NEW KIA RIO HIT’S SOUTH AFRICAN SHORES

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Kia Motors South Africa has launched an all-new Rio range, which comprises eight models: four sedans and now four hatchbacks, each body style available in two trim levels and with the choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. All derivatives are powered by a new 1,4 DOHC litre petrol engine.

A brief to design a car that is less conservative, with a more sporty/dynamic character along with shift to a more premium feel, has clearly moved Rio upmarket and positioned it as Kia’s flagship small car. Styling that is bold and crisp has already been well-received in Europe (where it was launched in August) and this visual presence is backed up by excellent road manners, by virtue of its zesty engine and stable, confidence-inspiring handling.

Rio stems from the Spanish ‘Rio’ –which means passionate and dynamic – which perfectly sums the car up. So it should come as no surprise that the Rio exudes a sporty, fun and lively character and has a youthful market positioning. The range in general and the hatchback in particular is aimed at twenty-something singles, and its hot, almost impulsive nature will have special appeal for those who like to live life to the full.

To this end, the Rio comes in a range of nine lively colours, chosen to highlight the car’s neat and eye-catching styling. The sedan is aimed at a slightly more mature buyer who is nonetheless young at heart.

The latest version of the Korean carmaker’s B-segment contender – it’ll go head-to-head with the likes of Polo, Fiesta and Corsa — is bigger and wider than before, and its 2 500 mm wheelbase in the longest in its class, as is its 1 695 mm width. The result is exceptional levels of interior space – both for occupants and for luggage — and it is particularly roomy in the back. At 390 litres the sedan’s boot is 29 percent bigger than before.

Compared to the previous Rio, which was launched locally in February 2003, the wheelbase has grown by 90 mm, the height by 50 mm, and the width by 15 mm. Kia has backed up the spatial improvements with significantly enhanced refinement, which is in line with the shift upmarket. Starting with a stiffer structure, the company’s engineers have concentrated their efforts on minimising levels of noise, vibration and harshness to come up with a car that soothes the occupants’ senses. Hydraulic engine mountings are now fitted and over 40 key areas have been addressed in the quest to reduce NVH.

The multivalve, twin-cam powerplant is rated at 70 Kw @ 6000 rpm and Torque of 127 Nm @ 4700 rpm numbers which put it up there with the best. Electronic multi-point injection ensures excellent responses, coupled to low consumption. Combined cycle tests suggest consumption of 6,2 litres per 100 km for the manual, and 7,2 for the automatic. Performance is brisk, with a 12,3 second 0 – 100 km/h sprint for the manual, and 14,5 for the two-pedal version.

Top speed is 177 km/h and 168 km/h respectively. Independent local testing, conducted at Highveld altitude, has confirmed these numbers.

Spec level in generous, with power steering, air conditioning, front and rear foglamps, remote central locking, and electric windows fitted across the range. The High Spec version also gets a tuner/CD player. All versions have disc brakes front and rear, High Spec models adding ABS brakes, and two airbags for impressive safety credentials. In was in a similar guise to this that the Rio achieved a Four Star rating in Euro NCAP crash testing.

A long list of comfort and convenience feature confirm that the new Rio is a strong value proposition in the best Kia tradition, coupled now to a unmistakable sense of style, quality and character.

ROAD TEST, KIA RIO 1,4 HIGH SPEC, MANUAL HATCH

Go big or go home . . . . and Kia has gone big with the new Rio. At 2 500 mm no B-segment hatchback has a longer wheelbase and when it comes to body width the Rio’s 1 695 is the largest measure around.

With an overall length of 3 990 mm, the hatchback has a purposeful, stable look to it, enhanced by the contemporary lines, clean surfaces, and geometric detailing. This is a car designed to compete in the European market, and it shows.

Design

As well as being bigger and more daringly styled, the latest Rio hatchback has been designed to be a much better car, for a young yet discerning buyer. The bold, wraparound headlight are distinctive, as are the bumpers with their black plastic inserts – just what is needed in the rough and tumble of modern living. The frontal styling is harmonious, with appealing pressing lines that flank the slatted grille and lead up over the bonnet, drawing ones eye to the steeply raked windscreen.

The wheelarches are pronounced, yet well-filled with 185/65 rubber on 14-inch steel wheels with full covers. This adds to the Kia’s ground-hugging stance, as does the truncated rear with its minimal overhang. The arched roof, descending to form a distinctive C-pillar and continuing as a styling line that provides the outline of the bold rear lamp units, also frames the large tailgate, which extends right down to bumper height for easy loading.

