2019 Kia Rio GT exterior front 3/4.
Kia’s fourth-generation Rio first arrived here in January 2017 and received a major upgrade in November 2018. The subject of this week’s road test is the sporting Rio GT-Line.

It sits in an interesting position in that it’s not a hot-hatch but rather provides added driving appeal and a bit more power than the standard models. It’s a warm-hatch rather than a hot-hatch, which leaves room for a hotter model at some time in the future. Kia Australia won’t comment on this, but stay tuned and we will bring you news when / if it comes to hand.

In the meantime let’s look in detail at the Rio GT-Line.

The design is neat and tidy and already looks to be timeless rather than ground breaking, it’s very much a nod the European marques.

It has the latest evolution of Kia’s ‘tiger-nose’ grille introduced late in 2018. Its grille is thinner and wider and gives the Rio a positive appearance.

The GT-Line features a relatively subtle body kit with black mirror caps and black details in the sills and around the rear lights. It rides on attractive 17-inch alloys.

2019 Kia Rio GT exterior rear 3/4.

The cabin is nicely styled and to our eyes has a somewhat upmarket look. The straight lines running the width of the dashboard increase the sense of space.

The GT-Line gets a sporty flat-bottom steering wheel with simple-to-use infotainment controls. Also sporty carbon-look details.

There are bottle holders in every door, these take 1.5-litre bottles in the front and half-litre bottles in the rear. Large drink holders in the front were much appreciated.

At the centre of the dashboard is a reasonably sized 7.0-inch touchscreen with a high-resolution display. There’s a six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

Kia Rio GT-Line has a sporty 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol with 88 kW of power and 172 Nm of torque. Thus it’s following the European route where virtually every late model car now uses a smaller capacity unit with turbocharging.

The Rio GT-Line’s engine drives the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual. A full-manual gearbox isn’t on offer, shame but that’s the way of the future. Indeed it’s the way of the present you can no longer buy a Ferrari with a manual ‘box.

This turbo engine is unique to the Rio GT-Line, a 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine is used in the rest of the Rio range.

2019 Kia Rio GT interior.

Standard features on all Kia Rio models include ABS, ESC, VSM, reverse parking sensors, rearview camera and six airbags.

The GT-Line adds AEB (Automatic Emergency Braking) and Lane Keep Assist to the passive safety features.

There are IsoFix child seat mounting on the two outer rear seats.

There’s some turbo lag in this small capacity engine, but once you’re through that stage there’s plenty of urge. Again, it’s not a hot-hatch so you don’t get a huge push in the back. Nevertheless, there’s enough performance and the dual-clutch responds nicely to the throttle to quickly get the engine into the best revs.

Around town we found the little Kia using eight to ten litres per hundred kilometres, this dropped significantly in easy country running and on motorways making under six litres per hundred with ease.

Interestingly this sporty version of the Rio will use less petrol than the rest of the range thanks to its turbo efficiency and the use of a seven-speed auto.

For many years the Australian suspension team has worked closely with its Korean counterparts to give us a car that’s semi-sporty without being overly firm. This shows up in the GT-Line with steering that’s nicely weighted and that provides good feedback.

Handling is very good and an excellent compromise between that of a high-performance machine and a daily driver.

Similarly, comfort is well sorted out. Some really harsh roads did bounce the little Kia about at times but backing off if need be sorted it all out.

Making driving simpler at night is a full range of LED lights: headlights daytime running lights, position lamps, foglights and rear lights.

Kia Rio GT-Line drives well with decent, if not stunning performance, is attractive and well priced. Surprisingly it sits in a class of just two vehicles, the other being the Suzuki Swift Sport. Drive both to see for yourself, we’re not sure which would be our choice.

Topping off the appeal of the Kia Rio GT-Line is the company’s seven-year factory warranty, seven-year capped price servicing and seven-year roadside assist. Other makers are gradually moving up to longer warranties, usually to five years, but at this stage none of the major players have gone the seven-year route on all models.


Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Kia dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Kia Picanto GT-Line 1.3-litre turbo petrol five-door hatch)

Capacity: 1.248 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 62 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 122 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Standard unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.8 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 134 g/km

DRIVELINE: Four-speed automatic

Length: 359 mm
Wheelbase: 2400 mm
Width: 1595 mm
Height: 1485 mm
Turning Circle: 9.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 995 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 35 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Seven years / unlimited kilometres

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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