Some months after the local introduction of the new Kia Rio to the South African market, it remains a real sales success story that has been outperformed by only the Picanto in the Kia stable. BERNIE HELLBERG recently spent a couple of weeks behind the wheel of the 1.4 Tec derivative.

You can learn a lot about a car in seven days, the usual period allocated for an official road test by most local OEMs. But every so often an extended test drive is granted, for a more in-depth understanding of a vehicle.

With this in mind, we spent a month crisscrossing Gauteng in the range-topping 1.4 Tec version, doing everything that any regular owner of a Rio would do.

We didn’t get around to doing everything you could in a Rio, but enough time behind the wheel has proven that the big little supermini has a lot to offer buyers in what is a heavily contested market segment in South Africa.

Rivals like the new Volkswagen Polo and freshly introduced Ford Fiesta provide compelling arguments and have huge marketing budgets behind them, but the Kia Rio has personality aplenty, and holds its own against other rivals including the Mazda3 and the ageing Honda Jazz.


Kia Rio

The Driven test car, a generously-specified top model 1.4 Tec, is an overall well put together car that feels solid and composed. The interior, beautifully evolved from the previous generation is tactile and generously proportioned for passengers and luggage alike.

This is key, because in a market continuously buying down to get better value, getting as much bang for your buck, and space for your family, is super important.

On top of that, looks matter since a car is ultimately an emotional purchase along with all the other practical reasons why we need wheels. And the Rio doesn’t disappoint, both inside and out.
There is also the small matter of standard spec.

Generally, Kia’s vehicles offer good value, although bigger models such as the Sportage have been criticised for being on the expensive side in the past. Compared to its rivals, the Rio 1.4 Tec might not be the cheapest, but its middle-of-the-road price belies the load of extras thrown into the mix. This includes a sunroof, semi-automatic climate control and, our personal favourite, Apple CarPlay.

There are different engine options available on the Kia Rio, including both a 1.2 and 1.4-litre engine. Our test unit was powered by the 1.4-litre engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. With 74 kW of power and 135 Nm of torque, this little 1.4 performs well in varied conditions.

We took it highway cruising and mall crawling throughout our test, transported up to four adults on regular occasions, and generally did what we set out to do in the beginning: live life with the car for a month or so.

Naturally, while spending time in the Rio is fun, spending money on maintaining it is not. Given that we covered many miles under different conditions, we couldn’t achieve as frugal fuel consumption figures as the 5.8-l/100 km that Kia officially quotes for the manual 1.4 Tec model.

Instead, the near 7-l/100 km we managed seemed to be the sweet spot average during our test period, which we believe is fair given the varying circumstances.


Kia Rio

The Korean carmaker has done a great job with the Kia Rio, we’ve said so when we first drove the car at its Australian reveal in 2017, and later the same year when it hit local showrooms.

Zoning in on a specific model has given the Driven team an opportunity to really get to know the car, with all its quirks. Would we buy one, even in the face of stiff competition? Indeed yes, it offers value on paper and will have you living your life in style from the very first kilometre.



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