Just when we were starting to think Kia was holding back its smaller engined Rio, trying to keep it away from the hands of reviewers until we finally got our hands on one.
And, guess what, it's not half bad? In fact, it goes nearly as well as the 2.0-litre Impreza that we happened to drive around the same time.
This one's the bottom feeder, priced from $15,290 plus onroads ($200 less than the Hyundai equivalent i20). You can only get the S with three doors and the price is perilously close to that of the Mazda2 with five doors. But this car is as good as the Mazda, newer and better equipped too.
1.4-litre four cylinder petrol engine produces 79kW and 135Nm. It's not direct injection like the 1.6 and the downside is that it if you want an auto it's going to be a four speed, not the more fancied six with the 1.6 and other models. But hey the manual's a six-speed and that's what we were driving.
With a 43-litre tank it takes standard unleaded and has a range of about 750km. Rated at 5.7 litres/100km we were getting 6.6 after a couple of hundred kays according to the trip computer but we'd expect this figure to improve over time.
Sporty looking three door hatch. Goes suprisingly well. The manual is easy to use and the sixth cog leaves it nice and relaxed on the freeway. Full size spare wheel is a bonus. With its excellent economy and safety credentials this would make a perfect first car for teenagers.
No worries here. Full five stars for safety with six airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist (even gets four-wheel discs which is unusual in this segment). Vehicle Stability Management oversees the whole system and can even adjust the steering pressure if things look like getting out of hand.
WHAT YOU GET
For an entry level model it is surprisingly well equiiped with airconditioning, rear spoiler, Bluetooth, iPod compatible audio system, steering wheel phone and audio controls as standard. There's also a trip computer with distance to empy, the steering wheel is both tilt and reach adjustable and the driver's seat is height adjustable too.
WHAT YOU DONT
There's not much missing from the package. No alloys, but the 15 inch steel wheels are fitted with decent 185/65 profile tyres. The only thing we'd miss is cruise control.
Our fears were unfounded. This has the same engine as the Hyundai i20 but with variable valve timing thrown in and slightly more power. The long and the short of it is that it goes okay, so if price is a consideration and you can't stretch to the 1.6 you won't be disappointed.
KIA RIO S
Price: from $15,290
Engine: 4 Cylinder, 1.4 Litre
Transmission: Manual, Front Wheel Drive
Thirst: 5.7 litres/100km
Warranty: 5 years
Safety Rating: 5 stars
Spare tyre: Full size spare