KUALA LUMPUR, November 21, 2017: The KIA Rio was designed to be a great city car and that is exactly how it is built.
Good looks, great fuel consumption and superb handling.
But it is just unfortunate that KIA decided to carry over the 4-speed automatic transmission from the previous model.
The new Rio was launched back in July with a price tag of RM 79,888, which puts it in the same price range as the Honda Jazz Mid specs at plus RM78,000.
It comes with a space saving spare tyre under the rear bonnet. It also has six airbags, anti-lock braking system with electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and stability control
Compared to the old Rio, this one is longer (+15mm), wider (+5mm) and lower (-5mm), which translates to a more balanced and aggressive look.
From the front, there is a thinner and broader ‘tight nose’ grilled flanked by halogen projector headlights with U-shaped LED daytime running lights.
The new model is also equipped with 17-inch two-tone alloy rims wrapped with high performance Continental Contisportcontact 5 tyre which is actually an overkill for a car in this category but is always welcomed.
The rear end is now more upright and receives a new trapezoidal shaped tail lamp featuring arrow-shaped LED light signatures.
The interior feels modern and looks premium even though many hard plastics can be found. Frequent contact points like the steering wheel and gear knob are wrapped in leather and the buttons feel good to press.
One of the things that caught my attention was the centre infotainment system because it feels out of place. Why? That’s because this reviewer feels that the 5-inch screen is simply too small to justify the floating design. Maybe KIA can introduce the 7-inch version as an option.
Practicality has also been improved now that the overall space is bigger inside. Boot space (325 litres) and legroom is an improvement from the old car but it still cannot beat the king of practicality in this class, the Honda Jazz.
The rear seat can be folded down to extend the boot space but it’s worth noting that it doesn’t fold flat.
Moving on, the car is powered by a new Kappa 1.4 naturally-aspirated engine paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission. This engine produces slightly less power at 100PS (-7ps) and torque (-2Nm) but are made at a lower at lower revs.
This translates to better driving experience around town and better fuel consumption. There is enough acceleration and refinement to make daily city driving a pleasant experience. The engine however, loses its charm when this reviewer attempted to go beyond the national speed limit.
The engine will start to struggle past 130km/h and overtaking takes a lot of planning beforehand but besides that, the car remains stable even beyond the national speed limit.
Its Achilles heel, the 4-speed automatic transmission, does its job smoothly in town but the lack of gears is made apparent during more spirited driving or steep hill climbing.
All in all, this car is more suited for city driving and middle-lane cruising on highways.
Handling is good even on wet roads, understeer and body roll are kept at a minimum under hard cornering but push the car too hard and there will some understeer.
Not to worry, you will most probably reach your own limit before you reach the car’s limit. Even if you somehow reach the point of understeer, the car’s vehicle safety management system will kick in and put you back on track.
I accidentally hit a patch of uneven roads during hard cornering and I’m happy to report that the Rio remains composed in that situation.
The Rio is very comfortable and is able to cope with the unpredictable potholes found in the Klang Valley. It’s more comfortable than the already comfortable Honda Jazz but it lags slightly behind the Peugeot 208.
After almost a week of daily commuting back and forth to work via Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong, I managed to record a 9.5L/100km which is almost Puretech’s territory.
It’s worth noting that my route consists of mostly heavy traffic jams during peak hours. I reckon the fuel consumption will be much better under the right driving conditions.
The new Rio is bigger, better and more handsome (probably the best looking car in its class) but its hard to recommend the car if you’re the type who likes to floor the pedal. KIA should really ditch the 4-speeder for a better gearbox.
If you’re like me, a person of relaxed nature, you’ll most likely enjoy the economical and refined nature of the car.
Head on to the video below to get a clearer view of the car.