Kia Rio morphs to sexy four-door

2012-04-25 20:09

Korean automaker Kia has matured amazingly over the past dozen years. The funny little cars from a country few could point to on a globe have morphed into smart, high-tech - even spacious! - machines that easily challenge the now rather stuffy established and expensive brands.

Among its products is the Rio, first seen in October 2000. The very name exudes the cheerful exoticism evoked by the Spanish word for river (especially when followed by 'de Janeiro') - which is what this B-segment car is all about. Ray Levin, CEO of Kia SA, said at the launch of the hatchback version in South Africa back in November 2011:

"The new Kia Rio is a car people will want to buy for its looks, generous features and environmental credentials."


He was right though, then, speaking only of the hatch; that car has broken sales records for the company and helped to take overall B-segment sales in South Africa to 39% of all cars sold here. It's also been a great advert for other models in the Kia stable - which is more good news because that will wash on to the two-litre Kia Soul (due in May), the face-lifted Sorento SUV due towards the end of 2012 and the all-new Cerato hatch and sedan expected early in 2013.

Check out our image gallery!

Now available is the Kia Rio sedan - though, really, it doesn't look like one. It meets the criteria (four doors, five seats, a hole at the back covered by a lockable metal lid instead of a large, breakable window) but its profile is distinctly coupe, a smooth though flattened curve almost from nose to tip of tail. The hatchback is a handsome vehicle of modest proportions; I think the "sedan" is even better-looking, an excellent evocation of generic modern-car design that will hold its status for many years to come.

RIO SEDAN AT LANZERAC: Kia South Africa chose the Lanzerac wine estate in Stellenbosch for its 2012 model launch.

David Sieff, Kia SA's marketing manager, said at its South African launch in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, this week that the Rio, given its well-equipped cabin, frugal 1.2 and 1.4 engines and level of luxury despite its size, was already stealing sales from the more-expensive C segment as cash-strapped South Africans went more for a well-specced smaller car than a less so larger one.

"Buyers want luxury but at a small price," he said - and that's something the Rio delivers. To be fair, so do competitors Toyota's Yaris, VW's Polo, Ford's Fiesta, Kia's sister company Hyundai's Accent, the Mazda2 and Honda's Ballade. If you're in the market, look at them all - get their sale teams to do some work and bring the cars to you to examine and drive!


So what to the Kia Rio hatch and sedan share? Well, pretty much everything up to an including the back seat.

Both are sold with the option of two petrol engines (1.25 Kappa and 1.4 Gamma producing 65kW/120Nm and 79kW/135Nm respectively) and three trim levels - 1.2, 1.4 and 1.4 TEC in ascending order and price – and are slightly longer, wider, lower and with a longer wheelbase (70mm) than the preceding Mk.III range.

The Rio sedan will have a CO2 rating of 129-165g/km and is rated for fuel consumption of 5.4 to seven litres/100 km – respectively, for the 1.25 and 1.4 models.

The 1.4 engine feeds either a six-speed manual or four-speed auto, the smaller unit a five-speed manual only.

The new sedan is 320mm longer than the hatch at 4365mm though they ride on the same 2570mm wheelbase so the extra length must be to accommodate the boot length – and luggage capacity is what buyers must consider.

The Rio hatch offers 288 litres with the rear seats up, a whopping 923 with them folded down. The sedan, seats up, offers 389 litres though the rear seats can also fold, 60/40 to create a flat floor.


Both versions come with the distinctive “tiger’s nose” Kia grille and busy lights (the number and type of which vary between 1.2 and 1.4 models. In profile, Kia says, the sedan has a dynamic and sporty stance and has a drag co-efficient of 0.31.

The 1.2 and 1.4 models have black cloth seats but the top 1.4 TEC has thick, black, leather trim – the mark, Kia says, of a mature, refined, compact premium car – but all models have “big car” comfort and convenience features.

Standard on the range are radio with CD player and MP3 compatibility, plus AUX, iPod and USB connections. Bluetooth hands-free phone connection  and auto aircon come with the 1.4 models.

