Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Kia Rio
Going to Rio on a budget
May 2006

WHY would you buy a used car when you can get a new one like this for $15,990 driveaway?

This is the question more buyers are asking themselves after the release of the latest Kia Rio.

The Korean baby still has a bargain basement pricetag, but has been refined to make it even more competitive in the small car ranks.

It has also won the RACQ's cheapest car to own title for the second time.

The latest Rio, available as a sedan or hatch, comes with an enticing array of features, some of which are not even offered as standard on large cars double its price.

Driver and passenger front and side airbags are thrown in, along with power windows mirrors and steering, remote central locking, air conditioning, driver's armrest and a CD player.

Powering the Kia is a zesty 1.6-litre engine that produces 82kW of power - 11kW more than the outgoing model _ and propels the Rio from rest to 100km/h in 10.2 seconds.

The willing engine is one of its strengths and the manual Rio we tested proved zippy around town and a comfortable _ and economical _ cruiser on the open road.

Fuel economy, as you would expect, is outstanding averaging 6.5 litres for every 100km covered.

The 5-speed manual gearbox is a little notchy, particularly when searching for first.

Stopping power is impressive thanks to ventilated front discs (256 mm diameter) and solid rear discs (262 mm) while ABS is optional.

Handling is fine for the class and the Rio performs most tasks without any dramas. Steering could be more direct, but the Kia is a breeze to pilot, coping well even with the tightest corners. It has a sensational turning circle that makes reversing into difficult car parks make you look like a driving instructor.

The new Rio is fitted with a fully independent front and semi-independent rear suspension system for a supple, comfortable ride on Australian roads.

For the price, you would expect it to look and feel cheap, but this is definitely not the case.

The doors no longer have that light, tinny sound when closed and the car has a much more solid on-road feel.

The cockpit layout is open and simple, with the instrument panel clearly visible and the driver's controls falling easily to hand.

There are clever non-slip mats in storage compartments and two cupholders, with a third available if you don't need the one with the ashtray insert.

The Rio is surprisingly roomy for a chariot of its exterior dimensions, with plenty of leg and head room up front and enough space in the back for kids sub-10, or adults of modest proportions.

Taller and wider than the Rio model it replaces, the hatchback is 250mm shorter overall (to fit more comfortably in the small car sector), but both models have a longer wheelbase (up by 90 mm) and wider track (up by 15 mm).

This pushes the wheels out to each corner for a bold ground-hugging stance that also delivers better stability.

Consistently one of Australia's top three most popular small cars, the Rio is set to continue to lure price-sensitive buyers.

With the all-new model, they are getting a car that delivers more performance, equipment, features and even better value for money.



ENGINE: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder

POWER: 82kW at 6000rpm

TORQUE: 145Nm at 4500rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed auto

0-100km/h: 10.2 seconds


ECONOMY: Average 6.5 litres/100km

PROS: Great price, zippy, plenty of extras

CONS: Manual gearbox a little notchy, steering could be more direct

BOTTOM LINE: $15,990