Wednesday, 16 May 2012


The Kia Rio hatchback launched in Mzansi last year seems to be doing ok. Because Kia SA doesn’t report its sales figures, we don’t know exactly how well, but it is estimated that over 400 units have been leaving the dealership floors since then. Now a second barrel in the ammo, in the mould of a sedan, is on sale. Oh boy, rivals better watch their backs!

“The new Kia Rio model is a revolution, not an evolution from its predecessor,” said Ray Levin, the CEO, Kia Motors South Africa. “Rio has always been a commercial success and with this new addition to the range we now have a car which is extremely attractive with a fresh feeling of sportiness, which is also suitable for family life – a sedan that people will want to buy for its new looks, as well as for its new premium feeling, generous features and interior space.”

If you remember the old Rios, then apart from a slight headache, you are probably wondering why in the world they were even allowed off the factory floors. Ugly, unrefined, staid and so last-century, Rios were mostly bought by people who didn’t have enough money to buy a decent new car but didn’t want the risk of a hand-me-down either.

Not at anymore. Rio has become a coveted name in its segment, riding on Kia’s overall surge as a serious challenger to the likes of Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen. The sedan is here to cement that rise and help double Rio’s local sales book.

The four-door Rio can be had with a choice of one of two engines and three trims: 1.2-litre, 1.4-litre and 1.4-litre TEC. Unbelievably, it is longer by 115 millimetres,15mm lower and 25mm wider than its old self, and features a wheelbase that’s 70mm longer. As if that wasn’t funk enough, Rio sedan comes in 10 different colours, including some called Bright Silver, Graphite Grey and Signal Red. The latter looks really fresh.

Kia’s engine range hasn’t fully caught up with 2012 trends yet, so they still use outdated naturally aspirated motors. However, these cannot be faulted at all, since they deliver on the promise of frugality, balanced with adequate power. The 1.2 makes 65kW at 6000rpm, and 120Nm of torque at 4000rpm. It’s hardly the stuff of icons, but is forceful enough to reach 120km/h in good time, after taking off in 13.1 seconds. Kia says it only consumes 5.4 litres per 100km of fuel.

The 1.4-litre is good for 79kW at 6300rpm, and 135Nm of torque at 4200rpm. It is said to be the fastest Rio around, with a 0 – 100km/h sprint time of 11.5 seconds and top speed of 183km/h. Impressive. Kinda. Its fuel efficiency is claimed to be 7 litres per 100km. Amazing how much damage an extra 200cc can do to your pocket. A standard 6-speed manual goes into the1.4 (archaic 4-speed auto is optional), while the 1.2 comes with a 5-speeder.

Luckily my launch drive around the GP area consisted of a lot of town-like manoeuvring. I suppose that’s where most of these cars will be found anyway. The car felt alright, easy to drive, with a no-fuss attitude. Because this is a Kia, one expects and does find a fair amount of standard kit included in the listed price. Counted here are items like a CD player with radio functions, an auxiliary jack to plug in your USB or other external music players like iPods, climate control (only the 1.4 models) and also Bluetooth connectivity for your cell phone. Rear parking sensors and alloy foot pedals are added, but an optional sunroof is available for the 1.4 TEC.

The tyre package for 1.2 is a 15-inch steel wheel with 185/65 R15 rubber, while the 1.4 is fitted with 15-inch alloys standard. A 17-inch alloy with lower profile tyres measuring 205/45R17 will be available as an option. The 1.4 TEC comes with 17-inch alloys as standard. All models are equipped with a full-size spare wheel as well as ABS brakes with EBD.

The new Kia Rio is pitted against cars like the Volkswagen Polo sedan, Honda Ballade, Toyota Yaris sedan and Ford Fiesta sedan. Pound for pound it matches and mostly exceeds these other cars in overall specification. That it’s priced so well works in its favour too.

Kia Rio sedan Pricing
1.2 manual (R141 995)
1.4 manual (R159 995)
1.4 auto (R169 995)
1.4 TEC manual (R173 995)
1.4 TEC auto (R183 995)

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