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Mazda2 Neo vs Kia Rio

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Mazda2 Neo and Kia Rio go head to head in this comparative review.

4 stars

VALUE from $17,440

4 stars

VALUE from $18,290

The most popular car in the light class outsells our COTY three-to-one. Solid and safe car even in base Neo form, it has features you once only got in family cars, among them cruise control and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Add Mazda's solid resale and it's a strong proposition.

Korean cars are improving in perceived value on the used market. This one costs a bit more than the Mazda but has extras such as Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming. The lack of cruise control in this model is a sad omission.


The 1.5-litre engine is slightly bigger than the Rio's but has less power, not that anyone will notice. Torque is the same at 135Nm. The engine is married to a four-speed auto, which is quiet and smooth and gets the job done.
Bluetooth is an option.

The engine has a little more power to deal with its extra 100-odd kg. Still, the Kia Rio manages 0.5L/100km better economy. The four-speed auto is a competent transmission if a little slow to down-shift. The manual option has six speeds to the Mazda's five.

3.5 stars


4 starsDESIGN
It may look like a Manga character but it gets the heart rate going. Still, the interior is in need of an update; it's all a bit grey and old next to the newcomer. Seats are especially supportive and comfortable with cool cloth designs. This is the fresh face in this class and it looks more Euro than Korean. Bat-shaped grille and headlights give it an aggressive yet cheerful image. Interior is modern and airy. Rear passenger and cargo space are ample.
3 starsSAFETY 4 starsSAFETY

The Neo gets four stars from ANCAP but airbags have since been added to match the five-star Maxx variant. Front discs and rear drums are backed by electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist. The spare's a space-saver

It gets the full five stars from ANCAP and adds hillstart assist and doors that automatically unlock in a crash. Importantly, there's a full-size spare tyre so you can travel out of the city with confidence

4 starsDRIVING 4 starsDRIVING

There's a solid feel to this car even though it is lighter than the Rio. That comes through in low cabin noise, connected feeling in the steering and sensible road manners.

Australian-tuned suspension works well on our pitted roads. It has a good ride while feeling taut and connected to the road. There's a bit of road noise, especially around the wing mirrors and in the back.
 3.5 stars image
4 stars image


We love the trusty little Mazda and consider it a safe and solid bet, but the brash newcomer is knocking loudly on the top-seller's door.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 4 comments

  • The Mazda2 Neo has a 5 star ANCAP rating, and has had it since August 2011, when they introduced 6 airbags as standard across the whole Mazda2 range.

    Keith Johnson of Melbourne Posted on 06 October 2013 2:01pm
  • The RIO looks so much better and having driven both it is the better drive. I intend on buying on one for my partner in coming months. She had the last model which whilst no comparison to the new one has been absolutely fault free.

    Neal of Cairns Posted on 29 March 2012 3:56pm
  • Could you do a comparison between the Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta and the Mazda 2? Also you have NOT made one mention of the on-going costs of running, servicing and other on-going costs as a total cost of ownership over a 6 year period. Can you include these things, as they are critical when choosing a vehicle?

    MichaelD of Melbourne Posted on 29 March 2012 8:36am
  • Rio should have gained an extra half star in Technology for the combination of .5 litre fuel efficiency per 100km and its extra gear in the manual version why was this ignored?

    Max W. of Aldinga Beach SA 5173 Posted on 28 March 2012 11:09pm
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