Used Kia Rio review: 2000-2005
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On sale here since July 2000, the Rio's sales started off relatively modestly but have picked up steadily over the years and there are now plenty on the used-car scene.
In fact the Kia Rio has been on the Australian market much longer. It was sold here under the Ford Festiva badge from 1991 until the arrival of the 'real' Rio.
Rio's styling was on the adventurous side when first launched, but was toned down in a facelift in 2002. The new model of August 2005 is far better looking than the older ones.
Quite a few of these are now in the used-car yards and are the ones to aspire to if your budget is up to it. They are better not only in style but also in on-road dynamics and build quality.
You can buy a Rio as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. Interestingly, the current models are smaller on the outside, but provide more interior space than the original versions. The back seat can cope with adults, but is aimed at those who are yet to reach their teenage years.
Like the Festiva, the original Rio is nothing special to drive in the way of handling and road feel. It is safe enough, with understeering scrubbing off speed if you hassle it at corners too hard, but will frustrate keen drivers who want more precision.
Good tyres can improve the Rio but can be costly and, sadly, you are unlikely to be able to recoup the cost of the quality tyres when it comes to resale time.
The Kia Rios from 2005 are a real improvement in their handling and feel, but are still not really aimed at the keen driver.
Interior noise levels are relatively high, especially if the engine is worked hard. The plastics have a low-cost look and feel. However, build quality is improving and as a general rule the later the car the better it is screwed together.
The bodies are generally assembled to a higher standard than the interiors, though we do see the occasional rough one, more so in older cars.
The experienced home mechanic can do a fair bit on this car. Access under the bonnet is good and the Rio is not trying to break new ground in technology. As always, we caution against doing any safety-related work yourself.
Insurance costs are normally in the lower mid-range, but they can vary more than usual from company to company. So it pays to shop around.
Under the bonnet
Pre-2005 Rios are powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine. If used moderately it will sound and feel fine — drive it hard and it gets thrashy. Performance is generally ok in this relatively light car, but if you load it up for a trip in hilly territory it may protest.
The newer Rios have a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that is more powerful and smoother.
Transmission options are five-speed manual and four-speed automatic. The automatic takes the edge of what performance the engine does deliver but works pretty well for what it is.
Check the interior and boot for a below-average finish or signs of mistreatment. The cabin can deteriorate rapidly.
The engine should fire up within a second or so of the key being turned, even when it is cold. As soon as it starts it should settle into a steady idle.
Acceleration should occur almost immediately the pedal is pushed. Any hesitation should be treated with suspicion.
There should be no smoke from the exhaust pipe even if the engine is worked hard. Letting it idle for about a minute, then flooring the throttle in a quick takeoff will let you spot it.
A manual gearbox should be moderately light and not crunch on any of the down changes, no matter how fast they are made. The change from third to second is usually the first to play up.
If the automatic transmission is slow at picking up a drive gear from park or neutral it may be because it needs an overhaul.
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