 325L, folding down to 980L. Only the GT-Line gets LED tail lights.On the Inside It’s: Standard Kia fare. Light coloured upper trim, black coloured trim below the windowline. There’s also factory tinted glass front and rear. A seven inch touchscreen dominates the dash, itself upped in looks with a strip of faux carbon-fibre from side to side. There is a pair of 12V sockets and a USB port up front, and a USB port for the rear.Audio is lacking a DAB tuner, the manual seats are….manual, and cloth covered, not faux-leather. Nor are they heated/vented. It’s a fair bet that buyers of top of the range cars would expect the little niceties. It’s also not a push button Start/Stop, another small overlook.
There’s a splash of alloy plastic around the leather bound gear selector and the tiller’s spokes are alloy look as well. All of the interior door handles are alloy look as well. They’re a nice contrast to the carbon-fibre and the standard Kia black plastic. Underneath the trim are six airbags. AEB and Forward Collision Warning are standard along with Lane Keep Assist and there are a pair of ISOFIX mounts.
Room wise the front is fine for anyone up to and over six feet. The steering column is adjustable for rake and reach too. The rear seats may get a bit cramped for taller people.On The Road It’s: A far better driver on flat roads than anywhere else. The rubber has plenty of grip, and allows the 2,580mm wheelbase to hold onto the road perfectly. However that same rubber adds in a fair amount of road noise on the coarse chip surfaces. With the doors and bonnet getting a minimal amount of noise insulation, that rumble can be intrusive.
Steering-wise it’s a touch on the light side but that’s expected in a small car. Brakes, naturally, are adequate, as they should be. Both front and rear are discs, unlike the Picanto’s disc/drum combo. Sizes are 280mm and 262mm, meaning plenty of swept area.Where the Rio has an Achilles heel, or two, is in the ride quality, and the Capertee Canyon sized gap between engagement of gears from Reverse to Drive, and from a standing start. The ride on the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear is fantastic on flat roads. Anything such as a road join, a distorted road surface, and the likes, have both front and rear really having a crash bang response. There’s very little initial compliance in the short run, at odds with the seeming more absorbent ride on the flat roads with gentle undulations. Then there’s the DCT’s propensity to have a coffee and doughnut between shifting from Reverse to Drive and waiting on the clutches to engage. Unfortunately the transmission isn’t liking quick acceleration from this swap, as it lurches into gear rather than smoothly engaging as it does once under way. It’s the same with moving from a standing start, especially if the Auto stop/start has been left on. The go pedal needs a squeeze, not a hard press here as well. To do so seems to overwhelm the system and leads to yet another wait….wait….wait…………..ok, now.
When using the Sports mode, changes are better, far better. They’re sharper, more fluid, and make the drive more tolerable. Underway, it’s a well sorted unit with almost imperceptible changes. The torque curve then really works with the transmission, keeping the tiny mill spinning and having the torque get the clutches engaged and disengaged as they should. There’s also that notable three cylinder warble, a characteristic of these engines. It’s not an unpleasant sound, especially when the engine is being used in anger. Send it though tight corners at speed, and there’s a hint or rasp to the tone, and that overly taut suspension has the Rio GT-Line sitting flat and eager in attitude.What About The Warranty?: Standard seven years plus Kia’s fixed price service structure. Services for any turbo car is yearly or 15,000km. Average service costs sit at around $485.
At The End Of the Drive. Although it’s a decent enough environment to drive in, with the light and airy feeling and quality plastics, the Rio GT-Line is let down by its overly harsh suspension setup and a DCT that needs tightening up in regards to changes. Dual Clutch Transmissions are known for having this kind of issue and there are times, such as here, where the lesser of two evils, being a CVT, would probably be a better option. However, it does become a better driver on flat roads and with manual shifting too. Check it out here.