Loading indicator
News & Reviews
Last 7 Days
  • One of the few remaining three-door hatches; market-leading aftersales package; comfortable ride; perky performance around town
  • Terrible rear visibility, and no rear sensors or reverse-view camera to assist; basic infotainment system; over-priced; thirsty engine; slow, oddly sticky steering

OUR RATING
5.5 / 10



by Tim Beissmann

If you’re in the market for a city car and you’re partial to a three-door, you may be surprised to know that the Kia Rio is one of your few remaining options.

Long the norm in the class, the three-door body style has all but been abandoned by mainstream brands in favour of the more practical five-door shape, which has been overwhelmingly preferred by new car shoppers in recent years.

In the size-above-micro segment, the Kia Rio is joined only by the semi-premium (read: more expensive) Alfa Romeo Mito, Citroen DS3 and Mini Cooper in offering ‘coupe-inspired’ styling.

A pragmatist to my bones, I’ve never seen the appeal of three-doors, but I know some people do. Some of those people are even my wife, who used to own a 2002 Holden TS Astra three-door, and had nothing but praise for the shape of our high-grade Kia Rio Sport test car when she saw it for the first time.

I can somewhat see her point: its faster body lines, strong side contours and silver and black alloy wheels make it something of a standout visually – or maybe it’s just that Digital Yellow paint, which is the only one of three Rio Sport colours available that’s free (metallic red and blue cost $520).

It’s a different story on the inside, however, where ‘visuals’ are its downfall. That three-door shape means the rear pillar of the Kia Rio is much broader than that of the five-door and impedes your view significantly when you’re reversing out of driveways or perpendicular parking spaces. The rear window is also small and set very high.

2016 Kia Rio Sport Review

It’s simply unacceptable then that the Rio Sport doesn’t get a reverse-view camera or even rear parking sensors to help offset these limitations.

This fact becomes even harder to swallow when you consider the Rio Sport’s price. At $21,490 before on-road costs, it’s at the upper end of the city car spectrum. For more than $6000 less, you can get a Honda Jazz or a Toyota Yaris with a reverse-view camera. Alternatively, Kia’s sister brand Hyundai regularly offers the size-larger i30 Active X auto for $21,990 driveaway that comes loaded with gear.

The Rio Sport also misses out on a touchscreen infotainment system, making do with only a small, basic red-lit screen on the dashboard, which naturally also means no in-built satellite navigation.

The cupboard is far from bare, though, with Rio Sport getting a healthy spec boost over the three-door Rio S, which costs $15,990 with the six-speed manual and $18,090 with the optional four-speed auto.

In addition to a larger engine and a markedly superior six-speed automatic transmission (more on those soon), the Rio Sport benefits from those aforementioned 17-inch alloys (S gets steel 15s), auto projector headlights, cornering lights, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, electric folding side mirrors, leatherette seat upholstery, cruise control, alloy pedals and a number of other elements that lift the ambience a few levels off ground floor. The rear sensors, auto wipers and climate control standard in the five-door Rio SLi would be welcome at the Sport’s price point, however.

2016 Kia Rio Sport Review

Though basic, the Rio’s dashboard layout is clean and its controls are easy to navigate. Interior storage is excellent for a car of its size, with a big glovebox, accommodating door bins, a useful console box and other handy stash spots for phones and wallets.

The front seats do a decent job, being adequately comfortable and supportive for the shorter urban trips most Rios will spend most of their lives doing.

Clambering into the back is made reasonably easy by the large aperture created by sliding the front passenger seat forward. There’s seating for three in the second row where the headroom and legroom available is as surprising as the view, which is impressive thanks to the large windows. The rear seats themselves are ordinary, however, with bases in our test car somewhat reminiscent of a 20-year-old couch, feeling under-padded and sunken, with bunchy leatherette as a result.

The three-door Rio matches the five-door in the boot, offering a competitive 288 litres of cargo space, and 923L with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats pushed forwards.

