It would have been pitch as black back home in Malaysia but here in Down Under, it was as bright as the noon day sun.
It was a quiet Saturday morning in the CBD (central business district) and soon we would be out under the cerulean sky, in the all-new fourth generation Kia Rio hatchback which was just launched in Australia.
It is available in three variants for Australia - S, Si and SLi - and all of them are fitted with the Kappa 1.4-litre MPI engine and 4-speed automatic transmission which produces 100PS and 133Nm. The base-level S model however, offers a 6-speed manual transmission as well.
Where design is concerned, it’s definitely an all-new 5-door Rio which has trimmed off the rounded edges of its predecessor for a sharper profile and even its signature ‘tiger nose’ grille is now slimmer and wider as well.
Now that the car features a long bonnet and short rear overhang, it comes off as lithe with an athletic stance. It’s a cleaner design overall and the creases are quite subtle as it flows fluidly from the A-pillars to the newly styled headlamps with a new U-shaped LED DRL (daytime running light) for the Si and SLi variants.
The rear lamps also feature a new shape and the top-of-the-range SLi variant comes with the eye-catching arrow-shaped LED light signature.
The new car is also 15mm longer and sits closer to the ground by 5mm. As such, the wheelbase has been increased by 10mm to a class leading 2580mm which means a roomier cabin than before. It also boasts a class leading boot space at 325 litres.
And where the cabin is concerned, the dashboard has a symmetrical layout with more of an emphasis toward the driver but what stands out is the floating 7-inch touchscreen. You will find a sense of minimalism here as well with fewer buttons on the centre dash and just two dials for climate control.
Standard for all variants is the keyless entry, automatic headlamps and rear view camera. Also available is the Cruise Control function for the Si and SLi variants and rain-sensing windscreen wipers for the SLi.
Safety features are impressive for the new Rio as it comes standard across all models with anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, electronic stability control with traction control, vehicle stability management system, hill start assist, rear view camera with dynamic parking guidelines, reverse parking sensors and ISOFIX.
The top specced SLi gets the parking sensor dash display and an auto dimming electrochromatic rear view mirror.
Also, you can tell the difference with the SLi physically as it comes with a sunroof.
Kia in Malaysia offers both the five and four door version of the Rio and during the presentation of the new Kia Rio, it indicated that only the new five door hatch would be available in Malaysia. Also, there was no information about the Malaysian specced Rio as the presentation also included various engines types for different markets including a 1.0-litre turbo engine.
We’ll have to wait and see about the specs and price as the new Rio which is expected to be launched in Malaysia sometime in the middle of this year.
After a spot of lunch, we got the keys to the car, which was the mid range Si, and decided to drive down south of Melbourne to check out the beaches there.
Getting out of Melbourne CDB was a cinch with this car as it is small enough to maneuver through traffic and there were a few occasions when we needed to quickly change lanes at intersections. We were however, more concerned with the unique hook-turn traffic system which requires you to do the opposite whenever you make a left or right turn as not to crash into an oncoming tram. Thankfully, we didn’t comes across any.
Once we were out of the city and hit the highway, it was of course the opportune moment to push the car a bit harder without breaking the speed limit. It’s only in this situation you realise the lack of urgency and excitement coming out of the car.
However, cruising down the highway on a bright summer day with this car was relaxing and fun. We found the cabin to be quiet with low levels of noise, harshness and vibration (NVH) and the seats are comfortable and it is spacious all around.
As long as you understand that you are not driving a hot hatch, the new Rio has enough power to be of use for outstation drives and it’s even more practical for urban dwellers as it is spacious for your passengers and the rear seat folds down 60:40 and fully flat.
And if you care about driving a good looking car, then the new Rio ticks that box with panache.