Carnival in Rio: Kia's GT Line hatch gets tested

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2018 Kia Rio GT Line. Photos / Matthew Hansen

Kia New Zealand has thrown a turbo-charged firecracker into the hot hatch market, with the five-door Rio GT Line.

It has a smaller engine than the standard Kia Rio, and features a dual-clutch 7-speed transmission that can operate in manual and automatic mode.

In manual, the Rio GT sprints away from the lights, as you flick the gears up through the seven speeds. It is a fun drive with a firm ride, as the three-cylinder 1-litre turbocharged gasoline direct injection engine revs away freely.

The accurate steering is a feature on all fourth-generation Rios, but the GT Line experience is enhanced by a new D-shaped (flat-bottomed) leather steering wheel, similar to the wheel on the larger Kia Stinger GT.

The steering wheel is well equipped with most of the controls you need, although there are no paddles to play with. If ever a car cried out for them, this is it.

Instead you change gears in manual mode by flicking the straight-line gear lever up or down through the seven gears.

This takes a while to get used to, as the dashboard is quite upright and the gear lever seems to be a stretch from the wheel.

The seats are finished in black leather and cloth with contrasting grey stitching, which also sets this top-of-the-range model apart from other Rio models.

There is a carbon-like finish on parts of the dashboard that also help set the model apart.

All of this comes for a introductory price of $25,990, plus on road costs, for the next three months. The recommended sale price is $28,990 plus orcs.

Driven was among the first in New Zealand to drive the Rio GT Line, our rich red-coloured model having just a handful of kilometres on the clock when we picked it up from Kia New Zealand HQ in East Tamaki. It was the first model of its type landed in the country and we were running it in.

That might help account for some of the disappointing economy figures we achieved behind the wheel. Kia New Zealand says the new technology turbo engine is capable of returning an impressive 4.71 L/100km, while also producing fewer CO2 emissions. However, the lowest figure we achieved over 410km of motorway and town running was 7.2 L/100km.

The most distinctive feature of the GT Line’s exterior is the gloss black and satin chrome tiger-nose grille, and heavy black mouldings under the lights at each corner.

There are 17-inch alloy wheels, and the quad LED fog lights are particularly effective when driving at night. They spread the light more broadly in front of the car, without causing glare for oncoming drivers.

The model also features twin exhaust tips, chrome window trim, a gloss black roof spoiler and sill highlights. There’s no sport or sport plus driving mode.

The Rio GT Line has a surprising number of advanced safety and driver assistance features, including autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, and blind spot detection. It uses a smart proximity key, uses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and has satellite navigation on a 7-inch touch screen. A reversing camera is standard equipment.

The compact engine produces 88kW of power at 6000rpm, with 171Nm of torque available from 1500 to 4000rpm.

Performance figures are more difficult to come by, but overseas reports suggest the car will run from zero to 100km/h in just under 10 seconds, which isn’t astounding. But it will be a fun 10 seconds.

The interior is smart and it looks and feels more premium than the standard Rio models, especially inside the car. The exterior adornments help it stand out, and the front lighting is exceptional.

Kia Rio GT Line

Price: $28,990
Pro: A fun and practical hatchback.
Con: Lacks a sports mode, or paddles.


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