The secret behind Kia’s success
Kia as a brand is on the rise and the top-of-the-range Rio small hatch gives an insight into the formula the South Korean brand has used to draw in Aussie buyers.
There are some pretty sharp deals on the Kia Rio. The range-topping GT-Line is currently $23,990 drive-away, which is about $3500 off the regular price. Kia has dressed the GT-Line up in a sporty suit with a body kit, rear spoiler, dual exhaust and plenty of chrome and dark gloss finishes, which are sure to appeal to younger buyers. A flat-bottomed steering wheel and alloy pedals continue the sporty vibe. Connectivity includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are accessed through a seven-inch touchscreen. The Rio is protected by Kia's seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The GT-Line's turbo engine requires servicing at shorter 10,000km intervals at a cost of more than $2000 over five years.
There is a surprising amount of space inside for a small hatch. The low seating position liberates decent headroom for the driver and the back seat can handle a couple of adults in comfort. Faux-leather trimmed seats are comfortable and the vision is great. But the Rio's slip is showing; hard plastics dominate the cabin and manual air-conditioning controls expose the GT-Line's value-focused roots. The ride is a touch on the firm side but is comfortable on all but the worst roads. Road noise is acceptable but you will hear the suspension thumping as it absorbs bumps.
All the basic safety needs are covered but the Rio falls behind some more premium rivals such as the Mazda2 GT. There are six airbags protecting front and rear passengers. Auto emergency braking with pre-collision warning, lane keep assist and driver attention warning make up the active safety kit. There is a reversing camera with rear sensors but drivers will have to make do with standard cruise control.
A feisty one-litre three-cylinder turbo engine makes 88kW/172Nm matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. This is a step up from the non-turbo 1.4-litre four-cylinder (74kW/133Nm) in cheaper versions. The dual-clutch auto can be a bit indecisive around town, taking its time to pick a gear before surging forward. But on the motorway efficiency is the name of the game, as the auto picks higher gears early and relies on the turbo's efficiency to keep fuel use at a minimum. Official fuel use is 5.4L/100km, but we managed a respectable 6.2L/100km in a mix of conditions. The GT-Line is a better cruiser than a car of its size should be, eating up the kilometres on freeways with ease and feeling safe and stable at high speed. Steering is light and direct and the grippy tyres make the GT-Line more fun than you would expect on back country roads.
The Kia Rio GT-Line is an enjoyable and affordable small hatch that makes sense for a young driver looking for some sensible fun, even if it lacks the polish of some rivals.
Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo, from $22,990 drive-away
Similar small turbo petrol engine, but lacks the equipment and safety gear of the Rio.
Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo, from $25,990 drive-away
Handsome design and punchy turbo engine, but takes premium fuel and lacks safety gear
Mazda2 GT, from about $27,500 drive-away
Class leading small hatch with oodles of tech and safety gear, but the premium feel comes with a price tag to match.
KIA RIO GT-LINE VITALS
Price: $23,990 drive-away (special offer)
Warranty/servicing: Seven years, unlimited km / $2027 over five years, 50,000km
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol, 88kW/172Nm
Safety: Auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, driver attention warning, reversing camera with rear parking sensors, auto headlights, six airbags, five-star ANCAP rating
Originally published as The secret behind Kia's success