2017 Kia Rio Review

2017 Kia Rio Review

Priced From $16,990Information

Overall Rating

0

3.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

2 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars

Technology

3 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProLooks good; roomy inside; great with your phone.

  2. ConMakes hard work of long hills.

  3. The Pick: 2017 KIA Rio Si 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

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Nicely weighted steering and sporty handling help you feel good behind the wheel of the new-generation Rio, a light hatchback from Kia. The new Rio is roomier than the model it replaces, with an inviting cabin and excellent smartphone integration – including support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Korean brand also offers a seven-year warranty.

What might bug me?

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The lethargic highway performance of your automatic Rio – and all but one Rio is automatic. While much of the Rio is indeed freshly minted, its engine is the same 1.4-litre four-cylinder used at the less costly end of the previous Rio range (in the 2016 Rio S and S Premium). And the new Rio’s auto gearbox still has only four ratios. A friend’s new Mazda2 or Volkswagen Polo auto, for example, will feel much more lively once out of town.

Driving at 80km/h on your space-saver spare wheel, until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door hatchback only.

The Rio drives its front wheels, and it is classed as a light car, lower priced.

What features do all Kia Rios have?

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A six-speaker MP3-compatible sound system with an AM/FM radio, Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and audio controls on the steering wheel.

A 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can display apps (including navigation) from compatible smartphones on the central screen and control them from there.

A reversing camera, and rear parking sensors (which help you judge how close you are to the car behind).

Two USB ports for charging mobile devices: one for front passengers and another for those in the rear.

Power windows, and air-conditioning.

Headlights that switch on automatically when it’s getting dark.

A hill-assist system, which operates the brakes automatically to make take-offs on hills easier.

Six airbags. Electronic stability control, a feature that can help you control a skid and is mandatory on new cars. (For the placement of airbags, and for more on Rio safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Kia Rio carries a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Seven-years of capped-price servicing is also available.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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There is only one engine available in a Rio, a 1.4-litre petrol four-cylinder. It uses less fuel when driving through the manual gearbox that is standard on the least costly Rio, the Rio S, consuming just 5.6 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).

With the alternative auto gearbox it is thirstier, using 6.2 litres/100km on the test.

The manual gearbox supplied is a six-speeder. The auto gearbox – optional on the Rio S, and the only gearbox available with the Rio Si and Sli – is a four-speeder.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least costly Rio is the Rio S, which comes with the features found in all Rios, cloth seats, 15-inch steel wheels with plastic trim, and a manual gearbox. Spending about $2000 more gets you the optional four-speed auto.

Spend more again for a Rio Si and the auto gearbox is standard. You also get cruise control, which can be operated from the steering wheel. Satellite navigation is built in, the radio receives digital signals (which brings you more stations), and sound volume rises as you go faster, to compensate for road noise. Wheels are made from aluminium alloy, and don’t need plastic trim to look good. Daytime running lights use long-lived LEDs.

The most expensive Rio, the SLi, has windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains, air-conditioning that maintains a set temperature, and a powered sunroof. Seats are trimmed in artificial leather, and rear-seat windows are tinted. Aesthetic tweaks include softer armrests in the doors, and some more chrome outside. Wheels are an inch bigger at 16 inches and their tyres are slightly wider and lower in profile, adding a bit of grip on dry roads.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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Moving from the Rio S to the more expensive Rio Si or SLi means you lose the option of specifying the six-speed manual gearbox, whose extra two ratios help you get more from the engine than it delivers through the four-speed auto.

Only white is a standard colour. The other six shades are extra-cost options.

How comfortable is the Kia Rio?

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A floating touchscreen on the centre of the dashboard and Audi-like drop-down controls for the air-conditioning contribute to a pleasing European feel in the Rio’s cabin, even if its colours are uniformly sombre. Seats feel firm but they turn out to be comfortable, with good support under the thighs and a well contoured backrest.

Height adjustment for the driver’s seat, and height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, make it easy to find a relaxed driving position, and there is a rest for your left foot.