The Rio’s exterior beauty is more than skin deep however. The Kia engineers used state-of-the-art computer-aided design, to create a bodyshell that is torsionally stiff and also able to crumple slowly and progressively, whether it be in a side, frontal, or rear impact. This attention to detail in the bodywork has also resulted in tight panel gaps, with further benefits in terms of refinement.

Soon becomes obvious that refinement is one of the Rio’s strong suits, with road, mechanical and wind noise well suppressed and virtually nothing in the way of unwanted vibration or resonance. Hollow sections – such as the reinforced door sills – are filled with sound-deadening foam, and isolation pads made from new, advanced materials have been placed in strategic locations. Finally, a new one-piece, six-layer isolator was created for the dashboard bulkhead to shield the cabin from engine bay noise.

Performance

Perky is the word that best describes the Rio’s performance, and a look at the numbers soon tell the story why. At 70 kW@ 6000 RPM the 1,4-litre DOHC powerplant under the sleek bonnet, is one of the most powerful in its class, and in fact is almost as powerful as the 1,5 it replaces. Its useful power figure is backed up 127 Nm of torque at 4 700 rpm, but the first time you drive the Rio you realise that the vast majority of this is available from far lower down the rev range.

With instant response, a willing character right from idle to the 6 500 revs/min limiter and a well-chosen set of ratios in the five-speed box, there’s always enough performance to keep up with the traffic flow, and probably see off the majority of small hatchbacks.

Local testing at Gerotek returned very similar results to Kia’s official test figures. Tested in early Summer, a Rio with less than 1 000 km on the odometer achieved at 0 – 100 km/h sprint of 13,6 seconds, and a top speed of 177 km/h. The 60 – 100 km/h flexibility test was completed in 14,3 seconds in fourth gear.

The Rio has got the stopping ability to match its performance too. With disc brakes all round – ventilated at the front – and with ABS assistance, it’ll will return its 1 170 kilograms to standstill with repeatable ease, stability enhanced further by Electronic Brake force distribution.

With electronic multipoint injection, fuel efficiency is also part and parcel of the Rio’s repertoire. With a consumption of 6,2 litres in the Euro 4 combined cycle, its 45 litre fuel tank should ensure a range of over 725 kilometres.

Ride/ handling

The Rio uses well-proven underpinnings: the front suspension is via MacPherson struts, the rear a torsion beam axle. Shock absorbers are gas-filled for consistent responses.

A front subframe is used to support the engine/transmission and suspension/steering, thereby isolating the cabin from mechanical and road intrusions. Four hydraulic mounting points – unusual for a car in this segment – are used to attach the subframe to the front monocoque.

At the rear, the offset mounting of the suspension springs ensure smooth operation, with urethane bump stops used to improve overall refinement. The trailing arms of the torsion axle are mounted against the side sills rather than the floorpan to prevent road noise being fed directly into the vehicle. It also maximises the width of the axle and the spring/damper mountings, which minimises the amount of boot space taken up by the suspension.

Because of its extended wheelbase and wide track, the Rio provides a very stable platform from which the suspension can operate. The end result is a car that provides a compliant and comfortable ride, while impressing with its keen handling and eagerness to tackle corners.

Steering is via power assisted rack and pinion, with fractionally more than three turns from lock to lock. Even with the longest wheelbase in the class, the turning circle is just 9,84 metres, which makes the Rio an ideal companion in dense traffic or at shopping malls.

Interior

Rio’s thoroughly modern exterior is complimented by a similar treatment on the inside, but the most striking aspect of the cabin is the sensation of space – particularly across the cabin. It also has a high roofline, which adds to the perception of space while proving headroom even for real beanpole drivers. In fact, overseas research reveals that the Rio beats the VW Polo, Peugeot 206 for front headroom, rear legroom and overall shoulder room.

Another remarkable aspect is the high standard of materials used. Fit and finish are of a particularly high standard, complimenting architecture that is simple, modern and clear in layout. The driver’s seat can be set for height, with separate rotary adjusters for the front and rear of the cushion, and a similar adjuster to enable the backrest to be fine-tuned. The steering column adjusts for height.

The result is that the perfect driving position can be easily found; commanding thanks to the high hip point, yet still allowing the driver to enjoy an intimate man/machine interface thanks, to the relationship between the driver and the primary controls.

Instrumentation is highly legible through the thick-rimmed, three-spoke wheel, with the small temperature and fuel gauges inset in the speedometer and tachometer respectively.

The hang-down centre fascia houses the tuner/CD and air conditioning, bothof which are noteworthy for their large, clearly-marked buttons and switches.