Cabin storage includes a 1.5-litre glove box, a centre console with three litres of storage and door pockets to hold, variously, 1.5 and half-litre bottles.


The Rio 1.2 rides on 15” steel wheels shod with 185/65 tyres and decorated with alloy look wheel covers; the 1.4 has 15” alloy rims (17” with lower-profile 205/45 tyres an option). All models carry a full-size spare wheel and variously available or standard are daytime running lights, auto lights/wipers on, fog lights, folding mirrors with auxiliary indicators, LED tail lights.

One thing I'd miss, given the number of tax-raising speed traps around, is cruise control - none of the models is so equipped.

The cars have a five-star EuroNCAP crash safety rating and come with front air bags and front, side and curtain bags on the 1.4 TEC. Anti-lock brakes, reversing radar, child-seat anchors and childproof rear door locks are standard. A glass sunroof is optional at R6000, alloy rims where absent R3000.

Every new Rio also has a battery saver that automatically turns off the headlights and any other active electrical systems when the engine is switched off to avoid a flattened battery. Also standard are a four-year or 60 000km service plan, a five-year or 100 000km warranty and three years of unlimited roadside assistance.

Take a closer look at the Kia Rio sedan.

Kia Rio sedan 1.2 - R141 995
Kia Rio sedan 1.4 - R159 995
Kia Rio sedan 1.4 a/t - R169 995
Kia Rio sedan 1.4 TEC - R173 995
Kia Rio sedan 1.4 TEC a/t - R183 995

and by comparison the hatchbacks...

Kia Rio hatch 1.2 - R139 995
Kia Rio hatch 1.4 - R157 995
Kia Rio hatch 1.4 a/t - R167 995
Kia Rio hatch 1.4 TEC - R171 995
Kia Rio hatch 1.4 TEC a/t - R181 995

  • Vickers - 2012-04-26 16:03

    Still no 1.6? C'mon Kia we drive on the highveld here...

      altusvanzyl - 2012-04-27 21:58

      the 1.4 mekes more power than a 1.6

  • David - 2012-04-26 16:09

    If Kia gave one small little damn about the customers then I would read this. They are without question the most unprofessional and uncaring so called business I have ever dealt with. Salesman who could care less, have to BEG them to take your details, tell you to not bother because you wont get what you want, promise cars then say they never arrived...need I continue? We have been trying to buy a Kia for 4 months now!

      Dolphin - 2012-04-27 05:08

      Dont, they are crap.....

      maarten.slabbert.7 - 2012-04-27 08:24

      @David, name some names. Give us the particulars of the dealerships and the names of the salesmen you dealt with. It is time this kind of crap gets out there for us all to see. I am not connected to Kia myself, but i WILL give it somebody who can do something about it.

      Bertus - 2012-05-01 13:31

      Kia Roodepoort, Northcliff and Klerksdorp...none of them have come back to me when they can expect a 1.4 tec man Rio for a month now. Apparently Kia SA have no idea when the Koreans will send them a ship to Durbs, and even more, what will be on that ship. I shudder when I think when it will come to parts... Good looking car, good specs but I don't think its going to be worth it when you have to loose your cool for a simple answer above.

      David - 2012-05-03 09:14

      Northcliff was the pitts! The salespeople dont HAVE to "sell" because there is such a demand for the cars...thats the problem.

  • Michael Werner Joubert - 2012-04-30 11:11

    Not a good looking vehicle at all!

  • Zamakhabazela Mkhize - 2012-04-30 15:53

    i am having a problem buying the Rio 1.4 Tec man. the salesman took my details and never called back. when i went in to the dealership,he had never applied on my behalf. people need to be professional and do their jobs. this was Kia Pinetown

      Bertus - 2012-05-01 13:25

      I know your pain. 3 dealerships later and no one got back to me when they expect the next delivery. This was a month ago. Funny thing is, I'm waiting already a month for an answer, never mind for the actual car. Go on Hellopieter and you'll see there's a massive outcry about Kia's service. Might just dodge a bullet here by getting something else...

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