It’s been awhile since I’ve test driven a Kia. This is a good thing since they are one of those manufacturers that are constantly improving their vehicles, so here is a chance for me to get a good sense of how they have improved over the last few years since I’ve been behind the wheel of one.
My tester is a Kia Rio 5-Door, the Rio5 name is no more, although they still use it oddly on their website in one spot. That brings me to Kia’s website, if you don’t know what you want I don’t understand how you learn anything on their website, just a bunch of pictures with no info, but I’ll digress.
The 2016 Rio comes with a 1.6-litre “GDI” (gasoline direct injection) engine that produces 137 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque which is decently powered for a small platform such as this. The SX model I’m driving starts at just over $19,000 and currently has $2,500 on the hood if you pay cash, not bad.
My tester is a manual transmission (six-speed) which is most likely not the volume seller as most will opt for the automatic, but the features are plentiful for the price range. The SX is equipped with leather seats, a heated steering wheel, back-up camera, cruise control, automatic climate control, proximity key and push button start and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Model: 2016 Kia Rio 5-Door SX MT
Options: Urban Blue — $200
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $21,520
Nissan Versa Note
Toyota Yaris Hatchback
For under $20,000 the interior of the Kia Rio is a nice looking place to be. The design is visually appealing, yet simple and ergonomically well laid out. The materials used are par for the course in the sub-compact class of vehicle and in this price range but they are mostly hard plastics.
At the very least they could provide a soft place to rest one’s elbow on the door panel. That said there is a centre armrest with some padding: an option that many competitors in this price range omit all together. There is also storage in said arm rest to hide or store smaller items.
This is a small car but it is impressively large inside. Front seat space is as expected and I wouldn’t see anyone but friendly giants complaining about lack of space, but what is really surprising is the amount of headroom in the rear. Even leg room in the backseats seemed reasonable to me, I did not feel squashed at all, considering the total size of the car it is impressive.
That theme continues to the trunk, the hatch floor is extremely low, when I opened that hatch for the first time I was blown away with the available storage space. Add in the fact that the hatch is a large opening and the back seats fold 60/40 nearly flat the amount of space really is incredible.
Back up front in the driver’s seat which is adjustable fore-aft, height and tilt makes for a comfortable driving position. The tilt/telescopic wheel adds even more adjust-ability and the steering wheel offers radio and cruise control settings at the driver’s finger tips.
The SX Rio 5-door that I am driving is supposed to have what Kia calls “sport” suspension. If that is true I honestly do not want to drive a Rio with “normal” suspension. First of all the car wallows over bumps and if you quickly move the steering from side-to-side you get sea sick as the car wobbles and wiggles around.
But that does mean you get a soft compliant ride on bumpy roads which would be great if you were not in fear for you life over the bumps.You see, when you hit a bump the car shimmies from side-to-side, if you hit a bump while turning then the rear of the car wants to become the front as it steps out from the driving line — we call this bump steer.
It’s dangerous and the Rio is the worst I have felt in any recent car. I hit a crown in the road today at the posted speed limit of 80 km/h and I nearly flew directly into the ditch as the suspension settled over the bump in the road the wobbled, hopped and wiggled, I genuinely thought I was going to crash.
If that doesn’t bother you then the road noise probably won’t be a bother for you. It’s loud inside the Rio but it is on par with other vehicles in its class like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, those vehicles are also very noisy out on the highway so this isn’t much of a surprise.
I’ll give the Rio points for visibility all around and it is easy to drive. The little 1.6-litre engine is peppy and the six-speed manual transmission is fun to row through the gears. But the handling is just so unsettling the fun ends the moment the road has any imperfections and around here that’s nearly every road with a curve.
Some may not notice the poor handling of the Rio 5-Door especially if you mostly city drive, it seems to be at higher speeds were the weird handling characteristics rear their ugly head.
But what you will notice at higher speeds is that the Rio is great on fuel even with a manual transmission that allows the car to rev to around 3,000 rpm at highway speeds.
Over the week I managed to squeak out an average of 6.9L/100km which is great fuel economy for some spirited driving with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Rio is a nice car for the money but the handling really put me off of it. Even just driving straight down a bumpy road can feel unnerving at times as it hops around. I have experience on the track and racing so it doesn’t bother me that much to have the car moving around under me, but for those that drive the grocery run it’s a horrible feeling.