KIA Rio / Pride

21 Sep 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on KIA Rio / Pride
Kia New Rio

L ooking back to the history of Kia Rio (or Pride in its home market), we can see a rapidly improving breed. The first generation Rio was no more than a 1-star car in our rating table, or in other words, a punishment to those who could not afford a proper motor vehicle. The second generation took a giant leap.

Although it was still far from the level of class leaders, it was reasonably good in most areas, and its super-bargain price made it a viable choice for buyers with limited budget. Now comes the Mk3. Naturally, we have high expectation on it, especially having seen the world-class cars (Picanto and K5 / Optima) KIA introduced recently.

Will it be finally the car that we would desire to own? Can it challenge Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Honda Jazz for the laurels?

Let us see its sheet metal first. Once again Ex-VW-Audi designer Peter Schreyer gave the Korean manufacturer something its home-grown designers desperately needed: a high-quality European favour. A prominent lower grille and slim tiger nose upper grille deliver a sporty appearance, with strong family resemblance to Picanto. A cab-forward proportion, high and rising waistline, crease lines on the doors and subtly flared wheel arches follow modern European design norms.

While Ford Fiesta is prettier and VW Polo looks more timeless, the Korean car is stylish enough to catch most customers. It has good showroom appeal.

Being sold globally, the Rio / Pride is available in 3 body styles #8211; 5-doors hatchback, 3-doors hatchback and 4-doors sedan. The first two are identical except the rear doors. They are certainly more stylish than the 4-door sedan, whose proportion is compromised, i.e. neither 3-box nor 2-box. The sedan looks different up front, with a larger tiger nose and a slimmer lower grille, probably in the attempt to resemble the K5.

While its trunk offers more space in standard form, it loses the convenience and versatility of the hatchbacks. Traditionally, sedan is the preferred choice for the conservative motorists of China and North America. However, as the shape of the Rio 4-door is not all that conservative, I suspect this time around more sales will go to the 5-door.

The Korean manufacturer made use of its production cost advantage to boost two things on the new Rio: size and spec. Compare with the old car, it gets 55 mm longer and 45 mm wider. Although at 1455 mm it is slightly less tall than the old car, its wheelbase is stretched by 70 mm.

The latter boosts rear seat knee room by the same amount. Compare with Fiesta and Polo, its wheelbase is 81 mm and 100 mm longer respectively. With so much extra metal, it doesn’t take an especially efficient packaging to realize a cabin space close to the level of Honda Jazz.

A pity the 288-liter boot of the hatchback is a tad small.

One thing the Korean has yet to catch European rivals is the interior perceived quality. The Rio’s instruments are clear and well layout. Fit and finish is generally a match to its European rivals, but only the top trim gets soft-touch plastic treatment on the dash top, yet it is not as soft as in Polo or Fiesta. Elsewhere, it is mostly dark hard plastic.

Style-wise, it is a mixed bag. The toggle switches on the center console try to make it different, but they do not work with the expected precision. Some more faux metal or piano-black surfaces would be a better idea.

Mechanically, the new Rio is perfectly up to date. It is built on the same platform as Hyundai Accent. 63 percent of its body shell is made of high-strength steel to lift torsional rigidity by 31 percent compare with the last generation. The power steering is now assisted by electric to save fuel.

Efficiency is enhanced further by the Eco package, which includes auto engine stop-start, low rolling resistance tires, drag-reducing spoilers and longer gearing. More forward gears also help raising fuel economy #8211; the manual box now gets 6 speeds instead of 5, while the automatic takes a bigger leap from 4 to 6 speeds. Brakes have been upgraded to discs all round.

Kia New Rio

All engines are more efficient yet more powerful. The range-topping 1.6-liter Gamma II engine gets a boost of 28 hp, thanks to direct injection, dual-VVT and higher compression ratio, while all-alloy construction cuts 13 kg from it. Other engines include a 108hp 1.4-liter Gamma, 87hp 1.25-liter Kappa and a couple of turbo diesel motors for European market. The most efficient of which is the new 1.1-liter three-cylinder turbo diesel.

It produces 75 hp, returns 88 mpg and emits only 85 grams of CO 2 per kilometer, which is the cleanest car you can find in Europe.

However, the biggest selling engines are still the 1.4-liter and 1.6-liter petrol. Compare with its rival’s smaller turbocharged motors, they need to be revved harder to get the most out of them. This means less flexibility and more noise in acceleration.

Fortunately, the smooth-shifting 6-speed manual box is a pleasant to use.

What let us down is the chassis dynamics. The Rio isn’t a bad performer, but it just fails to match the more polished Fiesta and Polo. There is a touch more body roll and less agility in corner.

It glides over road imperfections with more shocks and noise, blame to a stiff suspension setting. The steering is adequately weighted, but totally lack of feel. On the plus side, it excels on braking and high-speed stability.

Motorway cruising is also quite refined, as the engine rev is kept below the noisy zone.

Overall, the new Rio is of course a vast improvement from the old car. However, it is still not in a position to challenge the best of the class, especially in dynamics and perceived quality. Generous equipment and a keen price might save the game, but in case driving dynamics is your essential requirement for purchasing a car, then there are better choices elsewhere.

Kia New Rio
Kia New Rio
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