First drive: 2018 Kia Rio in the UAE
The Kia Rio is the South Korean carmaker’s sub-compact hatchback offering. It’s not exactly the first car that comes to mind in this category, primarily dominated by the Japanese, but it has some presence in the UAE market (and rocking it in the KSA market) due its decent price-tag. However, the all-new Rio seems to have upped its game, and we recently had a go in it at a media drive event in the UAE.
The new Rio is a slightly larger car from its predecessor so interior room has marginally gone up. The exterior design is an improvement, particularly the front fascia. The rear design seems to have hints of the previous-generation VW Golf, which is not a bad thing.
The interior has certainly improved in terms of tech. Our tester had a 5.0-inch touchscreen audio system, USB port, 3.5-inch LCD screen on the instrument cluster, automatic a/c and leather seats. The space was decent for full-size adults. However, things are average in the back, as tall passengers will have to poke the front passengers to move their seat front.
We had a go in the 1.4-litre engine first, which produces 99 hp and 133 Nm of torque. While it was manageable in the city, the motor seemed to run of steam sometimes on the highway at speeds above 80 kph. The 6-speed automatic is smooth and shifts fine but downshifts have a bit of lag, and combined with the lack of top-end kick, it requires some pre-planning when overtaking on the highways. We had a brief go in the 1.6-litre as well, which churns out 123 hp, so things marginally improve on the highway.
The car seemed to ride a bit firm, but still on the comfortable side. Our tester was equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, but the standard Rio gets 15-inch wheels, which we are guessing will be more comfortable. At speeds above 90 kph, wind noise starts to gradually go up. However, tyre noise was pretty evident at highway speeds which was a bit of a let down.
We can’t say much about the handling characteristics as our drive was mostly on the highways. The few bends we took, bodyroll was okay, with the tyre squeal giving enough warning that you need to back off. There is pretty much no steering feel, but it has a decent weight to it.
The new 2018 Kia Rio is certainly a competitive package. The looks have definitely improved, and with the more modern tech features inside, provides a good alternative to its rivals. While the 1.4-litre provides excellent fuel economy, we would opt for the 1.6-litre, solely because of the fact it offers much better performance on the highway.
Photos by Kia.