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Road Test


Kia Rio LX    (1.4 litre manual)

by Ian Barrett

24th August, 2007


Kia Rio LX

Since its release in 2000, Kia's small car, the Rio, has been a common sight on our roads, but it has never really challenged for leadership in this market segment. However, with the release of the new Rio in 2005, Kia's prospects have changed. The new Euro-inspired exterior styling and a roomier, more sophisticated cabin, means that Rio now has what it takes to be a serious contender in the small car segment of Australia's expansive new car market.

The Rio is available as either a 5-door hatch or a 4-door sedan. With five distinct versions across the range, including a 'Sports' hatch (shown opposite in a file image), and a great colour range, prospective buyers are spoilt for choice. We tested the entry-level 5-speed manual LX Hatch, recently announced as Australia's most economical car to own and operate by the nation's combined state/territory based motoring organisations. A combined fuel consumption figure of 6.7L/100km is part of that story.

Powered by a 1.4-litre DOHC engine developing 70 kW @ 6,000 rpm and 125 Nm of torque @ 4,700 rpm, the car surprises with its flexibility and smoothness. Engine noise is also quite subdued under most situations. Overall performance is adequate, particularly considering the kerb weight is 1,193 kgs and, it must be said, the Rio copes well with both city and freeway conditions. With all their safety gear, even today's small cars are no lightweights.

Brakes are ventilated discs up front, with drums at the rear. They worked well enough, although ABS is not available on the entry-level version. Suspension consisting of front McPherson struts and rear torsion beam with coils, gives the Rio safe and vice-free handling without quite matching the handling dynamics of some of its European designed opposition. Ride comfort over our patchwork of roads was acceptable.

Naturally the LX comes with the mandatory crumple zones, side impact beams, driver and front passenger airbags, together with front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters. However, buyers wanting more safety will need to move upmarket to the 1.6-litre versions to have the option of ABS braking incorporating Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), or side and curtain airbags. Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is not on offer.

Fit and finish of panels, paint and interior trim were fine. Kia builds cars to pass the test of time, so every Rio body shell goes through a multi-stage prime and paint process to safeguard against corrosion. Even body cavities are specially treated to guard against the effects of moisture.

Interior accomodation is adequate for this class, with front and rear head and legroom being satisfactory for 4 adults, at least for general commuting and shorter trips. Front seating offers reasonable comfort and support, while 8-way adjustment of the driver's seat caters to most shapes and sizes.

For the asking price of $14,990 (RRP) the Rio LX offers reasonable equipment levels, including AM/FM radio with single CD and 4 speakers, tilt adjustable steering column, air conditioning, height adjustable front seat belts, cup holders, map pockets, power windows (front only), battery-saver headlights, remote keyless central locking and anti-theft immobiliser. Power assisted rack and pinion steering comes standard.

The Rio can be optioned up to really stand out from the crowd, with a big range of exciting enhancements available for that personalised touch. Included in the list are such desirables as 6-stacker in-dash CD player with the audio system, dash mat, leather-bound steering wheel, leather gearshift knob (manual), rear spoiler (sedan and hatch), alloys wheels, alarm kit and cargo net.

Young and active buyers, who are into the great outdoors, are also well catered for with such items as bicycle carriers, snow ski/fishing rod holders and even a water craft carrier - all for use with Kia's roof rack set. And accessories are reasonably priced, too!

Those with a slightly larger budget will want to take a closer look at the 1.6 litre variants, with CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing) technology developing 82 kW of power @ 6,000 rpm and maximum torque of 145 Nm @ 4,500 rpm. And there's the added ease of rear power windows, electrically-adjusted and heated mirrors, folding driver's armrest and two extra speakers to enhance the listening experience of the audio system.

And for those wanting a little more driving excitement, the Sports hatch comes with 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/45 performance tyres, rear spoiler, unique sports trim with racing-style pedals and leather steering wheel and gear shift knob. A sporty centre console with a satin silver finish highlights the dash.

As mentioned, pricing (RRP) of the Rio starts at $14,990 for the LX as tested, plus on-road costs, ranging up to $18,990 for the Sport (with manual transmission). Add $2,000 for automatic transmission and $250 for metallic/mica paint. All Kia's come with a 3 year/100,000 km warranty.

The Kia Rio LX is a stylish and economical car for entry level buyers. The frugal fuel consumption (6.7 l/100 kms on the combined cycle), combined with the 45-litre fuel tank will see a good many activities between fill-ups. And that will delight many buyers!

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Other Kia content: here.

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