Car: 2017 Kia Rio SLi
The 2017 Kia Rio SLi is a robust little city car, that brings practicality, flair and a sense of premium to the small car segment.
KIA have matured as a manufacturer, no longer viewed as a closet, quirky manufacturer with simple cars, they deliver solid offerings through their product range and this fourth generation Rio, is no exception.
From the outset they’ve got the styling nailed down to a tee, and the Rio shares a lot of presence and simple style from much more expensive European contemporaries and established manufactures should take note, the Rio is stylish, omits a lot of rough angles and is a small car that will age gracefully and still look modern in years to come.
Kia have targeted the right personnel to bring into the company and with the likes of Peter Schreyer giving design influence to their cars, it’s simply starting to filter into their designs. There is a sense of premium in their cars now and this top model Rio is a classy place to do your driving. So at close to $23,000+O.R.C what do you get, well quite a lot, running front LED lights, a 7inch infotainment system, faux leather appointed interior, a sunroof, reverse parking sensors, automatic transmission (no manual in the SLi), electric side mirrors, auto headlights, plenty of interior practicality (storage space/usb ports) and most importantly a myriad of safety features, although not officially ANCAP tested yet, a strong showing is expected from this new model, given the old models 5 star rating.
On the inside, the interior ergonomics are spot on for a car this size. This is no family sedan, but four adults will sit comfortably in the Rio and cabin space in the boot is sufficient for groceries and small items. If extra carry space is needed then the rear seats fold down accommodating larger items, while cabin space is not on par with other contenders, make no mistake it’s ample for a car in this segment.
Once inside the vehicle particularly from the driver’s perspective, there isn’t a lot of cluster and dials spread out all over the dash. Dead centre in the dash is a 7 inch infotainment system, the screen is central to both driver and passenger. It’s a touch screen system and has a myriad of functionality behind it. Too keep it simple, it’s a breeze to use and easily synchs with modern phones and personally I love the layout of the navigation maps….roads are easy to see and the system provides useful alerts like safety cameras and school crossings etc. The faux leather appointed steering wheel is a good size/shape and feels solid, the controls on the steering are easy to use, you can drive comfortably and make audio/cruise control adjustments and still keep your hands on the wheel. Although KIA still choose to use a lot of dark hard plastics, the fit and finish is of quality, buttons don’t feel cheap and the interior has a solid quality appointment to it, so it should stay sharp and clean for many years to come. This would be a handy second car for families. Don’t be fooled by other makes offering bright colour interior combinations, they are a nightmare to clean and date quickly, the simplicity of dark colours stands the test of time.
The dash layout directly infront of the driver is also well thought out, both speedo and tachometer are separate and are easy to see both in day and night driving and the LCD readout is crisp which gives a variety of vehicle related information and isn’t too distracting. The seating is very supportive, lumbar support is adequate and there isn’t much movement whilst driving, comfort levels are high and the choice of faux leather is of quality for a vehicle is this price bracket. We’ve had the top of the line Rio SLi for a week and with all the equipment in this car it’s been a pleasure to travel in, but make no mistake, for a reliable small family car the base model with manual (approx. 17,000 +.O.R.C) would be the best value for money, and because it’s a KIA rest assured the dealer will be happy to make you a great deal on any model you choose!
So what’s the car like to drive. One word sums it up, effortless. This is certainly no race car, but the 1.4ltr petrol is zippy enough for city driving, this is a small car but its road hold is of that of a larger sedan. I’m not sure if it’s the more rigid steel in the chassis of this 4th generation Rio, or the locally tuned suspension, but the road handing is more than adequate, the chassis doesn’t roll around corners and the suspension is firm, but still very accommodating in providing comfort on rough roads. In conjunction with the power assisted steering which is ultra-light and provides ample feel to the driver, the car is effortless to drive around in an urban environment. There’s no hassle or urgency about this vehicle, it does things simply and well. Braking is firm and quick, city parking is a breeze, 3 point turning in small laneways are simple, frankly the engineers have delivered in giving a practical fun little city car.
The only drawback in the Rio is perhaps that the 4speed auto doesn’t mange to deliver enough sprint and a times the vehicle may appear to bog down, but this isn’t a sports car and once again most vehicles in this category do suffer from low down grunt when coming out of corners. I dare say a manual transmission would be the one to buy if you could (SLi is automatic only), if you were looking at the most fun and performance from the engine, but the 4 speed although dated, still does primarily what if was designed for, smooth/quiet shifting. While a lot of other manufacturers have moved to smaller high compression turbo engines, that unfortunately only seem to run on high octane fuel, KIA’s older 1.4ltr unit, will run on regular unleaded, and that will keep the pennies in the bank.
I’ll say it again 74kw isn’t a lot, you aren’t going to be Lewis Hamilton at the lights or a bullet train on the highway, but this car is designed to do neither of those things, it rewards you with a simplistic city driving experience. Your journey isn’t a hassle in this car, it will get you there safely and comfortably and you won’t leave the car feeling tired, sore or agitated, this little KIA saves your energy for all those other life hassles you have, when you’re at your destination. In the modern world practicality is an understatement and KIA with the Rio have delivered in a fine way, it’s practical and combines a premium feel without a premium price tag.
In summary the drawbacks I’d fault the Rio on, is rear-view visibility when looking through the rear – view mirror isn’t the best, the automatic gearbox probably does need an update and the omission of full size alloy spare is always annoying. Then again what other car company can deliver on a 7yr warranty…?
The answer none but KIA, so for all those badge snobs out there, do yourself a favour and test drive the Rio, if you’re in the game for a small car…from the base model Rio S to the top of the line Rio SLi, there’s a Rio in the range to fancy your automotive desire!
Car tested and reviewed by Cosi Dichiera.