Hatchbacks and SUV’s, the two dominant players in the South African car space. Kia doesn’t have a large portfolio of either one of these genres of car but what they do have they constantly work on improving. Take the Kia Rio for instance, one of the Korean brand’s larger hatchbacks that has now received a mild nip and tuck, and we were there to witness it all.

Visually, the surgeons at Kia have kept sculpting to a minimum seeing as this is a facelift after all. The Rio’s front end has been touched up with minor alterations to the headlamps, radiator grille and front bumper. To give customers more variety, the brand has also added two body colours to their palette, Sporty Blue and Perennial Grey. The entry grade Rio LS now benefits from 15-inch alloys, and the EX wears a set of 17-inch alloys. Other upgrades come in the form of Electronic stability control and Rear Seat Alert which notifies you if any one of the little ones in the rear unbuckles their seat belt while you’re not looking. You need to bring your A-game to stay in the fight when boxing in this competitive arena, especially when going up against hard hitters like Polo Vivo and Hyundai i20.  Kia isn’t taking this one lying down.

Inside, the Rio has also been tinkered with, now boasting a larger infotainment screen from a 7-inch to an 8-inch display. The system is equipped with the two main features people look for – Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Steering mounted audio controls with telephone functionality are now available for all variants, from the entry-level Rio LS to the top-spec. The layout and feel of this space remains very minimalist and frugal, at times leaving you feeling like the people who worked on it took the term ‘cost-saving’ a bit too far when choosing the interior finishes. The upside to this is that Kia is able to produce an affordable vehicle in the B-segment. 

Speaking of affordability, the Koreans have retained their small capacity engines in the Rio, offering consumers two drivetrains. There’s a 1.2-litre which produces 61kW and 120 Nm as well as an equally lightweight 1.4-litre with outputs of 73kW and 135 Nm. Even though these units have remained non-turbo, we had no complaints regarding power availability. Their engineering allows them to produce reasonable performance for naturally aspirated motors, Kia’s 1.4 feels surprisingly peppy and ready to go, especially when paired with the 6-speed manual gearbox. Its not every car that gives you a rewarding experience when fitted with three pedals, but the Rio does. The 6-speed auto becomes a bit whiny when working under strain, which makes the manual even more appealing.

Kia prides themselves in sticking with their customers for the long haul and as such, their vehicles come with a standard 5-year unlimited kilometer warranty for added peace of mind and ownership. You’ll be happy to know that the Rio is also backed by this offering and has a 2-year 30 000km service plan in the 1.2-litre, and a 4-year 60 000 plan on all the 1.4-litre variants. 

Kia Motors SA says there’s a more to look forward to in 2021, with four models planned for the first half of the year. These include a Picanto, Soreto, the all-new Carnival, as well as the eagerly anticipated Sonet.

How much is a Kia Rio 2020:

KIA Rio 1.2 LS Manual           R280,995

KIA Rio 1.4 LS Manual           R291,995

KIA Rio 1.4 LS Auto                R308,995

KIA Rio 1.4 LX Manual           R306,995

KIA Rio 1.4 LX Auto               R323,995

KIA Rio 1.4 EX Manual           R319,995

KIA Rio 1.4 EX Auto               R336,995

KIA Rio 1.4 TEC Manual        R344,995

KIA Rio 1.4 TEC Auto             R361,995

By Gugu Masuku

Gugu Masuku
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