The refreshed KIA Rio: Designed to outrun expectations


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The KIA Rio range has been refreshed, featuring enhancements to its exterior design and increased standard specification across the range.

Exterior design updates for the Rio’s midlife refresh have been kept to a minimum, with the bulk of the design enhancements concentrated at the front of the car. Rio retains its iconic ‘tiger-nose’ grille, narrowed for a more focused appearance. The grille redesign is matched by a lower, wider front bumper and distinctive new fog lamp housing.

Interior enhancements have also been kept to the minimum, and the Rio’s user-friendly interior ergonomics remain intact, making intuitive use of all major functions a cinch. The main update is an upgrade of the colour touchscreen interface from 7 inches to 8 inches – which is now also standard across the Rio range.

Front passengers also benefit from the standard USB and auxiliary-in ports, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability – as much a convenience as a safety feature in the mobile-first reality. An additional 12V power socket is also available for additional charging devices. All models feature steering wheel-mounted audio controls and Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free telephony.

The Rio range of engines remains as before with a choice between 1.25-litre and 1.4-litre petrol engines. The 1.25-litre engine produces peak power of 61 kW at 6,000 r/min and 120 Nm torque at 4,000 r/min. The 1.4-litre engine produces 73 kW at 6,300 r/min and 135 Nm torque at 4,200 r/min. Both engines apply power to the front wheels, either through a five-speed manual transmission (on the Rio 1.2), or a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission (on the Rio 1.4-litre).

The Rio is available in the same four specification grades with safety in mind. The range includes driver’s and passenger’s airbags (including side and curtain airbags in the TEC model), seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters, side door impact beams front and rear, child locks, and impact sensing door unlocking. ISOFIX child seat anchors are standard across the range, as is Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Importantly, ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and HAC (Hill-Start Assist Control) is now available from the LX grade onwards.

As an entry point to the Rio range, KIA still offers the Rio 1.2 LS but, importantly, have added a 1.4-litre LS model to the range, both in manual and automatic. Standard specification on the LS grade is anything but “entry-level” following the range revision and includes – amongst other items – air-conditioning (manual), electric windows, electric side mirrors, central locking with an alarm and immobiliser, six speakers (up from four speakers), steering wheel-mounted remote audio controls, rake and reach adjustable steering, and manual headlight adjustment.

In fact, the most notable revisions of the Rio range have occurred on the entry-level LS grade. Apart from the standard 8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system that is now available across the range, Rio LS models now also gain 15-inch alloy wheels, replacing the previous model’s steel wheels with plastic wheel covers.


Retaining all the specifications on offer in the Rio LS, the Rio LX (the car I reviewed) – which is only available with the 1.4-litre engine – notably gains front fog lights, a centre console armrest, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear-shift lever, and a new 4.2-inch LCD Supervision instrument cluster. Side mirrors now include an auto folding function with integrated indicators, while the vehicle’s lighting system gains automatic light control with an escort and Welcome Home function.

The Rio EX – also available only with the 1.4-litre engine – builds on the already extensive standard features of the LX model through the addition of projection headlamps, LED Daytime Running Lights, and a rear park assistance system with integrated rear-view camera (with dynamic guidelines) but is also visually updated by the standard inclusion of a 17-inch alloy wheel (upgraded from the previous model’s 15-inch wheel).

The familiar KIA Rio TEC remains the halo model in the Rio range. Also available only with the 1.4-litre engine, it gains features over the EX-model such as automatic air-conditioning, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, LED rear combination lamps, Cruise Control, an electro chromatic rear-view mirror, alloy pedals and leather upholstery.


The Competition

Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20, Mazda2, Nissan Micra, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris, and VW Polo.



KIA Rio 1.2 LS Manual           R280,995

KIA Rio 1.4 LS Manual           R291,995

KIA Rio 1.4 LS Auto               R308,995

KIA Rio 1.4 LX Manual            R306,995

KIA Rio 1.4 LX Auto               R323,995

KIA Rio 1.4 EX Manual           R319,995

KIA Rio 1.4 EX Auto               R336,995

KIA Rio 1.4 TEC Manual          R344,995

KIA Rio 1.4 TEC Auto             R361,995


Service and Warranty

All KIA models ship as standard with KIA’s Unlimited Kilometre/ 5-year warranty – inclusive of five years’ roadside assistance (also unlimited kilometres). The Rio 1.2 LS includes a 2-year/60,000km Service Plan, while all 1.4-litre models include a 4-year/60,000km Service Plan.


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