Punchy three-cylinder Rio with bite

Automakers, it must be said, are quite successful in extracting money from customers.

Many shoppers have walked into a dealership, determined to walk away with a bargain, only to find themselves with all kinds of accessories they didn’t know they wanted.

In fact, research shows that new car buyers are more likely to spend $25,000 on a car than the more obvious benchmark of $20,000. About five times more likely, in fact.

Most of those extra expenses likely end up ticking the “extras” box before signing on the dotted line. Or just opt ​​for a more option-rich variant that brings the extra kit for the single price.

Enter the Kia Rio GT-Line. One of those cars that costs $25,000.

But rather than all the usual trinkets and gimmicks that inflate the asking price, there’s something even more impressive about this little Rio. A completely new engine and transmission.

While the most basic versions of this fourth-generation Rio make do with a modest 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine (producing 74kW and 133Nm), the sportier and more expensive GT line gets a smaller engine 1-litre three-cylinder.

Yes, that’s right – paying for the privilege of a smaller engine.

However, this version comes with a turbocharger. One that elevates the 1-litre engine outputs to a whopping 74 kilowatts which, amazingly, is exactly the same power as the four-cylinder engine.

An argument not yet entirely convincing. Wait to drive it.

The GT-Line’s secret ingredient is torque – all 172Nm compared to the normally aspirated car’s 133Nm.

That might not sound like a lot, but in such a small and light machine, it gives the Rio GT-Line some surprising performance, including a high-tech dual-clutch transmission that adds even more pep to the little Korean runabout.

Priced at $24,990 (plus road charges), it also makes a pretty compelling case when stacked alongside other rivals – the Mazda2 GT ($25,990) for example; or the Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo ($27,990) and even the VW 85TSI ($25,690).

The little Kia undercuts them all on price, despite having a long list of these “extras”. Think 17-inch alloys; special GT styling and body kit; LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment, rear view camera, power folding mirrors, power windows and sports seats.

Suddenly, that $25,000 never sounded so good.

Plus, it looks a lot like the part.

From the very start, the Rio was a strong contender to be the least fashionable car on Australian roads. Launched in 1999, it was a weirdly designed hatchback hatchback that was definitely not on the list of cars anyone would aspire to own. More like something Mr Bean could drive.

It was ugly to look at – and not much better to drive.

Thus, the current Rio, with its sharp style and impressive dynamics, probably reflects the incredible progress made by its manufacturer during these two decades.

Of course, despite being the “flagship” of this model, the Rio doesn’t claim to be a top-of-the-line vehicle – like other entry-level Korean (and Japanese) machines, it’s largely built from a price, not to a particular standard.

Yet it has a modern, quality vibe inside and out.

And that perky little three-cylinder engine pumps out a pretty throaty, throaty exhaust note that matches the pretty spicy performance for a modest little thing.

In sport mode, the Rio even has a rev-matching system that hops the throttle when downshifting via the dual-clutch auto. It’s truly a hoot as it spins and roars as it stops at traffic lights – like a Chihuahua baring its teeth at a Rottweiler.

None of this should deter drivers from testing this attractive little machine.

Fun to drive, cheap to buy and run (quite happy with the slightly cheaper 91 RON fuel and consumes only 5.3L/100km), it makes sense for young beginners and older alike. It’s not exactly fast, but feels dashing in Sport mode where the seven-speed automatic shifter kicks in and keeps the engine nicely on song – something of a requirement.

Beauty is just a bonus.


* WHAT SIZE? It’s not the smallest member of the Kia family – that honor belongs to baby Picanto. The Rio is a compact hatchback that comfortably seats four, five in a pinch

* AT WHAT SPEED? Even though its small engine only produces 78 kW, it’s a fiery performer thanks to its turbocharged power and nimble handling.

* HOW THIRST? Another area where its small engine helps – although it might be reasonable to hope for better than its official 5.3L/100km thirst.

* HOW MANY? While the Rio range starts at $20,000, this is the flagship at $24,990 plus road charges.

#Punchy #threecylinder #Rio #bite

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