Kia Rio 1.4L: A satisfyingly competent hatchback
We’ve always had a soft corner in our hearts for hatchbacks, for several reasons. They usually come with smaller engines than most large gas-guzzlers, making them friends of the environment. The hatchback’s smaller body size, however, ensures that the power-to-weight ratio remains comparable with its larger brethren. This makes them zippy and fun to drive, easy to park, and light on fuel consumption. This makes them, well, cool.
Clean lines, fuss-free frontage and a pretty swishy rear end place the five-door Kia Rio hatchback among the better-looking hatchbacks out there, delivering a young, lively, energetic vibe. Fire it up and hit the road, and you will find that the Rio’s performance isn’t a let-down either.
We tested the 1.4-liter inline-four Rio that generates a hundred brake horse power and found that the power plant is cleverly optimized using variable valve timing for the one-ton weight of the vehicle. While it won’t take off like a rocket, there’s just enough zing for overtaking, even at moderately high speeds.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is smooth as velvet in normal driving conditions. However, if demand a sudden burst of acceleration, it seems to take its time deciding what gear to shift down to. Don’t expect mid-range response equivalent to the Mercedes A class or the BMW’s 1 series, but you’ll find the Rio outperform the Yaris and Tiida hatches in that respect. In the hatchback category, Carlease has a winner on its hands.
Space-wise, the redesigned Rio offers just that tiny bit extra cabin room than past iterations, which makes a huge difference for six-foot-plus front-seat passengers. If you’re stuck in the rear seat, however, you’d best be a child or a midget. Hatchbacks aren’t designed to seat four full-size Nordic-type adults, and the Rio is no exception.
The size of the cabin is a blessing, however, when the external temperature hits the mid-40s, because the air-conditioner cools it down in a very short time.
The model we drove also impressed us with the way storage spaces have been designed between the front buckets, with terraced shelves and interesting little containers built around the cup-holders. We were able to find space for all our favorite stuff, including two mobile phones, two take-out coffees, change for the parking meters, charging stations and all the electronic and caffeinated bric-a-brac that make up our lives.
All this came at the expense of arm-rests between the front seats, however, and we sorely missed those when we zipped up from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and back, surprising a lot of the aggressive drivers on that highway with a small car that had no trouble taking them on. It’s not just the engine’s performance that makes the Rio a capable car, it’s also the handling.
Loaded with tech
There’s a fair amount of tech loaded on the Rio that should make most gizmo-lovers happy. The Bluetooth phone connectivity seems to have improved on the central control panel from previous Hyundai and Kia models, the sound system is better than just acceptable, and the steering wheel has music as well as cruise control. The computer that operates all the fun stuff isn’t adequately powerful, however, so expect some large swings above and below the speed at which you’ve set the cruise when the car goes up and down inclines. This could result in speeding fines. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Ride, Handling and Cabin Noise 🙁
Another gripe we had with the car was the sound-proofing – or absence thereof. The decibel level in the cabin from road and engine noise is a little high, forcing conversations to be conducted at the top of our voices when cruising at 140 kph.
One thing we find increasingly difficult to understand is how carmakers position their models. Take the Rio, for instance. The model we drove had electrically folded wing mirrors – great for parking in tight perpendicular spaces. But, and we find this hard to believe, it had no parking sensors, not even at the rear. It had automatic lights, always a safe option, but manually operated air-conditioning. What gives?
Overall, we were quite impressed with the amount of good stuff packed into a car that comes at a fairly affordable price-point. If you need a zippy little urban trooper that is also quite a bit of fun to drive, you won’t go far wrong with the Rio.
|Fuel efficiency||Tight space, especially in the rear seat|
|Young, zippy look and feel||No parking sensors|
|Auto lights||Hard-ish suspension|
|Electric wing mirrors|
The sub-compact hatchback shootout
|Kia Rio||Toyota Yaris||Nissan Tiida||BMW 1 Series||Mercedes A Class|
|Engine||1.4L I4 FWD||1.3L I4 FWD||1.6L I4 FWD||1.5L TC I3 RWD||2.0L TC I4 FWD|
|Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)||6.0||5.8||6.2||5.4||15.6|
|0-100 kph (sec.)||12.5||13.5||11.0||10.9||6.4|
|Top Speed (kph)||180||165||180||195||240|
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