Launch Review: 2017 KIA Rio

In 2007, Jaguar was on its last legs – a brand with heap loads of heritage and a fan base ranging from Archibalds in tweed jackets to Deshauns in Airmaxes, but with finances as ropey as Archie’s teeth and Deshaun’s friends. Ford was the brand’s last hope and somehow, somewhere, they had a plan that would ultimately save Jaguar. That plan was a car called the XF, a budget beauty that shared its underpinnings with the S-Type but took the world by storm with arguably one of the most iconic designs of the 21st century, oozing more cool than anything any of the Germans could ever devise. Its successor had a lot to live up to, then, and in short, failed. Nice, but not nice enough.

Fast forward to 2012 and KIA did the exact same thing with the Rio. Albeit in a completely different class, they reshaped the public’s perception as to what a B-segment hatchback should look and feel like, serving us a near-premium product that the world went bananas for. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and as we bid farewell to that Rio, we welcome the 2017 Rio to the not so sunny, of late, shores of South Africa. The question is – have they done a Jag and fallen a bit short? Well, here are the facts…Powered by the same n/a 1.2-litre (62 kW and 120 N.m) and 1.4-litre (74 kW and 135 N.m) motors as the outgoing model, the new Rio relies on other things to wow consumers because little to no wowing will be done with the slightly fettled but strangely less powerful motors on offer. The steering rack has more serrations than before which apparently improves steering responsiveness, but I don’t recall ever thinking that the Rio needed more of that. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable and certainly feels sportier than before. As we have come to expect from KIA, a full range of gadgets and safety essentials feature, too.

It looks a bit dull when thinking back to its predecessor but it’s by no means an ugger. It’s handsome and one can see that great attention to detail has gone into Korea’s new contender. Build quality is lovely and gone is the strange KIA smell of old.

Is it enough to wow us like the Rio before it did? We’ll reserve our comments for the full driven review in the coming weeks…

Pricing is as follows:

1.2 LS – R219 995

1.4 LX – R234 995

1.4 EX – R249 995

1.4 Tec – R274 995


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