1 Sep 2011
It is hard to recall a new model that improved so drastically on its predecessor in recent times than the third-generation Kia Rio.
The ambitious Korean marque had come a long way from its humble origins when it released the car in September of 2011 and had all but shaken off the dogged ‘cheap and cheerful’ reputation it had obtained from its mediocre early product.
Styled in California under the watchful eye of ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer – responsible for the brand’s stunning Optima sedan and Sportage compact SUV as well as the Rio – the new Rio stood out from the light car pack with its chunky and masculine lines.
Buyers could choose three trim variants (S, Si, SLi), two petrol engines and either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission (four-speed on S spec automatics).
The entry-level engine was a 1.4-litre unit producing 79kW and 135Nm of torque, while higher specified variants came with a 1.6-litre powerplant with a heady 103kW and 167Nm.
Fuel economy – depending on variant, engine and transmission – hovered between 5.6-litres per 100km and 6.1L/100km.
As with most modern Kias, the Rio picked up Oz-specific tweaks, including revised shock absorbers, tauter than European-tune suspension settings, unique MDPS calibrations, different springs, and 44 per cent larger stabiliser bars derived.
Along with the active and passive safety items including dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, even the base Rio got a seatbelt reminder chime for all five seats, plus tilt/telescopic steering adjustment, remote Bluetooth telephony with audio streaming, radio/CD/MP3 capability, powered windows front and rear, a six-function trip computer and electric heated outside mirrors.
A three-door hatch and four-door sedan version also arrived in early 2012.
When it was new