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Rio to Cape

2005-10-11 14:13

John Oxley

Unlike its predecessors the new Rio comes in both four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions, with the accent on modern styling, latest technology, and great value-for-money.

I first drove the cars in France in July, and I was thoroughly impressed.

However, driving left-hand drive cars in a foreign land is totally different to piloting right-hand drive cars at home, in local road conditions, and in local traffic.

All I can say after driving the cars in and around Cape Town yesterday, is that I'm not disappointed.

Certainly any fears that the "local" cars would be significantly different from those we drove in France disappeared the moment we opened the doors of the Arabella Sheraton in Cape Town and saw the cars lined up on display.

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.

Space benefits

This naturally translates into real benefits in terms of interior space and luggage room, and it's interesting to compare them with their natural rivals.

The new Rio's wheelbase is between 9 mm and 40 mm longer than the VW Polo, Peugeot 206, Ford Fiesta and Opel Corsa, while its overall width is from 12 mm to 49 mm wider, and overall length (in five-door form) is between 30 mm and 168 mm longer than its potential hatchback competitors

There are currently eight Rios available in SA, basically four hatches and four sedans, in manual or auto, and in standard or high specification.

All are powered by the same 1.4 16-valve DOHC litre petrol engine producing 70 Kw at 6 000 r/min and 127 Nm of torque at 4 700 r/min.

Claimed performance sees the 0-100 km/h dash in 12.3 seconds and a top speed of 177 km/h, with overall fuel economy in the region of 6.2 litres in the Euro 4 combined cycle. The car has a 45 litre fuel tank

Standard features include power steering, air conditioning, front and rear fog lamps, 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 dual front airbags.


The new Rios have a very strong and youthful front end and grille, and I particularly like the wide and grinning "mouth" radiator air intake.

Shaped like a flattened shield, the grille is flanked by extra-large headlamps, similar to those of its smaller sibling the Picanto, while beyond the lights wide wheel arches are flared from the bodywork.

The 5-door has a black mesh grille, while the 4-door combines mesh and slats, and both have a deep front spoiler with a wide lower intake.

From the side there's a steeply raked windscreen and quite heavy C-Pillar treatment that gives the side view a sweeping look.

From the centre pillar back the 4-door and 5-door models depart.

The hatchback has a flatish roof that culminates in a separate high-mounted spoiler and a steeply sloping rear window, while the sedan flows into a shortish boot lid.

At the rear are extra-large rear lamp clusters (parallelogram-shaped on 4-door, deltoid on 5-door) with clear lenses and surfaces.

The 5-door's tailgate features a wide rear window and a high-level brake light. Coefficient of drag in both models is Cd 0.32.


The dashboard is wide and sweeping, with a centrally-mounted console that features a metallic-look plastic centre panel containing the sound system and central ventilation outlets.

There's a deeply recessed instrument binnacle with brushed-chrome rimmed dials which display speed and engine revs, with inset fuel level and water temperature gauges.

Separate steering column stalks control the two-speed and intermittent windscreen wipers and the lights.

Interior space offers enough for four adults. There's 1 005 mm of headroom at the front and 960 mm in the rear.

Legroom is 1 085 mm (front) and 870 mm for rear seat occupants. Shoulder room is also the same for both body styles - 1 360 mm for front seat occupants and 1 350 mm across the rear seat.

The seats are well-shaped and comfortable, and give good support in hard cornering, while trim materials are of good quality if somewhat plain.

Height adjustment

The driver's seat has height adjustment for the seat cushion, with separate rotary adjusters for the front and rear, and a similar adjuster to enable the backrest to be fine-tuned.

There's a height-adjustable steering column and a thick-rimmed three-spoke tilt-adjustable steering wheel.

Manually adjustable head restraints are standard on both front seats, while the rear seat has three manually adjustable head restraints.

The rear seats fold and are split 60/40.

Other features include an overhead console, hinged centre fascia tray, centre console with two cupholders, door map pocket and under-dashboard tray.

There is a small glove box, pockets on the front seat backs, and bag hooks moulded into the rear of the front head restraint mountings. In sedan models there is an additional storage tray beneath the luggage floor, moulded to fit around the spare wheel.

The Rio is sold with a 3 year/100 000 km warranty, plus a 3 years/ 60 000 km service plan and also comes with a 3 year unlimited km roadside assistance plan.


Kio has moved into a new market segment with the Rio, pitting it full-on against some heavyweight competitors.

However, in terms of styling, build quality, and space it's more than up to the job.

More's the pity, then, that there's no diesel in the lineup for the forseeable future...


- 1.4 (std), Sedan: R109 995
- 1.4 AT (std), Sedan: R119 995
- 1.4 (high), Sedan: R119 995
- 1.4 AT (high), Sedan: R129 995
- 1.4 (std), Hatchback: R109 995
- 1.4 AT (std), Hatchback: R119 995
- 1.4 (high), Hatchback: R119 995
- 1.4 AT (high), Hatchback: R129 995


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