Juliet Reviews The Kia Rio

The Kia Rio originally launched in 2011 and it became an almost overnight success. People were finally seeing a true competitor to the ever-popular Volkswagen Polo. The latest generation, which arrived in 2017, has now received a few minor updates for 202 in the hope that it will continue to be a true rival.

When I say there has been an update, it is as minor as they come…well from a design point of view, that is. So the only tweaks are to the headlights, the radiator grille, the front bumper and the fog light. Nothing has changed at the rear. And believe me when I say that it will be hard for anyone to really tell the difference between this model and the outgoing one. The only way you might be able to tell is if you see it in one of the two new colours on offer which are Sporty Blue and Perennial Grey. The Blue is quite stunning and would be my colour of choice.

Just before attending the launch of this ‘updated’ Rio, we were given the current LS 1.2-litre model to drive. It was a smart move on Kia’s behalf because, the biggest change to the Rio is in the form of a new model on offer. It is the entry-level LS but now with a 1.4-litre engine. As well as an eight-inch touchscreen which is now standard across the entire range. And what a difference it makes. Stepping in to the new LS 1.4-litre model it feels as if I am in one of the other, more expensive, derivatives. It looks and feels far more modern and not so much a fleet car as the previous one felt like. This is the whole point of adding the more powerful engine, you see? Kia wants to offer private customers the entry-level model and not have it appeal only to car rental companies or fleet services.

As much as I want to be able to say that the 1.4-litre engine is great, it is unfortunately a naturally aspirated unit and so it lacks the power you will get from most of the Kia’s rivals which boast turbocharged engines. This 1.4-litre engine produces 73 kW and 135 Nm of torque and will be fine if most of your driving occurs within the city or urban areas. It is really on the highway or when you want to overtake that you feel the lack of oomph.

But that is the only criticism I have for the Kia Rio. It remains a fantastically built car that offers so much in terms of value for money. Not to mention the excellent service and warranty that comes standard with the Rio – four-year/60 000 km service plan and five-year/unlimited km warranty. It remains a great rival to the Polo and a car that I think anyone would be happy to own.


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

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