Saturday 22 July 2017

Rio has room to improve

The Kia Rio is practical and well specced but the car just isn't engaging enough

Full of space: The Kia Rio has a lot of good qualities, but the bumpy ride and too much road noise lets the car down
Full of space: The Kia Rio has a lot of good qualities, but the bumpy ride and too much road noise lets the car down
Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

When my son was over from London recently, he joked that I had neglected my fatherly duties by not giving him a certain skill. He now wanted me to make up for lost time and teach him how to easily and confidently parallel park.

I promised that one day soon we would but also stressed that as more and more cars have rear-view, if not all-round view, cameras and warning systems as well as the increased fitting of self-parking systems, the skill is not as necessary as it was.

Even the whole concept of learning to drive is losing popularity among the young, perhaps influenced by the thought that eventually all cars will be self-driving so why waste good drinking money on something that might be redundant soon enough.

However, I think they might be wrong and driving skills will always be useful, although I remember reading recently that one of the biggest technology honchos said that his children would never need to drive.

I was thinking about all this when driving the Kia Rio as part of my search for a new car to replace the five-year-old Hyundai i10 as our mainly urban runabout at Spray Towers. We want something a little bigger that would be fine for the odd weekend away and maybe a trip up to our new favourite place, Donegal.

Kia is coming on very strongly in the slipstream of its more successful sister Hyundai and both parts of the Korean enterprise are fast learning from each other and cross-fertilising. So much so that the new Kia Picanto is said to be a marked improvement on the present generation i10 and will set the standard in the small city car market.

We'll see, I have a test drive scheduled next month.

But back to the Rio. It is incredibly well specced with a very high degree of crash protection - especially in the test model. It is the first car in its class to offer Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian recognition. Yet it was a bit bland and not particularly comfortable for the driver who needs to be more ergonomically protected. However, my passengers, and even Sam, the dog, had no complaints and thought the car looked good. It is lower than I like as a result of trying to look sleeker. I'm not sure if that works.

There are diesels available but I wouldn't go there with such a small car. I was testing the 1.25 85bhp petrol engine but it has very little pizazz on the open road (0-100kmh of 12.9 seconds) and starts to drink the juice on motorways and, if you start playing with it, good country roads.

However, there is a 1.0 litre 3-pot turbo on the way - the same for a lot of Hyundais and Kias - and it will be more expensive but a lot more fun. I tested it in the Hyundai i20Active and it impressed with its mix of potency and efficiency. The Rio isn't very engaging in terms of ride and control. You feel the bumps and road noise is ever present.

Yet this Rio, which sold 450,000 units last year of the outgoing third-generation model (Irish Car of the Year in 2011) and accounted for 15pc of Kia's annual sale, is an amazingly practical car with lots of excellent space throughout.

I was quite happy to be picking up someone from the airport in it. I wanted to impress but not dominate. It also has rear-view cameras and all sorts of extras that make it a very nice offering for downsizers. It would make me content for a while but not happy in the long run. The new 1.0 litre engine might change that.

Prices start at €15,950 while the test model was €19,450. At that it is facing a lot of competition. However, never forget that seven-year warranty.

The German and Californian design studios of Kia have done quite a bit but still need to do more. It's 17 years since the first Rio; another generation should do it.

However, the Picanto promises more and I can't wait to see it.

And speaking of promises, my son, I will give you that parking tutorial.

Sunday Independent

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