The 2020 Kia Rio GT-Line is the tropical-themed warm hatch from that tries really, really hard to please. Like, really hard.
I am absolutely loving the wave of warm hatches we have now. Most of them are in what industry nerds call the C-segment – Focus ST-Line, Hyundai i30 N-Line, Kia Cerato GT-Line , Renault Megane GT-Line, Peugeot 308 GT – it’s a good list.
Step back to the B segment and it’s not so busy. IN fact, you’re kind of looking at it (for the moment) – the Kia Rio GT-Line. This must be one of the most unexpected warm hatches to appear and it knows it. And it tries so hard to make you like it, which is nice, because there’s already a lot to like in the Rio.
How much is a Kia Rio GT-Line and what do I get?
$23,950 + ORC
It’s a Kia, so you get a ton of stuff crammed into this little package. You get air-conditioning, 17-inch wheels, reversing camera, rear parkings sensors, cruise control, LED fog lamps, keyless entry and start, projector headlights, fake leather interior, powered and heated door mirrors, power windows and a space-saver spare.
The six speaker stereo is run from the 7.0-inch touchscreen with Kia’s quite good version of its media software (rather than the excellent version in the Seltos). It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so the lack of GPS or sat nav is no big deal.
There’s only one free colour – Clear White. The Aurora Black, Signal Red, Silkey Silver and the Mighty Yellow in the photos are another $520. Hmmm.
Safety – 5 stars (ANCAP, Sept 2017)
The Rio arrives from South Korea with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (low speed), forward collision warning, lane departure warning and driver attention detection.
You also get three top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX points.
Warranty and Servicing
The Rio comes with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist.
Annoyingly, you have to drop in to your dealer every 12 months or 10,000km but it’s a city car, so that might not be a big deal, I guess. A bigger deal is that the servicing is a bit on the pricey side. It’s fixed-price and very comprehensive but the cheapest service is $285 and the fourth is a huge $625. Total servicing cost over seven years is $3202 or $457 per year. That’s a lot.
Not a Mercedes a lot, but it’s over ten percent of the new car value.
Wait, isn’t there a facelifted Kia Rio GT-Line coming?
There is a lightly updated Rio on the way, but don’t expect any major changes on the styling or handling front. The new car looks a bit different and has a bigger touchscreen. It also has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but no wireless charging pad…so…
The upgraded Rio GT-Line You also get forward collision warning, lane keep assist, driver attention detection and high beam assist.
Look and feel
I do like the cut of this thing’s jib. That’s an old person’s way of saying it’s a good looking car. In this vivid yellow, I reckon it really works in a bumblebee kind of way. The wheels on their own are total old man rims but bolt them on the Rio and it all suddenly works.
The GT-Line additions are commendably modest, mostly black surrounds and inserts, but the job as you can see, is done.
It’s very contemprorary Kia in here, which is to say it’s pretty good. The screen looks lifted from a bigger car and really dominates the small-but-roomy cabin. The materials (fake leather or not, doesn’t matter) feel like they’re from something more expensive and that’s a bonus.
Six-footers can squeeze in the back behind other six-footers, but I don’t recommend it for long trips. You get cupholders int eh front but not in the back but all four doors score a bottle holder each.
The boot is actually not bad at 325 litres – that’s bigger than a Mazda3 hatch (from memory), and bigger than a Mazda2 by a whopping 75 litres. All seats down and space triples to 980 litres.
As it’s a small car, its 10.2 metre turning circle is probably pertinent. Not small but not big, either.
Drivetrain and chassis
The GT-Line in Rio is mostly courtesy of the funky little 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo. If you don’t like a gravelly three-cylinder, you’re just a sourpuss.
Shared with the Picanto GT, it serves up 88kW at 6300rpm and 172Nm between 1500rpm and 4000rpm. And it does it vocally.
Getting the power down to the front wheels is a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission shared with Hyundai.
There’s not much to report on the chassis. Tuned by the local team, it’s mostly centred around improving the handling from the base model. The steering has had some tweaks, too.
To that end, the dampers are stiffer but you do get some fairly expensive factory-fit Continental ConiSportContact 2 rubber measuring 205/45. They’re $250 a throw, if you’re interested.
The Rio GT-Line has a real old school hot hatch feel but without the hot hatch performance. And that’s perfectly fine by me, not everything has to be a rocket and therefore over thirty grand.
Like the Cerato GT, the suspension is very stiff and very keen to let you know what’s going on underneath you. That might tire casual drivers but I really enjoyed the constant communication. I applaud it, in fact.
The payback for the fidget is that the GT-Line is a bit of a suburban demon – turning the wheel yields instant results, the opposite of what happens on the skinny eco tyres of the base model. The steering is very light and doesn’t chase feel, but you can feel those Continental tyres bite and that’s good enough at this level.
Couple that with the enthusiastic 1.0-litre turbo which cheerfully delivers its power with a trademark triple cylinder growl. You are always aware of the engine (yes, it’s noisy) but it’s competing with tyre and road noise.
So the Rio isn’t the last word in refinement, but as I said, this is the small warm hatch on the market today, so you get what you’re given.
There’s no real direct competition for the Rio GT-Line. The Suzuki Swift Sport (also updated this year) is really from the light car class the Picanto lives in but is priced well above the Rio GT-Line. The manual version is good, the CVT…not so much. It’s probably the better car, but costs more upfront, is more expensive to run, has less stuff and is smaller.
The Ford Fiesta ST is from the same class but way more expensive and in another league (not that the Rio is looking for the same customers). There’s also an i20 N from sister brand Hyundai, but again, it’s way over this car’s head.
I think this car is great fun despite its shortcomings, none of which are scary. It’s very firm and busy when you’re on all but the absolute smoothest of surfaces and isn’t the cheapest car to service owing to the turbo engine and short service gaps.
But it really is great fun to chuck around and is a good choice for you or your kids’ first car (new or used). It’s a pity you can’t get a manual…
I love a car that tries so hard and that’s not saying it’s a try-hard – it delivers lightweight chassis thrills without all the insurance dramas and gives you plenty of gear for the dragging commute.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.