Every car in the compact segment seems to be obsessively attempting something or the other to stand out in design while, ideally, they should be focusing more on the extra inch they can spare and the extra mile they can reach. Kia has done an impressive job here with its 2012 Rio. The hot hatch (or sedan for that matter) not only appeals instantly with a more aggressive and sleek design; it even makes your bucks go the extra mile!
In a segment where most cars struggle to put up a show of power, the Rio is pretty light-footed with a willing 1.4 L engine. It picks up easy, with some useful pulling power in the low and mid ranges.
The car appears faster than it actually is. My 0 – 100 kmph run (in very normal conditions) clocked a 13.8 sec on the manual mode, marginally better than the automatic one. The gearshift is pretty smooth and unobtrusive while the engine sounds and feels like the 1.4 L it actually is. The easygoing drive has a slight fleeting feeling on higher velocities, especially in diagonal maneuvers or sharp turns, but the car doesn’t get you palpitating at any time.
The steering leaves a lot of playing room at static or sluggish speeds – a bit too much of freedom for people used to taut wheels. The ride is generally a light one, and the flip side to it is the lack of road-connect, though that’s something you can live with inside a good-looking, comfortable subcompact.
The new Rio, which features the recently acquired Kia grimace in front, seems to carry a good design job well (done by none other than Audi’s former designer, Peter Schreyer) to make a striking first impression. The pronounced surfboard like lines on the sides and a lightly curvy back completes a design that will pleasantly mislead the onlooker on what you paid for your compact car!
The Rio features a ‘quarter window” in front, just next to the A-pillars (quite like the Ford Fiesta in this part). It’s different as a design element but if you ask me about its usefulness in extra-visibility, I am not sure. In fact the presence of a quarter window next to the rear view mirror could be disturbing to some drivers. The characteristic ascending window line, which is fast becoming an automotive norm, suits the Rio styling but could have shorter, rear passengers straining for a better view.
Cabin and Comforts
The top of the range will offer you the premium features of ABS, ESP and a sunroof, why, even 17” wheels! But even at a modest AED 46,000, the midrange comes with 15” alloys and parking sensors – the only thing to wish for would be an extra airbag. Other than the top-of-the-range, the Kia Rio comes equipped with only one.
The interiors are one of the most stylish and snug in cars of its price range with a decently equipped console with fewer buttons! The good looks that greet you outside continue on the inside as well, with elegant fabric seats, a two-tone dashboard of respectable plastic and a premium looking console. The steering-mounted audio controls apart, the cabin has USB and AUX jacks to please the tech-savvy driver.
The seats offer decent lumbar support and even the rear seats, though a shade low, are one of the most comfortable in the category. Despite its crouching profile, the car is spacious in the rear as well, with as much legroom and, more importantly, headroom that can please full-grown finicky adults!
What’s with the cars in this segment? They don’t seem to have an ear for… err… silence! Though better than many in this department, the Rio also lets in a good part of what’s going on outside, including the wind song and even the radio from a passing convertible! Quite unwarranted, especially when the Kia Rio flaunts a decent music system within.
In the Kia Rio, storage is well taken care of though it isn’t exactly cavernous space that we are talking about. Even without the 60-40 seats folded, the boot is big enough to take care of weekend travel needs. There is a little niche in the dash for things you don’t mind popping out but the rear doors have space for bottle-inserts only.
Something that came as standard in the Kia Rio 2012 and I found missing in most other Superminis is the very comforting centre console armrest. Again, while the press-on lamps in front are bright and cheerful, what I found impressive is the rare provision of a rear roof lamp – very thoughtful touches, Kia! Well done.
UPSIDE: Sleek and aggressive design, elegant and reasonably well-endowed cabin, smooth and spirited drive, great value for money
FLIPSIDE: Modest handling skills with moderate road connect, Too much of play in the steering, Only 1 airbag except in the top model
Drive Courtesy: Juma Al Majid Kia Motors
Picture Courtesy: Madhu Kunhappan/ Supplied (banner picture)