Car Review: Kia Rio SLi – Style at an affordable price tag

I’ll take on any car that comes my way and like to think that they will all get a fair hearing…. even when it is an entry-level offering and even if I’ve just stepped out of a supercar.

Just as it takes all kinds of people to make a community, we must expect that it takes a wide range of makes and models to build a “carpark” to cater to everyone.

So it was with that approach that I slid into the seat of the new Kia Rio – the top-specced SLi model for good measure – with the view that it is a car not only critical to the Korean car maker’s success in Australia, but a vehicle firmly aimed at teenage girls, school mums and down-sizing retirees.

It’s not typically the motoring choice of a middle-aged dad. While the wife got to try it out on a school run (as did I for what it is worth in the co-parenting scheme of things) the Rio SLi was put to the test around the city and doing mostly, well, “bloke things”.

How’d it go? Surprisingly bloody good. So good, in fact, that I’d consider putting it on the second-car shopping list with the view that I could live with driving it.

Aside from looking the goods with Euro styling and some clever little sporty touches, the Rio has the very real attraction of being a very affordable option.

The Rio SLi is the top of the range and comes in at $22,990 but an entry level manual S model will set you back just $16,990.

The 1.4-litre engine isn’t going to set the world on fire in the performance stakes, but the Rio comes with plenty of kit to make being behind the wheel a fun place to be.

The base model has 15-inch steel wheels, halogen daytime running lights and cloth seats. There’s electric mirrors, power windows front and rear, manual air-con and a metal-look dash insert.

Technology upgrades on the previous model come in the form of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto-equipped, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen paired with six speakers.

Going up through the models will put 15-inch alloy wheels, LED DRLs, front fog lights, a chrome surround on the front grille and heated wing mirrors with an integrated indicator.

Navigation also comes as standard on levels above the base model, along with cruise control and a sportier steering wheel. 

The SLi model, as tested, gets 16-inch alloys, a sunroof and privacy glass. The faux-leather seat trim is a nice touch and auto wipers and a dash display for parking sensors make for easier driving.

Performance isn’t the Kia Rio’s thing, as stated, but the 74kW is adequate around the city and matched to the market the model is pitched at. The auto model also uses just 6.2L/100km, with the manual in the base offering uses just 5.6L/100km.

Kia has done well with the steering and suspension – steering is responsive and suspension firm enough to give something of a sporty feel.

The Kia Rio SLi is not for everyone, I’m certain, but it is certainly not something to walk by if you’re in the market for a second set of wheels.

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