2017 Kia Rio

By NRMA Motoring on 01 February 2017
Exterior of a grey 2017 Kia Rio

Specifications

Priced from $16,990
Engine 1.4L
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Fuel Economy
5.6L/100km16.4 L/ 100km
Output 74kW @ 6000rpm
ANCAP rating
Everything about the popular Korean light car is bigger and better – except the engine.

What is it?

The Rio has been Kia's bread-and-butter light hatch for many years and only its slightly larger stablemate, the Cerato, makes more sales for the brand. In 2016, however, Rio sales had fallen short of previous years – no wonder, given the last all-new model was launched in 2011. Updates can only do so much, and the fourth generation was long overdue.

What are its rivals?

It does battle for the consumer dollar in one of the toughest categories, up against the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Mazda2, VW Polo and many, many others.

What models are there?

Kia's typical three – S, SL and SLi. All have a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine.

The S kicks off the range at $16,990 + ORCs (same as the outgoing model) and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels, enough safety equipment that Kia is confident it will achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that entails Bluetooth connectivity, plus Apple CarPlay and Android compatibility. An auto transmission costs an additional $2100.

The Si, priced from $21,490, moves up to a four-speed auto transmission, 15-inch alloy wheels, an infotainment system with satellite navigation and digital radio, cruise control, LED daytime running lights, projector front fog lights, a chrome grille surround, heated wing mirrors with integrated indicators, and a premium steering wheel and gear shift knob.

For $22,990 the SLi adds 16-inch alloys, a parking sensor dash display, 'leatherette' upholstery, a chrome beltline, electric sunroof, tinted windows, rain sensing wipers, premium instrument cluster, alloy pedals, soft-touch armrests and climate control.

Two new colours – Smoke Blue and Mighty Yellow – are on offer for the first time.

What's it like to drive?

First, the bad news: in a bid to meet Euro 5 emissions standards, the fourth-generation Kia Rio actually has LESS power and torque than the outgoing model. To achieve a paltry 6g/km reduction in CO2 emissions, the naturally aspirated 1.4-litre engine now puts out just 74kW and 133Nm (down from 79kW/135Nm). What's more, the Rio has grown in almost every direction and, even with weight-saving measures, it still tips the scales at a similar 1137kg-1162kg.

The inadequate power and torque manifest in tortoise-like off-the-line performance and uphill labouring, which can only be remedied (to some extent) by stamping on the go-pedal and waiting for the revs to climb. Once it's up and going, though, the Rio's drivetrain shows admirable refinement and the auto transmission is especially pleasing, making the most of the meagre thrust at its disposal.

Sluggishness aside, the new Rio has much to recommend it. The exterior styling is sharper and on-trend. The interior is just what you'd expect from the current Kia range, with attractive and easy-to-read analogue dials, a dark but not dour colour palette, and a high-res infotainment screen. Increases to interior space are also noticeable and the Rio doesn't feel small at all. Luggage space is now 325/980 litres with seats up/down, which is exceptional – much bigger than its nearest competitors and edging up towards small hatch territory.

But perhaps the most noteworthy upgrade is to sound deadening. Noise levels were once a Kia bugbear, especially among its cheaper models, but the new Rio is a genuinely quiet drive. An armrest makes its debut in this iteration, too, adding to the sense of comfort.

Two markdowns for the interior are the 'metallic finish dash fascia' (which has the least convincing metallic finish we've seen on a car at this price) and the leatherette seats on the SLi, which feel rubbery. The faux leather on the steering wheel (Si and SLi) is much nicer to touch.

The use of lightweight, high-strength steel in the chassis and body shell, combined with Kia's impressive-as-always build quality, give the Rio a tremendously solid feel. That Kia hallmark, a perfectly tuned ride, is a given. Steering and handling are geared towards city driving, though, and on tight and twisting country roads it sometimes feels mushy and on the verge of understeer. The seats are a bit shapeless, too, but not terrible for an entry-level car.

Should I buy one?

All the traits that have made the Rio a consistently popular car remain, while NVH improvements and the addition of an armrest and touchscreen infotainment system give this generation a more premium feel. Old-hat engine performance really drags it down, however, and one suspects Kia is keeping its powder dry for the rumoured release of a more powerful 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo version later in the year. It might be best to watch and wait for now.

Quick Facts
Make Kia
Model Rio
Category Light
Body type 5-door hatchback
Pros Improved NVH
Quality infotainment system
More space and comfort
Cons Last-generation engine
Questionable interior materials
Handling could be better
Country of manufacture South Korea
Available from 1-Jan-17
Priced from $16,990

Specifications

Engine
Number of cylinders 4
Engine size 1.4L L
Claimed max power (kW) 74 kW @ 6000 rpm
Claimed max torque (Nm) 133 Nm @ 4000 rpm

Transmission
Type 4-speed automatic

Fuel Consumption
Claimed fuel consumption 5.6L/100km

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