I had spent a number of years driving a W202 C240 Mercedes that I had purchased second hand on an online auction. This was the most comfortable car I had ever had the pleasure of owning. I later passed the W202 onto my son, and because I have always had a passion for French cars, I purchased a Renault Lagune dCi II, also cheaply via auction. While I got 80,000km out of it with the persistent help of a mechanically-minded friend and eBay, eventually the continuous electronic gremlins got the better of me.
When the engine light eventually came on I decided that I desperately needed reliable transport and sought to trade it in on a new vehicle with a seven year warranty. I had a choice between a Honda Jazz, Holden Astra and the Rio. Holden and Honda were also offering a seven year warranty at the time. As the Renault had left a bad taste in my mouth, and despite an unbelievable trade in figure being offered on the Renault, I decided I wasn’t prepared to risk another European car’s gremlins.
And so, without bothering to test drive the little Rio, I made my decision and ordered one in white with cruise control added.
It was only after I decided to read some reviews regarding the pairing of a 4-speed auto with a 1.4-litre engine did I start to question the wisdom of my desperate decision for a reliable vehicle.
I live over a hundred kilometres from Perth and most years drive at least 25,000 kilometres, with regular trips to and from the city. The Rio actually drives really well in most situations and is a confident and stable handler on the long back roads, largely unaffected by passing trucks or wind. Its fuel economy is also good, and with 60% country driving and 40% city driving I rarely see it use more than 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
What is not so good is the 4-speed auto gear box. Going up hills with the cruise control on sees the little engine becoming very noisy as the gearbox hunts gears and the revs go through the roof. Likewise overtaking requires a fair degree of planning, as getting up enough power and speed to get past anything needs a long stretch of bitumen.
Whilst the interior is basic, with hard cabin plastic everywhere, the seats are comfortable, it has Apple CarPlay, a reasonable stereo, three USB points and enough basic mod-cons to keep everyone safe and happy. On some of the course chip bitumen roads I traverse, noise levels can be quite intrusive.
Whilst it is far from a perfect car and it would be much better simply for city use, the 70,000km of trouble free driving has been something I can’t complain about. It is a vehicle that could be better described as an appliance. But, at least, it does the job and I am no longer concerned that I will find myself stranded in the middle of nowhere. With the addition of a small child and all the extra accoutrements he requires, a slightly larger vehicle would have been handy. At the time the child was unforeseen, so the Rio’s size was perfect. Generally, however, it is a spacious little vehicle and does all that is required. It just does it a little slower than I might like.