2019 Kia Rio GT exterior front 3/4.
Kia has done work on the Rio, realigning its hatchback to meet the demands of an increasingly sophisticated market.

The Rio has upgraded drivetrains and revised its levels, the Si and SLi models being sidelined to make way for the new Sport. The latter featuring a six-speed automatic transmission in place of the old four-speed gearbox. While the range-topping GT-Line takes up a glad bag of goodies including a feisty 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engine mated with Kia’s own seven-speed dual clutch automatic.

The entry-level Rio S is unchanged, with the 74 kW 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated petrol motor hooked up to either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

The step up to Sport adds the six-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual, 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, leather trim on the steering wheel and gear shifter and electric folding mirrors.

Kia’s industry-leading seven-year warranty, seven-year capped price servicing and seven-year roadside assist, have kept the Rio as a compelling option for light-car buyers.

Prices start at $16,990, plus on-roads, for the S manual and top out at $21,990 drive away for the GT-Line auto, the test vehicle.

Stylishly sophisticated, rather than over aggressive in body language, the top-dog Rio has plenty to please, with a GT-Line body kit with radiator grille, rear diffuser, plus twin exhaust, LED running lights, LED rear combination lights and LED fog lamps.

The cabin decor is surprisingly sophisticated, with touches of leather, carbon-look dashboard and flat-bottomed GT-Line steering wheel. The instrument cluster and colour LCD screen work in well.

2019 Kia Rio GT exterior rear 3/4.

Low-set seats mean there is ample head room, while leg room in the back is adequate, depending on the height of front seat occupants. Lateral support is lacking, so tight turns at speed can cause some passenger wobble.

Storage is well catered for in a decent-size boot and rear door pockets, while those up front are big enough to take a bottle. Very accommodating.

Conspicuous by its absence is climate control, with only basic air-conditioning controls.

With a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto and six-speaker audio system, there is no embedded satellite navigation, so your smartphone is the go.

2019 Kia Rio GT interior.

The top-range Rio features the three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine punching out 88 kW of power and 172 Nm of torque driving through the seven-speed dual clutch transmission, a first for Kia in Australia.

The ANCAP five-star safety Rio has anti-skid braking, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, reverse parking sensors, rearview camera, three child restraint points (two IsoFix) and six airbags.

It has more advanced high strength steel than previously. The increased rigidity of its reinforced chassis not only provides greater safety in collision performance, but also improves stability and handling, as well as reducing noise, vibration and harshness levels.

In a first for Rio, the GT-Line also comes standard with autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist and driver attention alert.

What turbo lag there is, is diminished by putting the boot in … to the detriment of fuel economy. Kia quotes 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle. On test I got it up to 9 pushing hard on a mix of built-up area going and motorway cruising.

At all times the three-cylinder engine appeared to be coping with whatever it was called on to produce under varying loads and driving conditions. Cornering at more than waltz speeds failed to have the Rio dancing. Perfectly poised.

Significant attention has also been given to unique sports tuning for the GT-Line.

Ride can be firm, despite attention from Kia’s Aussie suspension engineers. Road noise on test, courtesy of low-profile tyres, made it into the cabin in varying degrees of intensity – some quite intrusive – according to the road surface.

The secret of this Rio is in the title ‘GT-Line’. There are hints of GT performance, tempered with the nuance of luxury in ‘Line’, all at an affordable price. Buyers keeping that in mind will not be disappointed.

Kia Rio S 1.4: $16,990 (manual), $17,490 (automatic)
Kia Rio Sport 1.4: $17,990 (manual), $18,990 (automatic)
Kia Rio GT-Line 1.0 Turbo: $23,090 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Kia dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Kia Rio GT-Line 1.0L turbo3-cylinder petrol 7sp automatic Hatch)

Capacity: 0.998 litres
Configuration: Three cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 88 kW @ 6300 rpm
Maximum Torque: 172 Nm @ 1500-4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.4 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 125 g / km

DRIVELINE: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic

Length: 4070 mm
Wheelbase: 2580 mm
Width: 1725 mm
Height: 1450 mm
Turning Circle: 10.2 metres
Tare weight: 1176 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Seven years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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