Light Car mega-test: KIA Rio

30 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Light Car mega-test: KIA Rio
Kia Rio

Light Car mega-test: KIA Rio

The upshot of this is the Kia Rio looks like a European car and drives like a hot hatch

One turn of the key is all you need to see that something’s going on at Kia. The speedo needle greets you with a quick wave before the instruments light up. Fortunately, there’s some substance behind this gimmick.

It’s not all bright lights and (wide view) mirrors.

If you think the new Kia Rio looks like a sexier version of the Volkswagen Polo, you get a smiley stamp after class. The designer of this car used to work for Volkswagen and Audi. We’re not suggesting he took his homework with him, but it’s fair to say he has been inspired by his previous posting.

The timing of Kia’s design overhaul couldn’t have been better, coinciding with improvements to quality driven by parent company Hyundai.

Kia is Korea’s oldest carmaker (established in 1944 it is even older than Holden). Following bankruptcy during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, Kia was very nearly taken over by Ford. In the end, fellow Korean maker Hyundai stepped in and took control, and the two companies have been joined at the hip ever since.

It’s an unusual relationship. Hyundai and Kia share underbodies and technology – but are mortal enemies in the showroom battle. Which is why it’s possible for one sibling to outsmart the other…

The Kia Rio has the same size engine as the Accent – a 1.6-litre – but it’s an all-new direct injection unit with a class-leading 103kW of power and better fuel economy than the Hyundai. The upshot of all this is the Kia Rio looks like a European car and drives like a hot hatch.

Kia Rio

It has slightly more weight in the steering than the Hyundai, slightly better body control and damping than the Hyundai and a more comfortable seating and steering position. It is also better equipped than the Hyundai (cruise control, tilt and reach adjustable steering).

Of course, it’s not perfect. It’s $500 dearer than the Hyundai, taking the price to $20,990 with automatic transmission. And the brake pedal on our sample car felt ordinary – and the braking distance from 100km/h was below average compared to other cars we tested on the day.

The Hyundai has a bigger boot, but at least Kia still manages to accommodate a full size alloy spare.

Overall, the Kia Rio was one of the surprise packages of this test and would find itself on or near the top of our consideration list when it came time to reach a verdict.

‘s Light Car road-test comparison:

Kia Rio
Kia Rio
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