Kia serves up $17,490 drive-away Rio at Australian Open
SIGNIFICANT equipment upgrades and more masculine looks are the headline changes for Kia's new Rio small hatch priced from $17,490 drive-away.
The new Rio has arrived as the brand garners hefty attention as part of its sponsorship of the Australian Open tennis tournament, and is serving up an all-new five-door hatch sure to find favour with tech-hungry and fashion-conscious buyers alike.
There are three grades: S (manual) with a retail price of $16,990, S (auto) $19,090, Si (auto) $21,490 and SLi (auto) $22,990.
The special $17,490 drive-away price applies to the base model with an auto box.
As first revealed in September at the Paris motor show, among the key new inclusions across the range is a seven-inch touch-screen equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay - functionality which mirrors key apps on your phone.
Other basic equipment includes a six-speaker stereo system with full Bluetooth connectivity, air con, USB ports in both the front and rear of the cabin, auto lights, alloy wheels, as well as safety gear including six airbags, anti-lock brakes, reverse parking sensors, rear view camera, hill start assist, stability and traction control as well as a vehicle management system (helps when cornering and braking simultaneously).
Si also gains daytime running lamps, front fog lights and indicators in the side mirrors, cruise control, interior black gloss inserts, vanity mirror light and sat nav with live traffic information.
SLi gets man-made leather trim, auto wipers, tinted glass, sunroof, soft touch arm rests, alloy foot pedals, automatic climate control air con.
Seven colours are available, with only white standard. Opt for silver, graphite, black, red, yellow and blue and it attracts a $520 premium.
Interior space has improved, with legroom 1120mm in the front and 770 mm in the rear. There are bottle holders in each door (only capable of 500ml bottles in the rear) and two cup-holders in the front.
Kia says thinner C-pillars - reduced in width by 87 mm - and relocated door mirrors (moved up to the base of the A-pillar) minimise driver's blind spots.
With that 325-litre boot, it eclipses the cargo space of a Mazda CX-3 and the Volkswagen Polo.
Under the skin is a slightly less powerful 1.4-litre petrol engine still good for 74 kilowatts and 133 Newton metres of torque. It's only available with a six-speed manual in the base model, while the four-speed auto is standard in all other models.
Like the majority of modern Kias, the Rio has been given special treatment for Australia.
A local ride and handling team made full use of a stiffer bodyshell to deliver more confidence for the driver.
Compared to Rios overseas, models here have more advanced spring and damper set-up, which Kia says improves the car's compliance and comfort at all speeds.
Wide-ranging suspension changes promise to deliver more linear handling and a smoother ride over broken road surfaces along with "more immediate handling responsiveness”.
While it was said at the Paris motor show that the ageing four-speed auto would be replaced with a six-speed unit by July, Kia Australia now cannot confirm the change.
It was also previously forecast that a turbocharged powertrain packing more punch (88kW/172Nm) would arrive next year. But that too is still being considered and is dependent on whether it can be sourced from Korea.
When, or if, that arrives it will feature a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch automatic.
Last year the light segment was dominated by Hyundai's Accent (20.9% of national sales volumes), the Mazda2 (15.3%) and the Toyota Yaris (13.6%).
Rio maintained more than 6% market share in a contracting light car market. The Kia's sales were bolstered by drive-away pricing campaigns which included an automatic transmission for $16,990.
It remains one of Kia's most popular models worldwide, and about five years ago Rio was the South Korean marque's primary player Down Under.
Booming SUV sales have seen the Sportage and Sorento find favour with Aussie buyers. The biggest Kia seller remains the compact Cerato with a solid contribution from the segment-leading Carnival people-mover.
Collectively they have made Kia the fastest growing mainstream brand in Australia. And there is further excitement building.
With sales up 26.5% compared to last year, the closest improver in the top-10 was Ford (15.3%) with strong Mustang and Mondeo performances, while Subaru was the next best improver at 7.8%.
This new Rio, along with the September launch of the much-lauded Stinger GT fastback large sedan, will further push Kia's credentials as a key player Down Under.
"While the days of Kia being the Rio car company in Australia are long past, the model remains a core plank in the growth and success of the brand in our market,” Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith said.
"With the improvements and the additional technology and connectivity in the all-new Rio we expect it to remain one of the primary drivers of increased sales and brand awareness in the Australian market.”
Model: 2017 Kia Rio.
Details: Five-door small front-wheel drive hatch.
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 74kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 133Nm @ 4000rpm.
Consumption: 5.6 litres/100km (combined average, manual); 6.2L/100km (auto).
Transmission: Six-speed manual and four-speed automatic.
Bottom line: Rio S (m) $16,990, Rio S (a) $19,090, Si (a) $21,490, SLi (a) $22,990.