Kia Rio / Pride

Debut: 2017
Maker: KIA
Predecessor: Rio / Pride (2011)

 Published on 14 Feb 2017
All rights reserved. 

Maybe Mr. Schreyer spent too much energy on the superb Stinger and had this one passed over...

In the past 6 or 7 years Kia and Hyundai have been known for fast-rising design under the lead of Peter Schreyer. However, recently their new launches become conservative, replacing avant-garde theme with maturity. The first victims are Hyundai Sonata, Elantra, i20 and i30. Now the list extends to Kia Rio (or Pride in Korea).

You know what Rio is. It is the company’s B-segment supermini and the sister car of Hyundai i20. The last generation (Mk3) Rio was quite radically styled. Its windscreen and bonnet were so steeply raked that the body nearly became a monospace. Its rising shoulder line, one-piece rear side windows and tapered C-pillars contributed to a sporty appearance. In contrast, the new car looks like a bar of soap. Its body profile is boxy, just with the edges and corners rounded. Interior volume should be benefited by such profile, but aesthetic takes a blow. The windscreen is more upright. The bonnet is flatter. The shoulder line is more horizontal. At the nose, the bumper intake gets larger and more rectangular, but the “Tiger nose” grille is strangely covered with a piece of lacquered black plastic. What is the calculation behind Peter Schreyer’s change of direction? I am not sure, but I really doubt if it is a smart move. Maybe Mr. Schreyer spent too much energy on the superb Stinger and had this one passed over.

Mediocre engines matched with dull chassis means not much fun to drive.

Inside, the story is slightly better. Generally speaking, the cabin’s materials, build quality, functions and ergonomics are all improved from the old car’s, just as you would expect. The 7-inch infotainment touchscreen is positioned higher to be easier viewing. Its software and response are also much improved to be very competitive for the class, while Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity are included. Thankfully, it still leaves hardware switches and dials at the lower part of center console for controlling air-con etc., so you don’t need to go through the steps on touchscreen. The dashboard design is hardly inspiring, as is the dark theme – the color inserts on top-spec trim fail to lift the ambience much. Hard plastics are found everywhere except the dash top, while door panels are made of particularly cheap, scratchy and shiny plastics, so its perceived quality is no match with Volkswagen Polo, Nissan Micra, Peugeot 208 etc. However, the cabin plastics are well screwed together, and the switches feel solid.

In terms of practicality, the new Rio is remarkable. Its cabin is large for the class. The rear seat offers enough space for 2 adults without compromising the front passengers. Rear legroom is adequate while headroom is good for 6-footers. Slimmer door panels free up elbow room, yet the doors incorporate large cubbies for bottle water. Speaking of storage, there are plenty. There is a two-tier cubby at the center console, in front of the gearstick to place mobile phones and small stuffs. At the back, the boot is one of the largest in the class at 325 liters. Only Honda Fit (Jazz) and Skoda Fabia beat it for luggage carrying capability.

Plenty of space and storage, but the cabin disappoints in style and perceived quality.

The car shares platform with Hyundai i20, which is also an updated version of the outgoing car’s underpinnings. Therefore, its dimensions hardly change – just 15mm longer, 5mm wider, 5mm lower and 10mm longer in wheelbase. Kia said 51 percent of the monocoque is made of advanced high-strength steel, i.e. those with tensile strength >550MPa, up from 33 percent of the old car. This should improve its crash safety while lightening the chassis a little. Not much else of the chassis is worth mentioning. In the engine compartment, there is a pair of new 1.0T-GDI three-cylinder direct injection turbo, offering either 100hp or 120hp. Other engines are carried over but detuned to save fuel: 1.4-liter 16V Gamma (100hp), 1.25-liter 16V Kappa (84hp) and a pair of 1.4CRDi turbo diesel (77 or 90hp). The old car’s 140hp 1.6-liter GDI has been dropped to cut CO2.

On the road, the 120hp 1.0T engine offers decent power, flexibility and refinement, but it won’t make you wonder like Ford 1.0 Ecoboost. It revs smoothly and quietly until 4000rpm, then it becomes noisy and strained. Fortunately, the 6-speed manual gearbox keeps it at the sweet zone on highway. With less torque, the naturally aspirated 1.4-liter feels underpowered, let alone the 1.25-liter. In corners, the Rio handles its body movement okay but never feels as sharp as Ford Fiesta or many other European rivals. The steering is quick enough and weighs up adequately as speed rises, but at no time it communicates with you. The ride is slightly more composed than the old car’s, but it still fails to match the class standards. The suspension doesn’t absorb low-speed bumps in town very well, resulting in a lot of thumps and noise. As the chassis was tuned primarily in Germany (Australian version gets its own suspension and steering tuning), it rides better on highway. Still, you had better to avoid the 17-inch wheels with low-profile tires. Meanwhile, there is still too much wind and road noise at highway speed.

Overall, the Rio is hard to impress. It looks dull, it drives dull and it is not particularly refined. There seems to be not a single reason to buy it instead of the countless of good superminis on the market. Korean magic seems to be fading.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Rio 1.4
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4065 / 1725 / 1445 mm
2580 mm
1368 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
100 hp
98 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1130 kg
108 mph (c)
11.8 (c)
Rio 1.0T
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4065 / 1725 / 1445 mm
2580 mm
998 cc
DOHC 12 valves, DVVT
120 hp
126 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1160 kg
118 mph (c)
9.8 (c)

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