Wednesday 29 March 2017

Tough Kia Rio is no pushover

The Continental Irish Car of the Year is being lauded for efficiency but it is also incredibly robust, writes Martin Love

STURDY: The Kia Rio is fitted with electronic stability control
STURDY: The Kia Rio is fitted with electronic stability control

Recently a little girl saved my life. By waking up and stumbling downstairs as we were leaving a friend's house, 10-year-old Kitty delayed our leaving by a crucial 60 seconds -- a minute that we'll be repaying her for decades.



We said our goodnights and as we headed out into the frigid night, the hush was shattered by what sounded like an empty skip being tossed down the road by a rampaging elephant.

The awful scraping, graunching, grinding, banging racket finally came to an end. We stood in the porch, frozen. Then, as the spell broke, we ran out on to the pavement.

In front of us, steaming and hissing in the cold, was a wrecked people carrier rocking on its side, a trail of destruction in its wake.

The driver, trapped inside, was trying to open the sunroof, thinking it was the door. He was so drunk that much later, when the fire brigade chopped him out, the police had to carry him to the squad car.

Taking in the carnage I didn't at first recognise the car we'd driven to the party in -- a perky little Kia Rio. But yes, there it was, shoved 10ft down the road and on to the kerb, its pretty face crumpled like a prize-winning pug's.

The doors had burst open and the front wheels had folded sideways as if curtseying. I looked through the broken glass at the seats where we'd have been sitting. Then I walked to where the drunk was flapping his arms uselessly in the bubble of his trashed car and smashed my fists on the sunroof and screamed: "Why are you driving when you are this pissed?"

The drunk stared at me uncomprehendingly.

Though it was Kitty who saved us, I think the sturdy little Kia would have made a decent fist of trying to if she hadn't.

The headline this fourth-generation Kia has been making is that with its 1.1-litre three-cylinder turbodiesel, it is the most efficient non-electric car in the world, including hybrids and eco specials.

It is very much in demand and I was lucky to get it. Sporting the full gamut of Kia's EcoDynamic fuel-saving technologies, it will do an eyepopping 88.3 miles to the gallon while producing a barely detectable 85g of CO2 per km.

In fact, for this model year it isn't available in Ireland because the current emissions system gives this engine exactly the same VRT and road tax as the Rio 1.25 petrol engine with CO2 of 119 and the Rio 1.4 diesel with 113 CO2 and 65.7 mpg. Laudable though that all is, it's the robust safety features of the Rio that have attracted my attention.

To help avoid a crash, all Rios are fitted with electronic stability control and emergency brake assistance, which ensures maximum stopping power is guaranteed even if you don't apply full force to the brake. Once a crash becomes unavoidable, you can put your faith in twin front, side and curtain airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters for the front occupants, as well as crumple zones fore and aft to absorb and dissipate the force of a crash. Finally, when all else fails, there's a body shell as rigid and unyielding as an international front row.

I'd like to have spent longer getting to know the Rio and its frugal engine but what I saw of it I liked very much.

And Kitty, thanks for waking up.

The Kia Rio 1.25 LX petrol is €15,550, the excellent EX petrol is €16,775 and the 1.4 EX diesel (with 89hp against the 1.1's 74hp) is €18,190. Delivery and related charges are extra but there is the seven-year/150,000km warranty.

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