Kia have come a long way, haven’t they? The Korean car company have gone from becoming the butt end of jokes to being the case study of beautiful car design. People started to take notice and reassess their valuation of Kia when the Forte was introduced; mainly because every car that came before it were – and let’s be honest here – destined to the scrap metal yard the moment it rolled off the assembly floor.

Delightfully, the Forte wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Every car that came out of Seoul since were sculptures in motion. Till today, I still turn my head and have a second look at the K5. And now we come to the Rio, Kia’s card in the B-segment pile.


So what happened here, why does the Rio look somewhat bland? Granted that it is curvier and round instead of sharp and sleek but the overall shape does not convey the same sense of ‘wow’ the other new-gen Kia seem to have. Then again, a different pair of eyes would be saying otherwise.

In any case, the Rio comes with contraptions that make it stand out (read: add value for money). Seen here is the Rio SX, which comes with all bells and whistles ringing. It has projector headlamps, daytime running lights, front fog lamps, a sunroof, LED rear lights and 17-inch alloys that seem too large for this hatchback. OK, it does help get the car prettier but not a whole lot.


What about the interior? It is deceptively spacious, fitting five large males with varying degrees of waist sizes without much fuss. Actually, there’s nothing much to say about it except that its materials quality is decent and the finishing is one of the better ones that money can buy. Nothing here that truly stands out – good or bad – even when it comes to the layout of the dashboard. That said, the design of rocker switches for the air conditioning are a welcoming touch. Pointless, but a nice nonetheless.

The better news here comes from the number of features that you’ll find missing from some of the cars in Rio’s class. The SX trim also gets automatic air conditioning with cluster ioniser, auto defogger, rain sensor and a six-speaker audio system tuned by Arkamys.


If that does not impress, then maybe the six airbags might. More? OK. ESC with EBD, ABS, traction control, brake assist, hill-start assist and vehicle stability management are machined into the Rio. So far the Rio SX is building up a case that it gives much more value for your money. That is if you don’t mind how it drives.

The little car gets moving from a 1.4-litre mill that pushes 109hp at 6,300rpm and 137Nm at 4,200rpm to the front axles, a four-speed automatic is tasked to get the power there. It’s not the sprightliest thing in the world and it is further bogged down by the 17-inch wheels. As such, the car feels heavy and reluctant, which starts a chain reaction that drains the 43-litre fuel tank quicker than you’d expect.

Math quiz

And when you do get it up to speed, the car’s NVH starts to come apart at the seams. Funny how cars that need more sound-proofing doesn’t get enough. At this point, the steering will have plenty of artificial weight added; still very little feedback is coming though. The ride is also harder than you’d expect and it does not bring any benefit to the handling. The Rio still has all the body motions synonymous to the class; nothing new here.

Nevertheless, the Rio is a decently priced, feature-heavy car. But if you don’t mind not having a sunroof and smaller wheels, you can consider saving RM6,000 and going for the Rio EX instead. My verdict – loaded with kit and priced attractively to save it from mediocrity. Don’t expect much else.