Driven: New Kia Rio 1.4LS Auto

I’ve just spent the day driving the facelifted Kia Rio, and uncovered Goldilocks’ next hatchback

You know the old adage, not too cold, not too hot. Not to hard, not too soft. Rather, just right. Allow me to introduce you to the entry-level Kia Rio LS 1.4l, the just right B Segment city car, especially in auto. I’ve made a point of mentioning that it’s the LS trim which is at the bottom of their lineup, but the 1.4l distinction represents a step up from the 1.2l engine that’s been the sole option since the original car was launched in July 2017. So, a base model with a more powerful engine- yours with a choice of manual and automatic transmission options. I’ve opted for thr latter because there’s something about a smooth self-shifter that adds to the luxury feel of a car, even in this segment. And it gets better when you consider that base in this instance means fairly loaded with hop-ups, and now includes an 8″ inch infotainment system complete with Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

But, let’s talk about those updates to the new model first. In terms of styling it’s a bit thin, just four visual changes to the front. I list them so; mildly revised headlights, a narrower tiger-nose radiator grille, a rescuplted front bumper with new fog lamps and housings, Bi-functional LEDs and larger air intakes. Also new, two colours; Sporty Blue and Perennial Grey, taking the tally up to eight hues. Four trim levels remain – all that’s changed is the 61kW/120Nm 1.2mpi Kappa engine is now offered alongside the larger 73kW/135Nm 1.4mpi on the LS. Also on the LS, 15″ inch alloy wheels instead of the plastic covers on the old car.

I’d be remiss to add that the dearer LX model gets a ‘4.2 inch Supervision’ instrument cluster, the EX gets 17 inch wheels and the top-of-the-line TEC models now comes with rear seat alerts (and have a R8000 optional sunroof). Automatic transmissions cost circa R15k on top of the manual in a model range that varies in price from R280k to R361k. Here, the R308k represents an excellent compromise. Yes, the LS has only has two airbags vs the six in the rest of the range, but that’s typical of a base model and the only real kink in its armour. It represents great value and even more so when you consider that it includes KIA’s unlimited kilometres, five year warranty plus a 4 year/60k on 1.4l (2 year/30,000km on the 1.2l) service plan. And you can further add excellent resale value to boot. What more can I add than my personal driving experience between Cape Town and Darling – a 300km round trip on which the little Kia proved comfortable and spirited. I managed some of that in a manual model and yes, it’s just about as great a prospect if you don’t mind rowing your own gears, and it achieves a sub R300k sticker price and that’s always nice. But me, I’m still a fan of the 1.4LS auto.

Quick spec: Kia Rio 1.4LS Auto
Price: R308,995
Powertrain: 1.4l inline 4-cyl, fwd, 73kW/135Nm

Kia Rio range pricing:
KIA Rio 1.2 LS Manual – R280,995
KIA Rio 1.4 LS Manual – R291,995
KIA Rio 1.4 LS Auto  – R308,995
KIA Rio 1.4 LX Manual – R306,995
KIA Rio 1.4 LX Auto – R323,995
KIA Rio 1.4 EX Manual – R319,995
KIA Rio 1.4 EX Auto – R336,995
KIA Rio 1.4 TEC Manual  – R344,995
KIA Rio 1.4 TEC Auto – R361,995

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