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In Malaysia, we get the Kia Rio5 5-door hatchback as the Kia Rio, offered as a CBU unit from Korea. Powered by a 1.4 litre engine, the proposition that the car offers you seems to be a small get-around designed to be small enough to be easy to park, as well as having a frugal engine that won’t hurt your wallet.

Read my test drive report after the jump.

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Most of the essentials that you’d expect from an import hatchback is there in this car. You get alloy rims, and a decent interior. Exterior and interior styling is decent, however some may not be able to get over the strange design in the rear lamp clusters, which has a transparent stripe that seems to continue from the shoulder line of the car, curving down as it flanks the rear hatch from both sides. However, there is one thing missing that is very surprising – airbags. Not even a single airbag for the driver.

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The interior of the Kia Rio is well-designed, all switches and knobs are in proper easy to access. There is an MP3-capable CD player that looks quite after market, and is of a 1-DIN size fitted into a 2-DIN hole. You can use the other half of the 2-DIN hole to store your stuff, but it looks garish like an afterthought. The interior is specced out to have a sporty feel, with red stitching on the seats, steering wheel and gear shifter. The steering wheel feels of a high quality and feels good to hold. You can bring 4 people around in this car very comfortably, as long as the people in front are not too tall and have to push the seat too far back. Put in 5 people and it starts becoming a squeeze. The boot is sufficiently roomy. I managed to fit a box with a computer into it, along with miscellaneous other stuff like my laptop and camera bag. Comfort levels were sufficient, nothing to complain about from a car in this class. You hardly notice that the rear suspension is a torsion beam setup.

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The engine is a 1.4 litre DOHC 16 valve engine, and it’s displacement is 1399cc, contrary to nazakia.com.my’s claim of 1309cc. Please take note Naza Kia, website QC is a simple thing to do. It puts out 94PS at 6,000rpm and 124.5Nm of torque at 4,700rpm. Throttle response was surprisingly good with this engine, and the Kia Rio felt very zippy in city driving without having to rev the engine very high. Very, very surprising indeed for a small displacement normally aspirated engine. However, it loses breath at high speed highway overtaking – this is expected of a car with this power of course, just taking note of it. Compared other cars of similiar displacement like the Satria Neo 1.3 (1,334cc) and Naza’s own 206 Bestari, they felt sluggish at slow speeds. The Neo 1.3 beats the Rio on the highway, and the 206 Bestari is just nowhere to be found, slow around the city as well as the highway.

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Now you can see why I kept this short. This car is pretty much not relevant to the Malaysian carbuyer. It’s just too expensive for what it offers. The whole idea of it being a 1.4 litre was fuel economy, but never managing to get over 380km to a full tank isn’t exactly frugal. There is only ABS, and no airbags, contrary to Naza’s decision to remove ABS from the 206 Bestari manual because they said the market prefers airbags to ABS. Even foglamps have been omitted. The car is really not a bad car and has very good build quality which should clear some doubts about Korean assembly lines, but for RM79,970.10 I would expect so much more. It’s relevance can be re-considered if the price could come down through local assembly. It was even worse before this, priced at RM92k before the current drop in price. The Rio originally made it’s debut at a price of RM75k, went up to RM92k, and now back to RM80k. This mad fluctuating price would definitely affect the 2nd hand value of the Rio, and it’s mostly thanks to the the NAP’s Gazetted Price changes.

Perhaps even Naza have realised this and lost interest in this car, because the Naza Kia website does not list the price for this car, only the old Rio 1.3 stationwagon, plus some of the specs are wrong like the engine displacement.

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