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Kia Rio S Premium auto 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
6
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the 2016 Kia Rio S Premium auto with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Richard Berry road tests and reviews the 2016 Kia Rio S Premium auto with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

There must be a rule that says little cars have to have fun names. Ford has the Fiesta, Honda has its Jazz, and then there's Kia with its Rio which is named after a city famous for fiestas and jazz …and also high levels of crime. But did you know you can't buy a Kia Rio in Rio? Kia doesn't sell that model there, they do sell a Bongo though, but it's a truck, a little one of course.

Anyway Kia does sell the Rio in Australia and early next year the new generation version will be coming, so in the lead up to this we drove the current model which made everybody look up and take notice when it arrived in 2011.

Our Rio was the S Premium grade with the automatic transmission, it's on the second rung up in the range.

So is it really as fun as it sounds? Is it too affordable: should you go for the next grade up and get more equipment or even a bigger Cerato for just a few more grand? Or should you wait for the new Rio to arrive?

Design

Do you remember where you were when the third-generation Rio landed in Australia? I do, it was 2011 and I'd just started working at CarsGuide and the new Rio landed looking stunning and so different to the previous model. Following the Sportage, Optima and the Sorento of the time, the Rio was the next Kia to get the magic touch from former Audi design guru Peter Schreyer who gave it refined, bold, European styling with the same sophisticated resemblance to the rest of its new family.

The Rio's cabin is stylishly minimalist with executive-class look throughout and more than a few hints of Audi.

In 2015 the Rio underwent its most recent upgrade gaining a new design to its front and rear bumpers, a restyled grille and new console stack in the cockpit.

The Rio's cabin is stylishly minimalist with executive-class look throughout and more than a few hints of Audi with the use of dark materials and chrome accents, although as the new generation draws near the interior is starting to date a little – particularly the media unit with its red LCD display.

At 4045mm in length the five-door Rio is 76mm longer than the Fiesta, 80mm lengthier than the Jazz and stretches 15mm past the leader of the light car segment – the Mazda2 hatch. The Rio is 1720mm across and stands 1455mm tall.

Practicality

Light cars really focus on the needs of the driver and their co-pilot, and the Rio is very typical of its class with plenty of room upfront, along with two cupholders and a bottle holder in the doors. Having a back seat with rear doors is a sort of bonus and for people who are 191cm tall or more (like me) there's not much in the way of legroom. My knees were hard up against the seat when I sat behind my driving position.

Still the cloth seats feel great, they're comfortable and supportive. There's no centre armrest back there and no cupholders either, but you'll find bottle holders all doors.

With those back seats up, the Rio's boot is about average for the class at 288 litres (VDA), that's 38 litres bigger than the Mazda2 hatch's cargo space, but there's 62 litres less boot space than in the cleverly designed Honda Jazz.  

Price and features

The Kio Rio S Premium with the optional auto costs $19,790, which is getting up there in price in a line-up which starts at $15,990 and tops out at $22,990. Variants with automatic transmissions are $2000 more than their manual counterparts.

The Rio is up against some super-competitive pricing in this segment. The top of the range Mazda2 Genki is only $1100 more than the S Premium.

Okay so what do you get on the S Premium that you don't get on the S? There's the 15-inch alloy wheels (the S gets steel wheels), cruise control, folding mirrors with indicators and a premium steering wheel. Then Premium S then gets all the standard features of the S such as heated wing mirrors, a rear lip spoiler, front and rear power windows, media unit with CD player and radio, Bluetooth connectivity and air conditioning.

As with all new Kias, the Rio S Premium has had its suspension specifically tuned by local engineers to suit Australian roads.

There's eight colours to choose from, such as Digital Yellow, Signal Red and Urban Blue, but you'll need to pay for those. Only the Clear White of our test car comes at no extra cost.  

The best reason not to buy the S Premium is not that the Mazda2 Genki is just a bit more money, or the Jazz's boot is bigger, it's that you can step up into the larger Kia Cerato S for $19,990 driveaway. The Cerato not only comes with more and better standard features but for another $500 will give you the AV pack which contains a 7-inch touch screen with reversing camera, Android Auto and auto headlights. Oh and far more room in the back seat and a larger boot capacity. If you had your heart set on a small car, rest assure the 4560mm-long Cerato is still small.

Engine/s and transmission/s

There are two engines in the Rio range: one is a 79kW/135Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder multi-point injection unit, the other is a more powerful and sophisticated 103kW/167Nm 1.6-litre direct injection beastie. The S and the S Premium are powered by the 1.4-litre, the rest of the grades get the bigger engine.

The S Premium comes standard with a six-speed manual, but, as we said, the four-speed torque converter automatic transmission (which was in our test car) can be optioned for a couple of grand more.

Fuel consumption

Kia says that the S Premium should use an average of 6.3L/100km of Regular Unleaded during combined driving conditions and 8.2L/100km in urban duties. We kept the Rio in its natural habitat of the suburbs and city and saw 11.3L/100km which is partly due to my driving style which has been described as “passionate”.  

Driving

As with all new Kias, the Rio S Premium has had its suspension specifically tuned by local engineers to suit Australian roads. When you're jumping in and out of squillion cars you can tell straight away when one fits not only our varying bitumen and concrete surfaces, but our driving taste, too.

Aussies like their cars to have a sporty feel but soft enough not to be jarring over our pock-marked roads and Kia has nailed this with the Rio.

Around the city the S Premium is competent and easy to drive.

If only the engine and transmission in the S Premium could match smooth sure footed-ness. It's like a talented ballet dancer who smokes way too much and doesn't have the energy to match their skill. I'd step up to the excellent 1.6-litre engine and that six-speed automatic which can be optioned along with it.

The S Premium's steering could be improved, too, it feels slow and not as direct as Australians like their tiller to be.

Performance aside, around the city the S Premium is competent and easy to drive.

The Rio doesn't come with a reversing camera and only the higher-end SLi comes with rear parking sensors.

Safety

The Kia Rio scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2011 and this is the same car. There's the expected ABS, traction and stability control, plus driver and front passenger airbags, front side airbags and curtain airbags.

Safety technology has progressed far further than this in the past five years, even on affordable cars.

Ownership

One area Kia currently beats everybody else hands down is its long warranty which covers the Rio for seven years and an unlimited amount of kays.

Kia recommends servicing the Rio every 12 months or 15,000km and this is capped at $287 for the first visit, then $363 for the second, $331 for the third, $667 for the fourth, then down to $324 for next, then $437 and $343. Over seven years that works out to be $2752. See we even do all the sums for you.

Verdict

Wait. No seriously wait for the new generation Rio to arrive early next year. I'm not saying this because it'll be prettier, cooler or more fashionable. Car aren't like jeans, it's not about trends, see the new Rio will be safer and smarter. If you can't wait, then go for the Cerato S, it's larger but the value for money at $19,990 makes it the smartest buy on the market right now.

Is the Rio more than just a fun name? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Kia Rio S Premium pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$11,780
Based on 173 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,490
Highest Price
$15,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
S 1.4L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $9,988 – 12,290 2016 Kia Rio 2016 S Pricing and Specs
S Premium 1.4L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $12,850 – 13,999 2016 Kia Rio 2016 S Premium Pricing and Specs
Si 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,900 – 13,530 2016 Kia Rio 2016 Si Pricing and Specs
SLi 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,660 – 15,510 2016 Kia Rio 2016 SLi Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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