The Rio, Kia likes to remind us, helped somehow cement the compact hatch category, but lately it’s struggling to avoid being eclipsed by the rivals it inspired since 1999. The 2021 Kia Rio is the automaker’s answer, combining its eye-catching style with what have long been the Kia hallmarks of refined road manners and a somewhat plush cabin.
As mentioned the Kia Rio has undergone a facelift to help bring its groove back but we can’t help but wonder whether that’s enough to entice South Africans to swing this way since this segment has some tough contenders. For context, the Kia Rio has been taking on the likes of VW’s Polo and Hyundai’s i20.
Let’s talk about the noticeable changes to the Rio; The front fascia has a flatter sportier “tiger nose” and the bumper has been reworked to assist with more air intake to the radiator while the fog lamps have been relocated. The LS models now have 15-inch alloy wheels while the EX gets the 17-inch wheels.
Kia then supplemented the Rio with the inclusion of the 1.4LS option of which I was excited about since they only offered the 1.2L option previously. When it comes to frugality, unfortunately, the 1.4L engine that pushes out 73kW that’s coupled with a six-speed transmission leaves you with a lack of passion for the Rio.
I found this spec to be underwhelming when it came to power delivery. However, I found that the overall drive of and comfort levels of the car met my expectations of a typical day to day drive. Also, if you are a manual kind of driver you will be pleased to know that the Kia Rio is also available in a manual transmission which also leads me to believe the drive may be more desirable in this configuration.
The interior showcase minimal changes that work very well for the Rio. The 8-inch touch screen infotainment is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ready. The Rio only offers two USB slots, with one that service the front and another that services the rear passengers. The sound system isn’t the greatest when you bump up your favourite Yanos tunes. However, I love that the Rio has enough space to fit 4 adults comfortably. The rear folding seats are an absolute bonus as they open up the vehicle to fit more cargo because of the 60:40 split of the seats. Another upside is the fact that they fold flat meaning they give more flexibility when loading large items. Overall, the interior has a very simplistic appeal with minimal dials in the steering wheel to control that audio system.
Overall, I think the Kia Rio is a stunning car when it comes to appearance and durability. With a price tag that starts from R280 995 and an unlimited kilometre or 5-year warranty I believe you do get for what you pay for.