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April 30, 2019

Interior design and technology – Kia Rio

The Kia Rio, now in its fourth incarnation, is the Korean automaker’s best-seller with sales close to 475,000 a year. While it is overshadowed in the UK by the European-built Sportage crossover and Ceed range, it accounts for almost one-sixth of the company's sales. Continuing just-auto/QUBE’s review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look inside to see how it compares to its predecessor.

The Kia Rio, now in its fourth incarnation, is the Korean automaker’s best-seller with sales close to 475,000 a year. While it is overshadowed in the UK by the European-built Sportage crossover and Ceed range, it accounts for almost one-sixth of the company’s sales. Continuing just-auto/QUBE’s review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look inside to see how it compares to its predecessor.

All aboard

Behind the wheel, the seats and steering have plenty of adjustment to achieve a comfy position. The fourth-generation Rio is available in five trim grades, starting with the ‘1’ and progressing through the ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘GT-Line’ and top-drawer ‘GT-Line S’ models. The ‘1’ is fitted as standard with air-con, a 3.8-inch display screen, Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and 60/40 split rear seats.

Grade ‘2’ adds a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, DAB radio, seven-inch colour display screen, six-speaker audio system, reversing camera and rear parking sensors plus USB charging ports. Also featured are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features, along with voice control and Bluetooth.

Additional features on grade ‘3’ include automatic air-con with a defogging system, black faux leather upholstery, seven-inch touchscreen satellite navigation, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing front wipers and privacy glass on the rear side windows and tailgate.

Our press review GT-Line came equipped with all of the above plus aluminium pedals and black cloth and faux leather upholstery with grey stitching. All of the HVAC, infotainment and other controls were straight-forward to use while drivng. Forward visibility is good thanks to thin-ish A-pillars. Rearward visibility is hampered by thicker C pillars though all trim levels are equipped with reversing sensors and rearview camera.

The interior has been designed around the touchscreen, positioned centre stage, and slightly interrupts the flow of the dash. This operates Kia Connected Services and enables Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. It does the job. The Rio is the first car in class with USB ports front and rear, so that mobile devices can be charged from any seat.

Cabin space

Head, shoulder and legroom is generous in the front seats. Luggage-wise, the boot offers some 325 litres of space (37 litres more than in the previous model), despite the shorter rear overhang, and expands to 980 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded. The tailgate opening is lower (by 26mm) and wider (by 71mm). A tyre repair kit is found under a flimsy, poorly-fitted boot floor liner in place of a spare wheel to maximise luggage capacity and make space for a larger fuel tank – 45 litres instead of 43.

Kia points out that the extra cabin space is due to a number of packaging solutions. Legroom benefits from the 10mm longer wheelbase and there are reprofiled door trims, a reshaped dashboard and new headlining materials responsible for the head and shoulder room. 

Storage-wise, there is an open double tray for mobile devices and other small items at the base of the centre console, sunglasses storage in the overhead console, a single-box glove compartment, bottle holders in every door (1.5 litres at the front and 0.5 litres in the rear) and closed-bottom storage areas in the door handles.  

An integrated sat-nav was missing on our press review GT-Line, however, which meant using a portable device plugged into a 12-volt socket on the lower front console. Truth be told, it didn’t matter one iota as it got us from A to B without a hitch.

Five-door only

In case you are wondering why Kia is no longer offering a three-door Rio, the carmaker states that its sales lean heavily towards the five-door body style. A spokesperson for the company said: “With the trend for downsizing, small cars with the space and practicality of the Rio are frequently bought as the only family car these days, and buyers want the convenience and ease of access of five doors. To continue to offer a three-door car as well would have increased ordering complexity and stocking costs for dealers which would not be justified by the level of sales we could have achieved.”  Oh, and one more question. Is there a three-door model for other markets? “No, for the same reasons,” says Kia. Okay, got it. Let’s talk about ADAS.

Advanced driver assistance systems

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines five levels of driving automation, ranging from ‘no automation’ (you do all the work, level zero) to ‘full automation’ (level 5). A key distinction is between level 2, where you perform part of the dynamic driving task, and level 3, where the automated driving system performs the entire dynamic driving task for you.  These automated driving levels are also referred to as feet off, hands off, eyes off and ultimately brain off.

The latest Rio provides a good example of just how far we have come in terms of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) fitment on a supermini. Electronic stability control and vehicle stability management mitigate against skids when cornering or accelerating on surfaces with uneven levels of grip. Forward collision-avoidance assist with forward collision warning, lane keeping assistance are fitted as standard.

A new feature – Straight Line Stability – senses any difference in applied brake pressure between the right and left of the car and intervenes to keep it straight. Another new feature is Cornering Brake Control, which delivers asymmetrical brake pressure when braking in tight curves to counter loss of traction. All versions of the Rio also have hill-start assist to prevent the car from rolling backwards when setting off on steep inclines. 

On the road

Out and about this week, the Rio felt quite steady and sure-footed. It has more rigid front struts than its predecessor and a raised torsion beam to improve stability plus revised springs and shock absorbers.

Automotive acoustics is not just about laying better quality carpets or inventing ways of applying foam.  An acoustic system takes into account everything in the cabin, from the dashboard to package trays. Rio is a case in point. It has a relatively quiet cabin – even on motorways – partly due to the installation of an elongated upper cowl panel and thermoplastic elastomer materials on the dash. Road noise has also been reduced by fitting a reinforcing bracket to increase the structural rigidity of the front subframe. The cowl top panel and kick panel between the rear seats have been reshaped to reduce noise radiation, while five rubber seals in the pillars on each side of the car provide further insulation against outside noise. 

While the latest Rio cabin still lacks sparkle and interest, it retains that spacious feeling and generous list of standard equipment to justify the base price of £16,790. At that price, however, we wouldn’t expect it to have much flamboyance. Although the faux leather seats with sporty grey stitching look and feel comfortable, pretty much all of the interior surfaces are hard to touch. Storage space in the back and occupant space in the front is good but not dissimilar to its rivals. The connectivity system and touchscreen are easy to master with handy, glowing USB charging points front and back.

The GT-Line that we took out this week provided decent levels of fuel economy too. Powered by a 1.0-litre T-GDi engine with a six-speed manual gearbox, it returned a real world average of 47.1 mpg covering over 300 miles along a mixture of roads. The carmaker’s stated combined figure is 47.1 mpg. That’s a first. Spot on, Kia.

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