RoadImpressions – Kia Rio 1.4 TEC

Possibly the most excruciatingly boring drive in the country is the 600-odd kilometres between Durban and Johannesburg on the N3, monitored as it is by 35 or so fixed camera speed traps, a herd of ‘average speed camera zones’ at least five manned radar gun traps and an ever-increasing stretches limited to 100 km/h or less.

I fully understand the notion when people do not want to save themselves; sometimes you have to do it for them. Equally, I fully support road safety and, given the parlous state of many of the trucks on our roads, recognise the need to have huge restraint on Van Reenen’s Pass, Field’s Hill and Town Hill.

However, the rather hefty toll fees paid for the privilege of driving on what is supposed to be the premier arterial motorway in the country is losing its lustre as it is no longer seamless, swift or pleasant – I mean, 100 km/h all the way from Warden to the other side of Harrismith!

Worse still are the manned speed traps – offering nothing whatsoever to the notion of road safety, these are nothing more than money earners. The fixed traps should release traffic officers to patrol the highway and to mitigate incidents by stopping unroadworthy vehicles before they barrel down one of the hills destroying everything in their path.

Armed with a Kio Rio 1.4 TEC manual, I drove up the hill from Durban to the heady heights of Johannesburg at 1 753 metres above sea level and then back down to sea level again with the cruise control activated wherever possible.

It simply is impossible to modulate control of the throttle to keep within the limits of the law for such long periods – cruise control is a must. Also, with the sound cranked up it alleviates some of the tedium with games such as ‘when will that truck pull out to overtake the other one moving at walking pace and how many gears will I need to drop down’ also taking up some of the slow-passing time.

The sound system in the Rio TEC is up to the task with six speakers in play. Not quite concert levels but enough to blow the cobwebs away.

Since the trip is almost an enforced economy run, consumption watching forms part of the mix and the 6,5 l/100 km achieved on the uphill run at an average of 94 km/h was only marginally more than the 6,2 /100 km recorded on the downhill return at the same average speed.

The new, fourth-generation Rio is defined by straight lines and smooth surfacing, giving the car a distinctive new look and more mature character than its predecessor.

At the front is the latest evolution of Kia’s ‘tiger-nose’ grille, now thinner in height and wider across the front of the car, with a gloss black grille mesh and surround. The grille is integrated with the newly designed headlamps, featuring a new U-shaped LED daytime running light signature.

In profile, the lengthened, more balanced stance is achieved with a long bonnet and longer front overhang, a 10 mm longer wheelbase (up to 2 580 mm), a thinner, more upright C-pillar, and a shorter rear overhang. Overall, the new car is 15 mm longer than its predecessor (4 065 mm in length) and 5 mm lower (now 1 450 mm tall). Straight, clearly defined lines run down the full length of the car’s shoulder and along its doors, further stretching the appearance of the car for a more confident look.

The rear section of the Rio is now more upright, with a near-vertical rear windscreen. The straight line that runs from the grille, through the headlamps and along the top of the doors, continues around the back of the car, paired with thinner, more sculpted rear lamps. High specification models are available with LED taillights with a new arrow-shaped light signature.

Inside, the dashboard is angled towards the driver. At the centre is a ‘floating’ HMI (human-machine interface) with a new 7-inch Touch Screen infotainment system. Below the infotainment system, the driver-oriented centre console features fewer buttons, with more ergonomic, concave switches and rotator dials below to control the heating and ventilation.

Convenience items on the TEC include power windows, electrically controlled door mirrors, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and a Rear Park Assist System with reverse camera.

New dashboard soundproofing materials have been adopted to reduce engine noise levels in the front of the cabin, while a stiffer front sub frame minimises vibrations from poor road surfaces.

In the silences between songs, I was impressed with the low levels of travel noise intruding into the cabin.

The Rio’s 10 mm longer wheelbase and 15 mm longer body contribute to larger cabin and cargo area dimensions. Legroom grows to 1 070 mm in the front and 850 mm in the rear, achieved with a series of changes to the Rio’s packaging. These include re-profiled door trims, the adoption of new headlining materials and changes to the shape of the dashboard.

Luggage capacity is increased by 37 litres to 325 litres. The uphill journey involved both a wife and a niece on holiday from the UK – and all the luggage plus laptops and etcetera fitted in the boot, a huge plus for a car in this market segment.

The 1,4-litre engine produces 74 kW at 6 300 r/min and 135 Nm torque at 4 200 r/min driving through a six-speed manual transmission.

Compared to what some other manufacturers are achieving with small capacity engines, the Rio’s power plant comes across as being a tad weak. While never intended to be a robot-to-robot dragster, the engines runs out of breath quite quickly.

Gear ratios inclined towards fuel efficiency also mean it has to be ‘rowed’ up hills with two to three downshifts needed when cruising momentum is interrupted. That said, it is hardly a mobile chicane.

One of the downsides of some cars in this segment is the lack of comfort and support from the seats, usually because of thinner padding and the like to keep the cost down. The Rio is more than comfortable and supportive enough over the long haul to minimise fatigue.

The steering is light enough for comfort but responsive and accurate when needed and does not mind been thrown around fairly vigorously, staying mainly neutral and easing into predictable understeer.

The increased application of advanced high strength steel has strengthened the passenger cabin ‘cell’ for greater occupant safety and more effective distribution of impact forces. The stronger steel has been used to reinforce the A and B-pillars, as well as side sills, roof structure, engine bay and floor pan.

Along with driver’s and passenger’s air bags (including side and curtain air bags in the TEC model), the new Rio features front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters, side door impact beams front and rear, child locks, and impact sensing door unlocking. ISOFIX child seat anchors are standard across the range, as is anti-lock braking.

The Rio sits on fully independent MacPherson strut front suspension and a coupled torsion beam rear axle. It benefits from a revised spring and damper set-up noticeably improving the car’s compliance and comfort at all speeds.

A new front suspension system features a more rigid cross member and struts, while the rear shock absorbers are mounted more vertically, absorbing shocks better to improve ride comfort and stability.

The Kia Rio come with a 5-year / unlimited kilometre Warranty, inclusive of 5-years / Unlimited Kilometres Roadside Assistance as well as a 4-year / 60 000 km Service Plan.

KEY FACTS

 

Engine Type In-line 4 cyl, 16 valve DOHC CVVT
Displacement (cc) 1 396
Fuel supply system Multi Point Injection (MPI)
Max Power (kW @ rpm) 74/6300
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 135/4200
Compression Ratio 10.5 : 1
Bore and Stroke (mm) 74 x 74.99
Acceleration (0-100km/h) 11.5
Maximum speed (km/h) 176
CO2 emissions (g/km) 137