At the other end sits Kia’s familiar 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. With 103kW available at 6300rpm, it’s one of the most powerful engines in its class. It feels perky around town, getting off the mark quickly and reacting promptly to prods at the accelerator pedal. The six-speed auto deserves credit here too, allowing the engine to rev freely and delivering timely gear changes.

2016 Kia Rio Sport Review

The Rio can’t match the driveability of many in its class beyond the city, however. With its 167Nm of torque unavailable beneath 4850rpm, it lacks the pulling power of some other its better rivals, whose low-capacity turbocharged engines produce more torque across broad bands. The auto is less convincing at higher speeds too, being too eager to grab lower gears rather than taking advantage of its revvy nature.

We struggled to come close to the Rio’s official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres over our week of testing, seeing double-digit measures in urban conditions and averaging 8.9L/100km with some highway and country kilometres thrown in – a result consistent with an earlier test of the Rio’s 1.6.

While not class leading, the Kia Rio offers decent ride comfort. The suspension does a good job of ironing out smaller bumps and ruts, and around town they’re generally heard more than they’re felt. Coarse country roads and higher speeds bring out some heavier thunks, though again it’s more comfortable than some mainstream rivals.

It feels composed out here, though, no doubt helped by its hefty 1286kg kerb weight and its Continental Conti Sport Contact tyres, which are grippy, but noisy on coarse surfaces.

Never a Rio strong suit, the steering continues to be the car’s biggest dynamic disappointment. Previously needing little corrections on the highway, the latest steering setup feels oddly and unnaturally sticky around the straight-ahead position, requiring effort to turn it off centre. It’s also slow, forcing plenty of arm twirling when navigating car parks and tight streets, and lacks the tactility of the more engaging city car steering systems.

2016 Kia Rio Sport Review

Where the Kia Rio is unmatched by any city car is aftersales protection. It comes standard with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, matching roadside assistance (if you service your car with Kia), and capped-price servicing for seven years or 105,000km, completed at 12-month/15,000km intervals that average $389 per service.

It’s that aftersales package and its rare three-door body style that are the Kia Rio Sport’s only USPs, however.

And while they hold some appeal, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the Rio Sport is lacking expected technology, hard to see out of, and dynamically off the pace of many in the city car class, and therefore difficult to recommend at its price point.

Click the Photos tab for more images by Sam Venn.


2016 Kia Rio Sport Review
  • 5.5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6.5
  Submit an Owner Car Review




SHARE THIS ARTICLE




Kia Rio Specs

SPORT : UB MY16 : 1.6L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 4 SP AUTOMATIC - UNLEADED PETROL - 3D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
KIA
Model
RIO
Variant
SPORT
Series
UB MY16
Year
2015
Body Type
3D HATCHBACK
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$14,410 - $16,380
Dealer Retail
$15,910 - $18,920
Dealer Trade
$11,500 - $13,100
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
1.6L
Cylinders
INLINE 4
Max. Torque
167Nm @  4850rpm
Max. Power
103kW @  6300rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
89.6W/kg
Bore & Stroke
77x85.4mm
Compression Ratio
11.0
Valve Gear
DUAL OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
4 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
4.375
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
43Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.1L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1150
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1455mm
Length
4045mm
Width
1720mm
Ground Clearance
140mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:850  Unbrake:450
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.5
Front Rim Size
6.5x17
Rear Rim Size
6.5x17
Front Tyres
205/45 R17
Rear Tyres
205/45 R17
Wheel Base
2570
Front Track
1521
Rear Track
1525
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Coil Spring, Gas damper
Standard Features
Comfort
Air Conditioning, Sport Seats
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Hill Holder, Traction Control System
Driver
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Power Steering, Trip Computer
Entertainment
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Exterior
Fog Lights - Front, Remote Boot/Hatch Release, Rear Spoiler
Interior
Power Windows, Tinted Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
60 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
On Floor in Boot Compartment
Country of Origin
Korea