Kia's first appearance in the Philippine automotive industry began about twenty years ago with a sub-compact, affordable 'people's car' known as the Pride. However, the Pride was a far cry from what we would call worthwhile, though what it lacked in quality was somewhat matched by mass-market appeal.
The Pride, however, was ages ago, and since then Kia has undergone a revolution... internal and external. Though the Picanto may be Kia's replacement entry into the now defunct 'people's car' segment, this slightly larger Rio hatchback could very well be the model that may assert Kia's expertise in affordable, small cars. I'm actually excited to see what this little rascal had in store, so let's see how it gets on.
For starters, the all new Rio is definitely light years apart from the Pride, no comparison whatsoever. You can even throw in the first-generation Rio for argument's sake. This hatchback version I certainly got more than I expected, reminding me of a Golf GTI rather than a Korean econo car. The design is very Euro and sat very nicely on its elegant 'Golf GTI-like' 17inch wheels with low profile Continental tires.
The design details weren't the only things that were of vehicles from the old world (Europe). It had keyless entry with push-button ignition which meant you never have to take the keys out of your pocket, iPod connectivity guaranteed to keep your day entertaining while the Bluetooth handsfree made it easier to coordinate your day while running about town. Climate control, power steering and a Multi information display would make for comfortable experience around and out of town. Overall, this new Kia is easy on the eyes and the cabin was not a bad place to be in. So far so good.
The keyless entry made it even easier for me to get in and out of the car and load items even when my hands were full, as all I needed to do was pull the door handle and voila, door unlocked. It also had a good amount of trunk space for all the stuff I was hauling around, all while maintaining a roomy feel uncharacteristic of small cars. Should you wish, five grown individuals can be comfortably seated, though I think that for the price tag it should have come in leather.
The Rio's powerplant -a 1.4 liter naturally aspirated gas engine with 107 PS and 137 Nm- was more than adequate enough to take me where and when I needed to be, all while being adequately economical. It gave me a consumption of about 8.5 kilometers to the liter in the city and about 12 kilometers to a liter with a little highway driving. On normal mode, the four-speed automatic transmission it was mated to did what it was supposed to do, but the car felt less exciting than it looks. On sport mode however, it the became livelier keeping the revs high as it shifted. Do remember to put it back to normal mode when you get into traffic, as it insisted on kicking down to first gear every time I slowed down making the car quite jerky.
The macpherson front and rear torsion beam suspension is tuned to handle corners well to match its dynamic looks, however the ride comfort is not as harsh considering its capabilities. I would call it a good compromise, as you really can't the best of both worlds; especially in this vehicle segment. It absorbs bumps quite well, although you will definitely feel the larger wheel size.
The Kia Rio may not be the most affordable in its class like the older Swift and Yaris, nor was it powerful like the Fiesta, Jazz or Accent hatchback CRDI, but it certainly has the most character. This was a Korean in European clothing and specs, not to mention delivering a quality feel. Kia has come a long way and the Rio hatch is a testament to their continued efforts in improvement and innovation. Overall, I was pretty impressed with this little hatchback.
Actually scratch that... it's got me charmed.