The fascia is finished in high grade moulding, with an attractive metal-grain surface for a high-tech look which is echoed on the steering wheel spokes, and the driver’s door ‘command post’.

To meet expectations for versatility and usability, the new Rio has a host of storage spaces designed to accommodate a wide variety of items. For example, there’s an overhead console (incorporating dual map-reading lights) with flip-down sunglasses case, dual cupholders in the centre console — one with a removable ashtray and credit card slot in the facia.

The rear compartment has wide opening doors, and a large tailgate, so with the 60/40 split rear seat folded there’s a huge load volume — 775 litres to be exact – when filled up to the window line.

Verdict

Not only is the Rio hatchback a big B-segment car, it is a big-hearted one. It is undoubtedly Kia’s most complete small car, with levels of refinement, quality, and dynamics that move the goalposts a significant distance upfield.

It is designed to compete head on with the best that Europe has to offer, and there is little doubt that it is going to make a significant impact against those brands in the South African marketplace

ROAD TEST, KIA RIO 1,4 SEDAN, STANDARD SPEC, AUTOMATIC

You don’t see many elegantly styled B-segment sedans, simply because the conflicting demands of width, height and length of a small three-box invariably conspire to result in something that looks like what Noddy drove – albeit with a fixed roof.

The Kia Rio four-door breaks that mould, and thanks to its long wheelbase — the longest in the class – wide track and short front overhang, it has a harmonised look that makes it stand out from the crowd. But the main benefits come in the form of dynamic advantages, as well as a cabin that rivals cars that are a class bigger.

Design

From the bold headlights, to the pronounced wheel arch flares, to the steeply raked windscreen, to the distinctive parallelogram tail lights the Rio sedan has a crisp, modern look. The front lights are divided by a distinctive mesh grille, with an admirer’s eyes drawn down to it by the twin bonnet ridges that run from the base of the windscreen to eventually join below the grille.

The entire nose of the car has a suberbly well-balanced look, with the relationship between bonnet, grille, radiator air intake and colour-coded bumper (which like its rear counterpart has protective black plastic corner pieces) perfectly balanced. The front and rear sections are linked by a broad, black plastic rubbing strip, which is placed at a strategic height to prevent damage from careless parkers.

The Rio sedan’s body is designed to be efficient in other ways: careful attention to detail, including the shaping of the exterior mirrors, the angle of the front and rear screens, plus the tight panel fit has resulted in a drag coefficient of just 0,32.

The structure of the Rio is impressive in other areas. It is much stiffer than that of its predecessor and was engineered with good crash protection, both for its occupants and also for pedestrians. While a Four Star rating was achieved in the Euro NCAP test, Rio also scored Three Stars for pedestrian protection – the latter helped by impact absorbing bonnet hinges, stiffening of the lower bumper (to prevent a pedestrian’s legs being forced under the car), and the use of plastic rather than steel cowling parts.

The rigid structure also translates into a high level of refinement, with noises and vibrations from every conceivable source, also damped out with the aid of strategically placed sound-deadening materials.

Performance

Small automatics aren’t designed to be racy performers, but it is hard not to be impressed by how well Kia’s new 1,4-litre DOHC multivalve and a four-speed automatic designed specifically for this application, interact. With 70 kW at 6 000 revs/min it is one of the most powerful in its class, and this is backed up 127 Nm of torque at 4 700 revs/min. The numbers don’t tell the whole story however, and there is a level of driveability that confirms that the torque is spread over a broad band.

The auto box reacts with alacrity to the throttle. Floor the accelerator and it’ll kick down briskly, but not with the sharpness that can make two-pedal motoring a jerky affair. Because of the widely spaced power strokes of a four-cylinder engine, upshifts can be similarly harsh, but in the case of the Rio they are impressively fluid, the box swopping ratios with creamy precision.

The shift quality is in many ways thanks to an advanced transmission control unit (TCU), which monitors a range of parameters including throttle position, engine speed and road speed. A manual “overdrive off” button falls readily to hand on the tall, elegant shift lever, which is ideal when some additional engine braking is needed, or when sitting in traffic and top gear needs to be locked out.

With its flexible powerplant, the Rio is able to utilise a fairly long final drive ratio, translating to 39 km/h per 1000 revs/min in top gear. This helps fuel consumption, and is also key to relaxed cruising ability. During in-house consumption testing, the automatic Rio achieved a figure of 5,6 litres per 100 km in simulations that replicate open road driving. Overall consumption in the Combined cycle was 7,2 l/100 km.

