The hot hatch market is thriving in Australia and Kia has decided to step up their game when it comes to making a hotter hatch. Has it reached the hot hatch label yet, well maybe not but it sure does come close.
First of all when you think of the Rio you think of a small and slow city car that is not really in the specs of a hot hatch. And if you have read our review of the Rio S, you would know that we didn’t give it a good rating.
However the Rio GT is a big step up from the base model Rio and comes with more features, a better engine and transmission and looks that little bit better.
The GT comes with a 1.0L Turbo GDI engine and is paired with a 7-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission). Yes it is only a 1.0-litre however it has 88kW and 172Nm of torque. This in-line 3 cylinder DOHC T-GDI D-CVVT2 12 valve has some up and go and blows away the standard 1.4-litre in the other Rio line-up.
The GT also has better fuel economy with a combined L/100km of just 5.4. This makes it a more powerful and better on fuel which is helping push it towards the hot hatch mark.
The exterior of the Rio GT has been improved with the addition of the GT-Line Package (Body Kit, Radiator Grille, rear diffuser, twin exhaust). There is dark chrome, black gloss, an exclusive GT-Line Spoiler and other chrome accents that really set the GT apart from standard Rio’s.
Inside there are also a number of features that separate the GT-Line from the base Rio and also put it in that sportier category.
The dash fascia has a carbon-fibre look, there are alloy sports pedals, a leather wrapped flat bottom sports steering wheel, supervision instrument cluster, premium shift knob and illuminated vanity mirror (driver & passenger).
With these enhancements, the GT-Line really starts to fell less like a small cheap car and more like a sporty driver’s car.
The 7-inch colour LCD touch screen with MP3 compatible audio player and AM/FM tuner, Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto/Apple Car Play and steering wheel mounted audio and phone controls is standard across the range and works well in the GT as well.
So what really determines if this car is a hot hatch or just a modified Rio? Well the driveability is one of the most important aspects to it. It has a turbo engine, it has an 8-speed transmission. However what is a real let down is that there are no paddles for shifting. Yes there is the sports mode on the stick but to make it feel sportier, Kia really needed to add the paddles.
When I got over my disappointment of no paddles, I took the Rio GT for a good hard test where corners crept up on the little car and power was needed in the steep yet fun roads. The engine revs a lot and I really needed to put my foot a long way down to get any real action. This also meant I needed to predict my corners more than a hatch with greater power.
While the power let it down a little, Kia really nailed the handling. The little GT would go where I pointed it and would take the hard and late turn ins that I subjected it to. As torque steer was never going to be an issue, throttle control was not overly needed.
Although the brakes are not large, they never got hot and never had any problems pulling up. Understeer was very minimal and the back never tried to pass me at any point. The ride is firm and controlled and when not having a spirted drive, the back doesn’t get sore driving it as a daily.
Kia continues to be impressive with their safety ratings with the amount of active and passive safety features and their warranty of seven years and unlimited kilometres
Car and Bike News Opinion
Even though the Rio GT could take a beating on the road, I am not sure that it qualifies for the hot hatch status just yet. While it is the closest that Kia have come to this category, this is more a sporty hatch and a bit of fun.
While I would recommend the GT-Line over any other Rio in the line-up, if you are looking for a hot hatch to be impressed with or show off to your friends, this is not the car. It is cool and it is worth the money, but just know that it is more a bridesmaid and not the bride.
Cost: $21,990 drive away (check kia.com.au for pricing in your area)