Cars

Published on April 25th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair

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Kia Rio Hatchback Is a Simple, Conti-Flavoured Upgrade

Think about this – Perodua has sold more than a million Myvis in the last 12 years. Most of these are still being driven today by first, second or third owners.That’s a lot of cars. And cars, like all material things, have a habit of losing their shine. People generally want something new after a few years.

Of course, most are just going to put money down on the fantastic new Myvi and call it a day. But there are going to be a few people out there looking for something just a little rarer and a little more upmarket.

I think the new Kia Rio is a genuine contender for buyers in this particular space, and I only see a few aspects that Myvi owners will miss. Let me point those parts out for you right now:

  1. Aftersales: As extensive and comprehensive as the Kia aftersales network is in Malaysia, you simply can’t beat Perodua’s reach and pricing.
  2. Resale Value: Myvis keep their value because they age predictably and remain versatile and usable throughout their lifespan. Older Kias generally don’t have this on their side. Regardless of whether this new Rio is different, we doubt the perception of aged Korean cars will change in the next few years.
  3. Value for money: This thing costs RM80,000. There’s no way it’s going to be competitive with anything Perodua has on offer. You may even want to save that RM25,000 and go for a full spec new Myvi if cost is an issue.

That aside, let us tell you why this product is the ideal upgrade to an older Japanese or Malaysian B-segment hatch.

Interior Design

The cabin is absolutely delightful to be in. Much like the Picanto, the Rio’s interior feels like it was put together by a very experienced team.

While we’re not going to say the Rio’s put together with the finest materials (it’s still all-plastic), ample respect and attention is paid to the design and textures so it comes together well.

You may have noticed our ‘Sights & Sounds’ video series on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube. This is a series dedicated to giving you a taste of what a car feels like to operate – we press buttons, pull levers, and stroke surfaces to bring you into the life of an owner. The Kia Rio is one vehicle that this series was made for. We’ll put up one such video here once we can establish a link to Instagram. We’re currently in China, where it is blocked.

Features

We’re a little upset that the Rio lacks the 7” infotainment that comes in the cheaper Picanto. For close to RM30,000 more, Kia have taken away Apple Carplay and Android Auto as well, which is baffling.

But besides this, we really liked a lot of the little features in the Rio. Many were functional, little things that other manufacturers have completely missed. Take the information cluster between the dials. It shows you when you toggle through front and rear wiper speeds, through your light settings, gears and more. This allows the driver to quickly understand where the stalks are without taking their eyes off the road for long.

And though we did have minor complaints about the infotainment unit, we found the 5”, free-standing unit here to be more than sufficient. Careful attention has been paid to the font and iconography of its menu and submenus, yet another sign that some thought was put into this cabin.

The climate control unit was also very cleanly designed and easy-to-use. There’s also a sunroof that helps elevate the Rio above its Japanese competitors. Is it a useful feature? No, definitely not. But there’s no doubt that any car feels more premium with one in place.

Space

Some of us just never see the need to seat more than just 1 or 2 people. But we can’t run away from needing some versatility in a car. That’s the appeal of a B-segment 5-door hatchback. You don’t lug around too much wasted space and weight when driving alone yet you can take 3 or 4 other friends along on weekend trips.

For those upgrading without seeing a need to upgrade the size of their cars, the Rio is simply perfect in this regard.

Drive

If you’ve owned a simple, reliable machine for the last few years, the last thing you want is the opposite of that. Anyone tempted for a taste of continental flavour usually ends up being poisoned by unreliable gearboxes, brittle engines and poor parts availability.

And I think that’s why the Kia Rio is so appealing. The engine and gearbox are about as straightforward as one you’d find in a Myvi, yet the chassis and suspension set up emulates what you’d find in a Polo or Fiesta. Sure, it lacks the feedback and steering response and other subtle performance advantages of those other cars, but you get 80% of the way there without most of the ownership worries.

The Rio ends up being a very appealing car because of this. But there’s more.

The seating position is nice and low. The steering wheel is wrapped in quality leather and well contoured. The accelerator and brake pedals are finished in metal.

Let’s go back to that engine and gearbox. The 1.4-litre in here only puts out 99hp and 133Nm of torque. It’s plainly not a powerful motor. Throttle response will be a little disappointing to some. The Rio is very unwilling to push itself unless you really ask for it. And even with a tiptronic-style gear selector, the excitement feels very… wrong. You end up overusing gears 2 and 3 and feeling guilty about putting that kind of abuse on the transmission. Really, it’s a shame no manual gearbox is available. That would have cured most problems we have with this rather straightforward setup.

We did manage everage fuel economy figures between 7-10L per 100km which is really not bad for such an old-school powertrain.

Conclusion

And that brings us back to the whole reason we see this as a nice step up for older Myvi. A 1.4-litre non turbocharged multi port injection engine and a 4-speed conventional gearbox are as durable as it gets. Yet this simplicity is paired to a product where the other details that drivers pay attention to have been sorted out. Design-wise, there’s no denying it’s handsome and well-proportioned. It’s no stunner, but this is a look that will age very well. So, yes. As a small upgrade without going up a segment or into the European product range, this Kia Rio certainly ticks the boxes. It’s not going to be anyone’s first or last car, but it works so well as an upgrade to the first car you bought.

Kia Rio 1.4 MPI Hatchback Specifications

Engine: Inline 4, DOHC with VVT
Capacity: 1368cc
Gearbox: 4-speed Conventional Automatic
Max power: 99hp @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 133Nm @ 4000rpm
Price: RM79,888


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