Ride/ handling

The Rio sedan has a wheelbase that, at 2 500 mm, is 90 mm longer than before, while both front and rear track has increased by 15 mm. Tyres measure 185/65, on 14-inch rims.

This long and wide – and therefore stable — footprint is combined with well-proven underpinnings: the front suspension is via MacPherson struts, the rear a torsion beam axle. Shock absorbers are gas-filled, for consistent responses.

A front subframe is used to support the engine/transmission and suspension/steering, thereby isolating the cabin from mechanical and road intrusions. Four hydraulic mounting points – unusual for a car in this segment – are used to attach the subframe to the front monocoque.

At the rear, the offset mounting of the suspension springs ensure smooth operation, with urethane bump stops used to improve overall refinement. The trailing arms of the torsion axle are mounted against the side sills rather than the floorpan to prevent road noise being fed directly into the vehicle.

The end result is not only a high level of refinement for the class, but also a car that provides a compliant and comfortable ride, while impressing with its willingness to change direction rapidly and an ability to hang on in the corners.

Steering is via power assisted rack and pinion, with fractionally more than three turns from lock to lock. Even with the longest wheelbase in the class, the turning circle is just 9,84 metres, which makes the Rio an ideal companion in dense traffic or at the shopping malls.

Interior

In the case of the Rio sedan it is probably most appropriate to begin at the end, and the well-trimmed boot – opened either by a remote cabin release or with the key – is vast. It measures 390 litres, which is 29 percent more than the previous Rio sedan. Flip up the rear cushions and fold the 60/40 backrests forward and there’s plenty more space and a virtually flat expanse of usable space.

Under the boot floor there’s a full-sized spare and an additional stash area in the wheel well with a moulded compartment that also holds the jack and tools. The clever use of the boot space sets the tone for the interior and there are a number of storage solutions apart from the generous glovebox and wide door pockets. For example, there’s a coat or carry bag hook on the inner post of the passenger headrest, a roof console with sunglasses holder, and an easily accessible credit card slot in the facia.

Many other aspects of the interior confirm the focus on the driver’s needs. The command module on the right front door controls the electric windows (there’s a one-touch down facility for the driver’s glass) and central locking. The seat adjusts quickly and easily for the perfect position, and the steering column moves vertically across a broad arc, to ensure a clear view of the simple yet elegant instrument binnacle.

Metal-look finishes are used for the gear lever surround, the perimeter of the hang-down centre section and to highlight the rotary controls for the air conditioning that govern temperature, airflow direction and fan speed.

The ambience is light and airy, giving the cabin of a feeling of spaciousness. It isn’t a case of smoke and mirrors: the sedan’s cabin is exceptionally roomy. Overall width is between 12 and 49 mm wider than key rivals, translating into exceptional shoulder room, and making the Rio a real five-seater.

With a wheelbase that is nine to 40 mm up on its competitors, it goes without saying that the Rio has superior legroom, and with the new Rio’s increased roof height, there’s space for the human equivalent of the human Giraffe.

Verdict

The two-pedal version of the Rio 1,4 sedan is- pardon the pun- the automatic choice for those who need a spacious and refined compact, that majors on an effortless driving experience.

Yet it does so without sacrificing driver enjoyment, thanks to crisp, well-modulated responses from engine, steering, and brakes. Coupled to an exceptional level of refinement it is going to be a huge hit with passengers too.

Price and Warranty

The Rio 1.4 standard spec, hatch and sedan, manual with air-conditioner, electric windows, power steering, immobiliser and central locking will retail at an incredible price of R109 995 whilst the automatic will retail at R119 995.

The Rio 1.4 high spec hatch and sedan, manual with dual airbags, ABS, EBD, radio/cd, air-conditioner, electric windows, power steering, immobiliser, central locking will retail competitively at R 119 995, whilst the automatic will retail at R129 995

The Rio 1.4 is sold with a 3 year/100 000 km warranty, plus a 3years / s 60000 km service plan and also comes with a 3 year unlimited km roadside assistance plan, ensuring peace of mind, no matter where customers find themselves in need of assistance.

Model line-up

Kia Rio 2005 1.4 (std) Sedan 109 995
Kia Rio 2005 1.4 AT (std) Sedan 119 995
Kia Rio 2005 1.4 (high) Sedan 119 995
Kia Rio 2005 1.4 AT (high) Sedan 129 995
Kia Rio 2005 1.4 (std) Hatchback 109 995
Kia Rio 2005 1.4 AT (std) Hatchback 119 995
Kia Rio 2005 1.4 (high) Hatchback 119 995
Kia Rio 2005 1.4 AT (high) Hatchback 129 995