New model preview: Kia Rio

Mid-life update for popular Korean hatch.

One of Australia’s most popular small cars the Kia Rio is set to benefit from a mid-life update that brings design tweaks, safety upgrades on some models and a new automatic transmission on the base variant. 

Headlining the list of changes set to debut from 20 July is the addition of a six-speed automatic transmission in lieu of the old four-speeder on the base Rio S. 

Now, as before, the Rio S and mid-spec Rio Sport retain their 74kW/133Nm 1.4-litre petrol four-cylinder, but the sporty GT-Line has had the power output of its 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo reduced from 88kW to 74kW, while its torque output remains unchanged at 172Nm. 

A spokesperson for Kia Australia said the 17% power reduction was due to the engine, the company’s only three-cylinder unit, also being fitted to a hybrid version of the Rio in Europe. Australia was only offered the new, lower output version of the engine, presumably to streamline production. 

All Rio models benefit from the addition of a larger 8.0-inch multimedia unit with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connection, eliminating the need for cable connection.

<Kia Rio 2020

The more expensive Sport and GT-Line models also now feature a new 4.2-inch colour instrument cluster, while the GT-Line also gets climate control and auto window defogger as part of its upgrade.  

On the safety front, autonomous emergency braking which was previously exclusive to the GT-Line has now been added to the Sport variant, and both models also now feature forward collision warning, lane keep assist, diver attention alert and high beam assist.  

Styling enhancements across the range include a slightly narrower grille, deeper and wider front bumper, and new fog light housings.

Kia Rio 2020

Kia claims the “changes give the front of the car a smoother, yet more purposeful appearance, imbuing it with a more confident stance on the road”.
A statement from Kia said the significant mid-generation upgrades were designed to “reinvigorate the car’s position within the highly competitive small car segment”. 

“Over the best part of two decades the Rio has won a well-earned reputation for comfort, safety, reliability and outstanding value,” said Kia Australia’s chief operating officer Damien Meredith.

“The improvements to the fourth generation will only enhance that reputation for not only the Rio, but the wider Kia family.”

Kia Rio 2020

In 2019 the Rio held down fifth place in the sub-$25k Light Car category and so far this year has climbed past its Korean rival the Hyundai Accent as well as the Mazda2 and Suzuki Swift to cement third place, narrowly behind the Chinese-built MG MG3, and the category leading Toyota Yaris. 

April sales figures showed the Light Car category had declined by nearly 40% year on year, while the Rio managed to keep its sales slump to a respectable 12%. 

Pricing for the MY20 Kia Rio has not yet been released, but all variants will continue to be offered with Australia’s most comprehensive seven-year warranty, with seven-year capped-price servicing and seven-year roadside assist.