The small car market is an absolute treasure trove full of value. The choices are wide and varied with even some premium brands creeping into contention for the budget conscious. The Kia Rio SLS sits proudly alongside a bunch of competent foes. EFTM has just spent an enjoyable week in this rather well equipped offering.


The 10 Minute Test Drive

Good looking car this one, with that European style silhouette immediately jumping out at you. LED daytime running lights always impress as do the smart looking five-spoke alloy wheels. The chrome-rimmed Kia grill and front fog lights, reasonably attractive headlamps and slopping side waistline make the SLS just as attractive as any. The rear end features a smallish window, LED combination lights plus a smart looking twin exhaust pipe.

When I met my wife she had recently procured a 2008 Kia Rio, albeit the five-door. My lingering lack of enthusiasm remained with me until our run in with this offering. Slipping inside the current Rio proved surprising, I’d never describe the Kia cabin as “premium” but they’ve certainly had a red-hot go at it.


Cabin plastics are well executed and yes in many cases soft to the touch. The metal look facia across the console, steering wheel and door handles was convincing enough for me. The seats are covered in “leather like” trim, but again they contribute to the overall sense of non-cheapness.

Our test car featured the 1.6-litre GDI petrol engine coupled to an optional six-speed automatic. There’s no risk of shredding the front Continental tyres at every set of lights, but there’s a smidgen of gusto on tap I really enjoyed.

Current Kia’s tend to have a slightly weird steering feel, too obviously assisted and a little numb and disconnected. However the little three-door is engaging enough but without really tickling your inner Go Kart demon, say like a Ford Fiesta. The ride’s also a tad firm, blemished roads will shake the Rio in a way that grates a little.

Ins And Outs.

103kW @ 6,300rpm and 167Nm @ 4,850 from the four-cylinder petrol GDI engine gives the Rio an edge over some of the others. Keep in mind however the smaller 1.4-litre MPI petrol unit sits up front in the more simple variants of which only 79kW @ 6,300 and 135Nm @ 4,200 is available. You’ll certainly pay if you want the perky Rio.


Kia has managed to squeeze in a plentiful supply of value laden goodies right across the range. Desirables like heated mirrors, rear lip spoiler, tinted glass, six-function trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel mounted audio controls and shark fin style roof mounted antenna come standard no matter what model you choose (S, Si, SLI, or SLS)

Our SLS also scored high-end additions like auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, smart key with push button start, the pretend leather seats, LED daytime running lights, static cornering lights, cruise control and automatic climate control.



Of course there’s no full colour, infotainment display rather an orange monochrome readout for the radio, air-con and instrument cluster display. But it all gels quite nicely actually.

The three-door model features a tight rear seat, and the lack of opening rear windows will deter some. But up front the Rio imparts a more significant sense of space than it’s entitled to.

The Hip Pocket.

The three-door Kia Rio SLS I tested weighed in at $22,490 with a layer of metallic paint adding $530. You could be in a base Mazda 3 Neo for well under that. But by comparison the base Kia S is just $15,290 before on roads. Fuel consumption is rated at 6.1L / 100km, although 7.3L / 100km was the EFTM best. Also thrown in is seven years capped price servicing and seven years roadside assist that alone will seal the deal for many.

EFTM Rubber Stamp.


As we work our way through the Kia range it’s as obvious as the nose on your face that the Kia of yesteryear is well and truly gone. The Rio represents great value and a clear representation of what years of hard work and improvements can produce. If you must have the basket of goodies the 3-door SLS boasts, expect a bloated bottom line. However needless to say the Kia Rio earns the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp of Approval.