Kia Rio first drive review
When shooting a new car, I'm used to people walking up to me to enquire about the car. What I'm not used to is someone wanting to know how he can apply for a dealership of the brand, without referring to the car in front of him at all! No prizes for guessing the brand in question is Kia Motors. The Kia Rio you see on these pages is a premium hatchback that shares its platform with the Hyundai Elite i20, and Kia Motors let us borrow their Rio and Sportage GT that were displayed at the Auto Expo to experience the cars and also understand what the brand is about.
The Kia Rio is a swanky looking premium hatchback that oozes appeal from all quarters. Note the unique design of the 17-inch alloy wheels, shod with 205-section tyres that accentuate the car's sportiness immensely
On the outskirts of Gurugram is where the gentleman enquired about Kia and whether it makes sense to invest in a dealership. Clearly, that's the kind of buzz the Korean manufacturer has created already. It's barely a few months since Kia made a big splash at the Auto Expo by showcasing over a dozen models. Of course, taking centre stage there was the SP concept, a compact SUV being developed specifically for India. And the big splash was necessary, considering Kia is unknown to majority of the Indian populace, though internationally it is a big name. Over the years Kia has become a brand of high repute and is known for its sporty designs as also the premium fit-finish levels and the high quality of materials its cars use.
The Kia Rio shares its platform with the Hyundai Elite i20, but is positioned as a slightly more premium offering that's also sportier and more youthful than its cousin. Note how chic the appearance is from the rear, thanks to the impressive design of the tail lamp cluster
And the Rio isn't any different. The design approach of course is different from the i20 as the Rio's lines are sharper and sportier as compared to the i20's. Upfront, it is Kia's trademark 'Tiger' grille that catches your attention first look closely and you'll notice it is essentially a strip of glossy black plastic positioned above the actual grille. The low slung stance adds to the sporty feel, accentuated further by the smart looking 17-inch alloy wheels shod with fat 205-section tyres. The rear three quarter is the Rio's best angle though, as the tail lamp cluster and roof mounted spoiler make for a very chic, European appearance.
The dashboard layout and overall black theme of the Kia Rio looks sporty and youthful, while the high quality of materials used makes for a rich, premium feel
The sporty vibe continues inside thanks to the black theme. Well-finished plastics, top notch fit levels and black leather upholstery make for an upmarket feel along with the sunroof. I particularly liked the steering wheel and gear lever both are finished in black and get brushed aluminium inserts, while the aluminium pedals scream sportiness. All panels merge into each other seamlessly, which along with the high quality plastics offer a rich and classy feel. The infotainment screen is a disappointment though given its diminutive size, especially when compared to the bigger, brighter screens on offer in premium hatchbacks in India.
The Kia Rio we drove uses a three-pot, 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 100PS and 171Nm. Performance is impressive, as the Rio is quick to accelerate - be it from standstill or through the gears
Drive now, shall we? The car I drove is UK-spec and is powered by a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. The engine offers 100PS and 171Nm in this guise and feels refined and also sounds sporty at revs. It loves being revved and performance is likeable, while the light clutch and slick shifts from the six-speed transmission add to the engaging feel. Given Kia's positioning as a youthful and exuberant brand, there's enough distinction between the feel offered by the Rio as compared to the i20 which feels plush and comfortable but not as sporty. The 17-inch wheels hint at the car's sporty nature and the Rio does not disappoint, though the low profile tyres make for thuds on potholed roads. On the whole Rio comes across as a well-built, premium hatchback that's engaging to drive with its sporty vibe.
The Kia Rio's low slung stance is matched well by its sporty feel from behind the wheel, as the steering is communicative and the handling impressive thanks to the firm suspension
It is a car Kia should bring to India though as of now there is no confirmation whether the Rio will be launched in India or not. We do know that the SP concept-based compact SUV will be Kia's first offering here, but details about other launches are sketchy currently. SUVs are all the craze currently, but there is a sizeable chunk of buyers who want well-equipped, premium hatchbacks and the Rio fits the bill well. Having driven the Rio I can tell you that as a brand Kia stands for panache and premium quality, something a lot of buyers look for in brands today. It should thus be interesting to see what cars Kia launches in India as it seems poised to raise the bar for buyers across segments.
As of now there is no confirmation as to whether the Kia Rio will be launched in India or not, though we feel the hatchback should come to India given its stylish looks, premium feel and sporty manners as there is demand for such cars in the market today
Starts Rs 5.5 Lakhs