The fourth-generation Kia Rio brings a host of in-car technology advancements, as well as a more spacious cabin and cargo capacity. Despite those leaps, the light hatch retains the tried, tested and somewhat ageing 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 74kW of power and 133Nm, matched to a four-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. The power figures are in fact slightly down on the previous model in order to meet stricter fuel and emission requirements.
A 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder unit is currently under study to follow around mid-year, however, offering 88kW and 172Nm of torque. That new mill will be matched to six-speed manual and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions. There's also the potential for the current 1.4-litre to be mated to a six-speed automatic in due time.
The light city car is built in Kia’s Sohari facility in South Korea on a longer wheelbase of 2580mm (+10mm compared to its predecessor) and now measures 4065mm in length (+15mm) but sits 5mm lower at 1450mm.
From the outside, the 2017 Rio has adopted a new evolution of Kia’s 'Tiger-Nose' grille that sees it reduced in height but stretched out across the front of the car.
On the mid Si and top-spec SLi models, the updated grill is embellished with a gloss black grille cover that merges with the headlamps and U-shaped LED daytime running lights.
From the back, the Rio has taken on an even more traditional hatch-like design with a near-vertical rear windscreen which has consequently helped reduce overhang at the rear. The taillights get an arrow-shaped LED light treatment on the top-spec SLi.
On the inside, Kia has employed a horizontal design theme to emphasise the new width of the interior. From the lateral lines of the dashboard to the air-conditioning vents, the new Rio’s interior sees a visual enhancement that brings it inline with its Japanese rivals such as the Mazda 2.
Perhaps the most notable feature of the new car is the floating 7.0-inch infotainment screen that comes standard across the range. The high-resolution screen is paired up with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for a fully enhanced and future proof infotainment experience. Other standard features across the range include keyless entry, rear view camera and parking sensors.
Rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps are available on the top model, while cruise control can be had from mid-spec and above. As for the trim, the base model gets basic cloth, while the Si gets embossed cloth and the SLi gets man-made leather.
Kia says leg- and headroom has extended to 1120mm and 1021mm for front passengers, respectively, and 770mm and 966mm for those in the rear. Shoulder room measures 1375mm in the front and 1355mm in the rear. The boot capacity now measures 325L, while the fuel tank has increased to 45L, up 37 and 2L from the previous model respectively.
The increase in interior space is partially due to the extended length of the car and its wheelbase, but also a result of new door trims, headlining material and the shape of the dashboard. Kia says it has also reduced the size of the C-pillars by 87mm while moving the door mirrors to the base of the A-pillar to improve visibility.
The generational change also sees 51 per cent of the new Rio’s body constructed from advanced high-strength steel, compared to just 33 per cent for the previous car. This not only aids safety in the event of a crash – with a great deal of the high-strength steel applied to the A and B pillars as well as the roof structure - but also allows for a more balanced chassis.
In that regard, as with all Kia cars in Australia, the new Rio has benefited from a localised tuning setup as part of its suspension setup that sees the employment of fully-independent front MacPherson strut suspension and torsion bear rear axle for the rear.
Kia’s Australian engineers have worked with their Korean counterparts to make use of the company’s sporty RS damper valves (as with Cerato) which allow for more precise tuning. The modifications to the suspension apply to all Rio models.
Kia says the new car is more rigid in the front suspension struts and cross member, while the raised rear torsion beam has helped improve the city car’s high-speed stability compared to its predecessor.
The South Korean company has gone for vertical rear shock absorbers and a new pre-loaded linear valve technology for the front shocks to better manage the poor quality of Australia’s suburban and outback roads. As part of those changes, the power steering box has been repositioned, with Kia claiming it now offers better “on-centre” feel for more confidence-inspiring driving dynamics.
In terms of safety, the new Rio features six airbags and comes with industry standard features such as anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, electronic stability control with traction control, vehicle stability management system and hill start assist. There are also three child restraint anchor points (two ISOFIX) in the rear.
Like all Kia vehicles sold in Australia, the new Rio offers an unlimited-kilometre seven-year warranty with 7 year capped price servicing as well as well roadside assistance.
Check back on Monday for a comprehensive review of the 2017 Kia Rio.
2017 Kia Rio pricing (before on-road costs)
Rio S manual - $16,990
Rio S auto - $19,090
Si auto - $21,490
SLi auto - $22,990
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