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Kia Rio review

Posted by comas , 30 July 2011 · 209 views

The Rio four-door sedan has just gone on sale, complementing the 2012 Kia Rio hatchback introduced last fall. Same drivetrain and chassis, different bodies.

The sedan is nearly 13 inches longer, giving it a grace and visual poise the hatch lacks and elevating it from the distinction-by-uglification too common among small cars.

Yet the figures are as incontrovertible as they are unsettling. In the past four years, Kia has almost doubled its sales and it is one of the fastest-growing car makers in the world. While Hyong-Keun Lee, Kia’s vice-president, admits that the recession, scrappage schemes, the travails of America’s domestic car makers, Toyota’s quality worries and the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami have played into Kia’s hands (“We’ve been lucky,” he admits), it is hard to deny that people seem to like Kias.

Maybe they just like the prices, and the seven-year warranties, which have the effect of making the cars conservatively engineered. Many drivers buy cars like fridges; not for them the nuances of steering feel, they just want reliable, cheap-to-run wheels. And they’ve soaked up Kias in Britain, with the bland outgoing Rio, for example, seeing a 62 per cent sales boost from 2009’s scrappage scheme, which tells you more about Kia buyers’ values than the makers might want you to know.

Kia, however, wants to ascend from the bargain basement and soar with the premium brands. It feels threatened by the still-distant roar of Chinese car-making and instead wants to enjoy greater respect and profit margins. “My target is to be a rival to Volkswagen in developed markets,” says Lee. “We think we are level with the French now.”

Rio gives you bragging rights, too, because it brings gasoline direct injection (GDI) technology into the lowest-price auto segment. Impressive and unusual at this mid-teens price range. Corporate affiliate Hyundai uses the same engine in its sibling Accent small car.
GDI, properly executed, can be a three-fer — more powerful, less thirsty and less polluting. It's typically noisier than conventional fuel injection, but automakers have minimized that. The Rio sounds slightly coarser than engines without GDI, but it's not bothersome.

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