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KIA Rio 2001 Road Test

Tue, 24 Jul 2001

The 2001 KIA Rio has a unique selling proposition. It's the only 5-door Ford Focus-sized car with a UK list price of just £5,995. The same price as a tiny Daewoo Matiz and very nearly half as much as a new MINI Cooper.

For that you do get a fairly basic car. No power steering, electric windows, electric mirrors, central locking, rear wiper, luggage cover, radio cassette player or even a choice of hue. You can have it any colour you want as long as it's Cherry Red. But you do get a decent 74bhp 1,343cc multipoint-injected overhead-cam motor that takes the Rio to sixty in 12.6 seconds and on to a top speed of just over a hundred. And a proper manufacturer's three-year warranty, a driver's airbag, seatbelt pretensioners, body-colour bumpers, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and plenty of luggage space. In short, a lot of car for the money.

The trouble is, for the extra £900 that the 1.3L costs (most of which you'll get back on resale within three years) you get a lot more. Most importantly, power steering; but also a height-adjustable steering wheel, RDS stereo radio cassette player, rear wash/wipe, luggage cover and a range of colours.

Combined mpg for both is a useful 39.8, and CO2 outputis 170g/km, which puts them into the £140-a-year VED bracket. They are also cheap to insure, in ABI Insurance Group 3. Dimensions are 4,215mm (13 ft 10 in) long; 1,675mm (5 ft 6 in) wide, and 1,440mm (4 ft 9 in) high, with a kerb weight of 1,053kg.

So what's this paragon of price like to drive? The answer is: bargain basement. You sit low and can't adjust the height of the seat, so the short-of-stature will find themselves peering over the speedo binnacle. The car goes well enough, with up to 55mph available in second gear. But, though it doesn't do anything alarming or unsafe, the steering and handling are best described as inert. This is a car that does the job and no more - which, after all, is exactly what many people want. But it provides no reward for keen drivers. It's also surprisingly short of rear legroom and the centre rear belt is lap-only. So, if you have a family, make sure they can all get comfortable before you draw your £6,895 out of the cash machine. And make sure you're comfortable with the idea of just a lap strap for the centre rear passenger.

The most obvious price rivals to the two cheapest Rios are basic Citroen Saxos, basic Peugeot 106s, and basic FIAT Puntos with standard power steering bought at a discount from a FIAT dealer or an import supersite (but make sure they come with a full three-year warranty).

Upscale from the 1.3L, for those with £7,645 burning a hole in their bank balances, the 1.3LX has the added features of Anti-Lock Brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, central door locking, front electric windows, electric mirrors, a height- and tilt-adjustable driver's seat squab, and bigger, fourteen-inch wheels with full-sized covers. For this model you can specify a four-speed electronically-controlled automatic gearbox which takes the price to £8,395.

After that, the specification ratches up another couple of notches. The 97bhp 1.5SE comes with air conditioning, alloy wheels, heated mirrors, leather-covered steering wheel and gearknob, rear roof spoiler and mudflaps. Yet at £8,995 it's still a fiver short of £9,000 and several thousand quids below any other similar-sized European car offering anything like the specification.

Last, but not least, the 1.5SE is available with the same four-speed automatic transmission for a still very reasonable £9,795.

In the USA, the Rio sells like sun oil on Copacabana beach, partly on price and partly on its ten year or 100,000-mile manufacturer warranty. We just get a normal three-year 60,000-mile warranty, but the cheapest UK Rio is actually £375 LESS than the cheapest Rio stateside.

Which probably means that cars simply can't get any cheaper.

More at www.kia.co.uk

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