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New 2012 Kia Rio three-door SLS: review

Published: July 23, 2012 | 7:15 am
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Rebeccah Elley road tests and reviews the new Kia Rio three-door SLS with specs, fuel economy and rating.

Kia is moving forward with their latest models and the three-door Rio SLS is no exception.

It’s definitely another in ongoing improvements for Kia, and it’s no wonder it claimed the 2011 Carsguide Car of the Year gong.
From $19,990 for the manual and $21,990 for the auto the SLS is priced closely against the $19,490 VW Polo — itself a Carsguide Car of the Year in 2010 — and the $18,990 Ford Fiesta.
Both the Polo and the Fiesta have great reputations for dynamics, and are both more a driver’s car. But the Rio shines in its own ways, and one of them is value for money – especially considering the equipment list.
Standard features in SLS spec include MP3 and iPod compatible CD player, Bluetooth connectivity with media streaming, steering wheel audio controls, speed dependent volume control, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing automatic headlamps and front fog lamps.
And the 5 year unlimited km warranty – which applies to all new Kia vehicles – is generous when you consider the standard is 3 years.
The Rio SLS has a 1.6 litre, four cylinder GDi petrol engine teamed with a six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic transmission tested here. Kia points to the 1.6 litre engine as class-leading with 103kW of power (at 6300 revs), which is teamed with 167Nm of torque (at 4850 revs). The quoted combined fuel economy is 6.1L/100km with 145g/km CO2 emissions.
The design of the SLS received a mixed response. We got comments ranging from “over styled” right through to “good looks and latest gadgets.” Clearly, the design isn’t for everyone – but then, what is? The exterior is eye-catching and well calculated with chrome radiator grille, chrome rear muffler, rear spoiler, LED daytime running light with static cornering lamps, LED rear combination lamps and 17-inch alloy wheels.
For those who haven’t looked at a Kia since the bad old days, you can be assured that over the past few years things have turned around since former Audi designer Peter Schreyer joined the Korean brand. Slip into the cabin and you’ll find the modern aesthetics of the exterior are reflected throughout.
The black interior is stylistically pleasing against the metal look interior trim on the console, fascia and door handles. The SLS has a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and leather trim on the seats. But be warned, you get a lot more ‘pleather’ than leather in the SLS.
For a vehicle of this size the SLS has spacious driver and passenger seats but the backseats aren’t so generous- a taller passenger should definitely call shotgun. There’s also a reasonable sized boot with 288 litres of luggage space.
The SLS doesn’t require a key to be powered, instead has a push button start with a smart key. The dashboard is positioned in a way that makes everything easily accessed, as the shift knob and handbrake slant slightly towards the driver, a similar feature found in the Optima Si. The trip computer markings are a bright red colour, which helps to clearly display the essential info, but is a bit too bright at night unless you dim it hugely.
The SLS has a 5-star ANCAP crash rating. Major safety features include driver and front passenger airbags, anti-lock braking, electronic stability, vehicle stability management, hill-start assist, door open warning light with speed sensing auto door lock and child restraint anchorage points.
The SLS is willing and ready from the get go, as the 1.6-litre engine gives the small car energy on the road. It’s the perfect car for the city, as it zips in and out of traffic with ease and has good visibility for changing lanes. The six-speed automatic transmission is fine for around town and it handles climbs fairly well.
The electronic power steering makes manoeuvring easy, however the steering feels a bit disconnected on hard corners. It’s also not the quietest hatchback out there, as you’ll hear plenty of road noise enter the cabin.
As with any small car, the dimensions of the car make parking a breeze. However, rear visibility isn’t as good as at the front due to the wide arched pillars at the back – a rear view camera and reverse parking sensors may be the answer. Even with these few setbacks the SLS was still an enjoyable ride with plenty of life.
While it’s not for the enthusiastic driver, the Kia Rio SLS competes well in the small car market; affordable, efficient, and with plenty of features.

Price: from $19,990
Weight: 1203kg
Safety: 5 stars
Warranty: 5 years unlimited km
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, 103kW/167Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, front wheel drive
Thirst: 5.6l/100Km, 145 CO2 emissions


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