Andre De Kock
Believing statistics can be costly. When – many decades ago – this writer was young, statistics indicated that more than 70% of car crashes happened within 20 km of the owners’ places of residence. Furthermore, more than 90% of car hijackings happened within 10km of the owners’ homes.
So, to be safe, I did not go home for months at a time. This played havoc with my finances. Three wives left, one after the other, because I was never there, causing me huge monetary hardship in divorce settlements. Damn. The fourth – deciding she preferred me almost never being around, decided to stay forever. Double damn.
These days, of course, car hijackers are outnumbered by tenderpreneurs, whose profits in a single day of negotiation makes stealing luxury cars look like minor shoplifting. And, if caught with their hands in the till, the cadres can rely on the statistic that no South African politician has ever been held accountable just for being a liar and a thief.
All of which has turned this writer into an incurable sceptic, unable to believe any statement of improvement. Thus, when tasked with the evaluation of the refreshed and revised Kia Rio, we initially viewed the newcomer with a jaundiced eye.
We have driven a Kia Rio before and found it to be thoroughly competent. Why would enhancements to its exterior design and increased standard specification make it even more competent? We were pleasantly surprised – after a week with the flagship 1.4 Tec auto as a house guest, we gave it a “competent plus” rating.
Mechanically, the newcomer still boasts the normally aspirated, four-cylinder, 1 396 cc petrol engine that has done duty in the Rio since its local launch in 2017. It produces 73 kW of power at 6 300 rpm and 135 Nm of torque at 4 200 rpm, all sent to the front wheels via a new six-speed automatic transmission.
As familiar as the engine, the new Rio’s exterior updates have been kept low-key, being restricted to a grille redesign, a lower, wider front bumper and a different fog lamp housing. The test vehicle boasted 17-inch alloy wheels in 205/45 R17 rubber, which added much to the car’s looks plus, a huge bonus in our book, a full-sized spare wheel.
The Rio comes with safety features like driver’s, passenger’s, side and curtain airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, side door impact beams front and rear, child locks, and impact sensing door unlocking. ISOFIX child seat anchors are standard, as are ABS brakes, Electronic Stability Control and Hill-start Assist Control.
Interior enhancements have been kept to a minimum, with the previous Rio already boasting an impressively user-friendly living space. If it is not broken, do not fix it. Which means the main update is an upgrade of the touchscreen interface from seven to eight inches.
Good stuff carried over from the prior model includes leather upholstery, automatic air-conditioning, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, LED rear combination lamps, cruise control, a park assistance system with rearview camera, electric windows, electric side mirrors, central locking with an alarm and immobiliser, six speakers, rake and reach adjustable steering, and manual headlight adjustment.
A leather covered steering wheel houses remote audio controls and Bluetooth hands-free telephone connectivity. Front passengers can benefit from USB and auxiliary-in ports, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, while a 12V power socket is available for additional charging devices. The Rio will seat four adults in comfort, and its split folding rear seatbacks can create a lot of luggage space.
A race car it is not as Kia’s claim would suggest. It is said to go from standstill to 100 km/h in just under 13 sec with a top whack of 175 km/h. But it is nippy enough to keep up with traffic, the gearbox works smoothly and almost unnoticed, the handling feels planted and sure-footed, and it happily cruises at 120 km/h on the highway at 3 000 rpm.
Meanwhile, a turning circle of just 10.2 metres and the rear-view camera makes it easy to park. Fuel efficiency was impressive – after being driven mostly in the city, the test vehicle’s average consumption was 7.2 l/100km. These would be what potential Rio buyers will wish for, as opposed to massive performance.
The Rio will remain a strong contender in the highly competitive B-segment of the local market. The Rio 1.4 Tec auto will set you back R361 995. It comes with Kia’s unlimited kilometre/five-year warranty, inclusive of five years’ roadside assistance, plus a four-year/60 000 km service plan.
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