The Rio is only about 15mm longer outside than the car it replaces, with 10mm more length between the axles, but inside there is noticeably more leg and shoulder room front and rear.

Handy places for storing stuff include big bins in the doors for bottles and a two-level cubby ahead of the gear lever for phones and wallets. A roof console has space for your sunglasses.

While acceleration is not exciting, even with the auto gearbox the Rio jumps with decent enthusiasm away from traffic lights. For trips around town there is ample urge to get by with.

What about safety in a Rio?

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The Rio has the mandatory stability control, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, and auto-on headlights (which aid visibility in low light). There are lap-sash seatbelts on all seats including the centre-rear, and seatbelt reminders on all seats also – a simple but valuable feature for those with children old enough to unfasten their belts.

There are six airbags. Two are placed directly in front of the driver and front passenger. There is an airbag outside each front occupant to protect from side impacts at chest level. And there are curtain airbags running down each side of the car at head level, protecting front and rear occupants.

The Rio Si and SLi gain bright LED daytime running lights, which make it easier for other drivers to see you (and enhance the car’s appearance).

No Rio has autonomous emergency braking.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not rated this fourth-generation Rio.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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Yes and no. You will enjoy the way the Rio feels inside and how competently it rolls over the road, and you will enjoy in particular the way it steers. The steering wheel is well weighted, and the little car responds fluidly and precisely to your touch.

Steering accuracy is supported by a taut, well-controlled ride on suspension tuned for local conditions by Kia’s Australian engineers. This car takes a step forward dynamically from the previous Rio, which was already quite good.

What can’t be predicted confidently is that you will enjoy the way the car goes, and most pertinently how well it goes on a country trip with plenty of hills. The four ratios in the auto gearbox just aren’t enough to keep the engine comfortable across all the challenges of highway travel, and so when you need the Rio to move ahead – or on long, steep hills – it spends too much time either working sullenly in a too-tall gear or straining pointedly in the gear below. Overtaking at open-road speeds requires careful planning and plenty of open space.

How is life in the rear seats?

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It is pretty good for a car of this size. Leg room and shoulder room are improved over the previous Rio, and headroom is plentiful even for adults in the 180cm range.

There are lap and sash belts for three passengers in the back, and seatbelt reminders on all seats.

The rear doors have small bottle-holders, and there is a storage pocket behind the front passenger seat. A USB socket at the rear of the centre console allows rear passengers to charge a phone without bothering those in front.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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Again you get a lot of cargo room for a car of this size, and more than the previous Rio offered. Capacity is officially 325 litres with the rear seats up – a figure approaching that of some cars a size bigger.

Fold down the 60-40 split rear seats and cargo volume increases to 980 litres loaded to the roof.

Where is the Kia Rio made?

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The Rio is manufactured at Sohari, South Korea, the site of Kia’s original factory.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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The effortless low-speed accelerator pedal response of turbocharged light cars such as the Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo, if you’ve ever test-driven them.

More ratios in the auto gearbox, or a CVT transmission, for a more responsive drive. The Polo has a seven-speed auto, and the Clio and Mazda2 have six-speed autos.

The latest active safety features, such as automatic emergency braking. The Mazda2 supplies low-speed auto braking as standard, for example.

A more versatile cabin arrangement for carrying cargo – the Honda Jazz offers this.

Among other light cars worth considering are the Suzuki Swift and Hyundai Accent.

If you would be happy with something a bit smaller, you could also look at the Kia Picanto.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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Certainly. The Rio Si brings you alloy wheels, LED running lights and cruise control, features that justify its premium over the Rio S auto. However, there are attractive alternatives from other makers at this price.

Are there plans to update the Rio soon?

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No. This fourth-generation Rio arrived as an all-new model in January 2017. Expect a mid-life update about 2020.

In the meantime, Kia is likely to offer a faster and more expensive version of the new Rio, perhaps for 2018. It would be powered by a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine, and is expected to bring auto-braking.