I recently got to drive the new Kia Rio, one of the Korean company’s global best-sellers. It was launched in South Africa in June, and alas I missed the media event, but I did get to drive it for a week recently.
The new 2017 model is the fourth-generation, B-segment Rio, which admittedly once I drove it around, noticed how popular it is. Suddenly, it felt like most of the cars around me was a Rio. However, this feels like it happens to me with any car I am driving at that moment; nevertheless it’s more popular than I thought. The previous-gen model sold 450 000 units globally in 2016, and makes up 15% of Kia’s annual sales. When compared to South Africa, the Rio, Picanto and Sportage are top three Kia vehicles here.
Here are 4 things I think you should know about the 2017 Kia Rio:
Let’s get the price out of the way first, because for a car like this, the buyer is looking at what you’re getting for its price. The Rio is available in four specifications, the 1.2 LS; and 1.4 LX, EX and TEC. All are available in manual, and for an additional R13 000, you can get it in automatic.
1.2 LS is R219 995 (62kW; 120Nm)
1.4 LX is R234 995 (74kW; 135Nm)
1.4 EX is R249 995 (74kW; 135Nm)
1.4 TEC R274 995 (74kW; 135Nm)
I got to drive the 1.4 TECH in automatic, which is a 4 speed gearbox; (all manual models are 6 speed). I did find the car underpowered because my current car has spoilt me, so it took a while to re-adjust to driving that. At times, I did struggle a bit and had to switch to controlling the gears manually for more power. Other than that, I am very aware that this a B-segment vehicle; what its price point is, and what you get for it.
I like what the 2017 Rio looks like. When it was delivered to me, there were a lot of lines on the design that stood out and made me appreciate what it looks like. I know some might say it’s “superficial” but I appreciate good design, and I’d like the cars or products I buy to at least look good, because I know effort went into it. Take a look for yourself:
As I mentioned, I saw a lot on the roads when I was driving mine for a week, and from all that I’ve seen, the blue above is definitely the nicest of the lot. Not fond of the brown. That said, there are 8 colours to choose from, with two different wheel designs, in 15 and 17-inch for different models. The entry-level models have 15″ wheels.
My favourite thing about the car is the technology that went into this affordable car. I say that because all previous cars that I test drove had upgraded infotainment systems that paired with your smartphone were high-end luxurious cars. This is the first affordable car I’ve driven with a 7″ touchscreen featuring CarPlay and Android Auto. The infotainment screen is available on the two higher end models as far as I know. Aside from the new infotainment system, it has a USB port, which you need to use your handset anyway, auxiliary-in for your music player, and 12V power to charge devices.
The steering wheel is kitted with the appropriate buttons to use your smartphone safely in the car, including my most used one for the week – the voice command button. You press it and can ask Siri or Google Now anything you would normally ask from your handset. Provided you have those features turned on, and you need data to use it (your own data; there’s no SIM cards in this car). You can also pair your phone via the “regular old-fashioned” way called Bluetooth for music, and hands-free calls.
Other car technology includes electric windows, electric mirrors, automatic headlamps (I love this on any car, I always forget to turn them on or off), rain-sensing wipers, and rear-park assist, which I loved. It took a while to get used to again, rear cameras for parking – only expect these on high-end cars.
WATCH: My Android Auto demo video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5F0v48z1fk
Kia tried to cut down with the buttons in the cabin with the newly designed dashboard to factor in the “floating” touchscreen. I liked the little slots that were available to put your stuff in. I have way too many remotes, keys and a spare phone to keep when I’m driving, so these little bits came in handy. The inside does feel more upgraded/modern than most cars. I love when new 2017 cars also move with the times, ’cause how often do you find that 2017 models don’t factor important stuff in (the reason I didn’t buy an Abarth, it was too dated and looked like my 6 year old Fiat at the time, last year). I rarely have (back) passengers but only went around when I shot my Android Auto videos to place a tripod. It seemed decent for 2 adults. The seating has the standard 60:40 split-folding seats with a full size spare wheel in the boot at the bottom (no Marie biscuit here). The boot size is 325L (increased by 37L from the previous-gen). The high-end 1.4 TEC model can be fitted with a sunroof for R8 500.
All Kia Rio’s come with a 5-year/unlimited KM warranty, including roadside assistance as standard; and a 4-year/60 000km service plan.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. I’m usually unashamedly taking food photos (@nafisaeats on IG).