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Kia Rio Car Review

Author: Bob HudsonDate: 1 November 2000

The small car market seems set for another shake-up with the arrival of the Kia Rio and that prediction has a lot to do with what the Rio offers for its price.

For $14,990 (a similar price to what several other makers ask for three-door hatches) Rio buyers have the choice of a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. This price is for the manual versions; the automatic hatchback and sedan cost $16,790 each.

The Rio scores well on major equipment items for its price, but it does omit some commonly-found lesser features. For example, air conditioning, a driver's airbag, a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, power steering and central locking are all standard.

However, there's no immobiliser, no driver's footrest, no rubber wear protector mat under the driver's heel, no folding seat on the sedan and only a lap-type centre rear seat belt. Body-side protector strips or body mudspats are not fitted.

The Rio is powered by a modern technology twin-cam, 16 valve, 1.5 litre engine that produces a class-competitive 73 kW of power and 135 Nm of torque.

As is universal in this class, drive is through the front wheels, and the transmission choice is five speed manual or a four speed automatic with electronic control. The Rio's braking system uses ventilated front discs, but only drums at the rear.

Paint quality on the Rio LX sedan tested was below average, with considerable 'orange peel' effect in several places and paint runs inside the door frames. Contrasting with this, the interior trim fabrics, colours and general finish looked quite good.

Dual height adjustments for the driver's seat gives most people a chance of finding a comfortable and effective driving position. Apart from the sound system, the controls are simple and easy to use. The sound system fascia has a high-tech appearance that may appeal to some, but it is fiddly and difficult to operate.

On interior space, the Rio gets an average rating. Up front, the driver and passenger have a reasonable amount of leg and head room, and seat comfort is satisfactory. Lateral seat support is only fair.

In the rear, leg space is only minimal when the front seats are set right back, and head room is fair. Comfortis average in the two outer rear positions and suited to short trips only in the centre.

The Rio rides reasonably well in most general driving conditions, but the suspension sometimes 'crashes' out on larger bumps.

Though the sedan doesn't have the facility of a split-fold rear seat (as standard in the hatch) boot space is sufficient for average requirements. However, the boot opening is rather small and awkwardly shaped.

On the road, the Rio returns a level of performance that's competitive with its 1.5 litre rivals. The Rio's engine is willing and flexible, but unfortunately, rather noisy and harsh as well.

Fuel efficiency is one of the Rio's strong suits. The manual test sedan used only 5.9 litres/100 km on highway running, and 6.9 litres/100 km overall.

Buyers who are stepping out of an old 'clanger' will find the Rio light and easy to drive, and around town it handles quite well. In more demanding conditions, or when its capabilities are stretched, the Rio's handling and roadholding abilities are nothing special. There's a feeling that the standard equipment tyres don't contribute much to the car's handling qualities.

It's a similar story with the brakes. They do the job expected of them without being outstanding in any way.


Though it leaves room for improvement in several key areas such as chassis dynamics, noise and harshness levels, vehicle security and finish quality, the new Kia Rio is a good performer that's economical on fuel, easy to drive and well priced.

In marketing the Rio, Kia places a strong emphasis on the fact that if offers the convenience of four (or five) doors for the price of most three-door competitor vehicles of a similar physical size and engine capacity.

This mightn't carry a lot of weight with young singles who run around town solo, or perhaps with just two up, but it could prove a real attraction to buyers who regularly carry back-seat passengers or cargo, and overall, it enhances the Rio's value-for-money equation.

Test vehicle supplied by Kia Automotive Australia.

Quick Facts

Make Kia
Model Rio
Category Light
Year 2000
Body type Sedan
Price of vehicle tested $14,990

Good value for money
Class competitive performance
Very good fuel economy
Well equipped (major items)


Poor NRMA security rating
Lacks suspension refinement
Fiddly radio controls
Noise and harshness levels
Lap-only centre rear seat belt

Country of manufacture Korea
Warranty Three years, 100,000 km
Models Available

Four-door sedan
Five-door hatchback


$14,990 - manual
$16,790 - auto



Number of cylinders 4
Engine size 1.5 L
Fuel ULP


Type Manual


Wheel type Steel
Wheel size 13 "


Type Kumho Power Star Kumho Power Star
Dimensions 175/70 R13


Type Power assisted rack and pinion
Turns to lock 3.25 m
Turning circle (measured) 10.0 m


Mass 1005 kg
Length 4215 mm
Width (including mirrors) 1675 mm
Height 1440 mm
Seating capacity 5
Fuel capacity 45 litres


Max towed mass (trailer plus load) 1100 kg

NRMA Theft Rating

Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best) 8

Acceleration - Test results

50 - 80km/h 5.9 secs
60 - 100km/h 7.7 secs
0 - 80km/h 8.1 secs

Fuel Consumption

Best recorded during testing 5.9 L/100km
Worst recorded during testing 9.0 L/100km
Average on test 12.5 L/100km


Distance to stop (from 80km/h) 32.1 metres


Interior noise at constant 80km/h 69 dB(A)

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