Mark Higgins’ first drive 2015 Kia Rio S review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

In a nutshell : It’s not the newest kid on the street and despite several new and updated entrants to the crowded light car field, the KIA Rio continues to shine with its blend of looks, value and on road manners.


LAUNCHED IN 2012, the fourth-generation KIA Rio range, including the entry model ‘S’ we are driving, has received a cosmetic makeover for 2015, with new bumpers and a satin metal finish to the ‘Schreyer’ (named after the brand’s design chief) grille along with enhanced interior technology. However, it’s underneath where Kia focused their efforts, with their Australian suspension gurus further refining the ride and handling for greater comfort, control and improved steering feel.

2015 Kia Rio S review

The Rio is one of the funkiest lookers in the super competitive, light car arena and its styling drew positive comments from all ages. It wears the distinctive KIA, ‘Schreyer’ corporate grille that fuses into the large swept back headlights. Below the front bumper are three air intakes. The bonnet is relatively short and front and rear glass angled. The profile shows its flowing body contours, wedged shape and rising hip line and around the back are the roof spoiler and large wrap around tail lamps. The bumpers, door handles, rear spoiler are all body coloured and the glass is tinted

2015 Kia Rio S

Inside, dark grey plastics (some a tad hard) with satin metal-look highlights are used throughout the cabin. Analogue instruments with red lighting greet the driver, the needles resemble flat head screwdrivers, and there’s a digital trip metre there as well. The comfortable three-spoke steering wheel has controls for the phone, audio and trip metre and adjusts for both reach and rake.

All controls are well laid out and there’s a new design four speakers, two-tweeter audio system (with speed-dependent volume function). The Bluetooth phone connection is easy to use and a breeze to stream music. A nice touch was the retro-looking HVAC toggle switches from the 1960s that add to the Rio’s overall appeal.

The cloth-trimmed seats were comfortable with good upper body and under thigh support and decent adjustability in all directions. Although the backrests are rather flat in profile, lower back support was surprisingly good on longish drives.

Accommodation in both rows is good and while it’s not a tardis like the Honda Jazz, its more than competitive within the segment. Behind the fold down rear seats is a cargo area of 288 litres that grows to 923 litres with the seats down and easily handled a very large box containing a family BBQ. There’s also plenty of other storage nooks throughout the cabin and the obligatory cup holders in the centre console.

2015 Kia Rio S review

On the road the fuel-injected, 1.4 litre, DOHC four-cylinder engine, coupled to a four-speed auto was zippy around town though it needed to be revved, but on open roads and hills it struggled at times and the engine noise was somewhat intrusive. That said, the 79kW at 6300, 135Nm at 4200 proved quite frugal, returning a combined 6.4L/100km, just a tad above the official figure of 6.3L/100km and as it runs on 91RON, fuel bills won’t frighten the back pocket.

The handling and ride of the McPherson strut front and torsion beam rear Rio proved to be entertaining, reassuring and comfortable. Many moons ago, KIA saw the wisdom in employing local ride and handling specialists to tune their cars for Australian conditions and the Korean brand has long been lauded for its enviable road manners.

With the arrival of the 2015 model came further tweaking to the ride, handling and steering. This results in the Rio being fun to drive, with direct, precise and light-to-use electric power steering that afforded a good level of feedback at all speeds. A boon for city motoring was the turning circle of 10.5 metres.

Riding on 15-inch wheels with 185/65/15 tyres, the Rio was entertaining to drive on our test roads and cornered with predictability, its capabilities were reassuring from behind the wheel. Mid corner bumps didn’t unsettle the little Korean and even those pesky corners on a crest that make the car go light at the wrong time didn’t faze it. So hats off to the Aussie tuning team. The only downside was the tyres tended to squeal, as they couldn’t keep pace with the well-sorted chassis. I am sure the fun factor would ratchet up a notch or two with more power from the bigger 1.6-litre engine found in the higher grades.

2015 Kia Rio S

Korean cars have long led the value for money equation and the entry-model Rio doesn’t disappoint. Standard kit included air conditioning, a 6-function trip computer, a digital clock with date display, ambient temperature display, power (and heated) exterior mirrors, central locking, driver’s power windows with auto up-and-down function, high-gloss centre fascia, interior light with delay out, rear window defroster with timer, 2 x 12 volt power outlets in the front console, plus vanity mirrors in both sunvisors.

Safety wise, the Rio has six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes, hill-start assist, seatbelt reminders on all positions, day-night rear view mirror, high-mounted rear stop light,speed sensing auto door locks, three child restraint anchorage points and two ISOFIX points, front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters and impact-sensing auto door unlocking. The Rio has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

2015 Kia Rio S

Price $17,990 (+ORC)

; Warranty seven years, 100,000 kilometres; Safety five-star ANCAP
Engine 1.4-litre, DOHC four-cylinder, petrol (91RON); 

Power/Torque 79kW/135Nm; Transmission four-speed auto (standard six-speed manual); Body 4045mm (L); 1720mm (W); 1445mm(H); 

Weight 1152kg; Thirst 6.3L/100km (combined) 6.4L/100km as tested (combined).


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