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From Late June




2021 Kia Rio review: A slow-burn love affair

November 2, 2020

Because Bowen’s Garage continues to expand I sent out an SOS. Thankfully Stephanie Coombes was lurking in the shadows, ready to take the wheel. Here are her unique thoughts on the Kia Rio GT-Line.

The slow-burn love affair

I’m going to describe a relatively common romantic phenomenon. You met a person and your first impression is that they’re a bit challenged in the looks department. Not Quasimodo exactly, but there’s no physical attraction. And then – as you get to know them on the inside – you start to develop feelings. Later on in the relationship you wonder how you ever thought of them us ugly.

That is my exact experience with the 2021 Kia Rio

The Drive

From a purely personal aesthetic standpoint, I wasn’t immediately won over by the Rio. The back of the car looks like it’s ready for the racetrack, but the design of the grill and headlights don’t really work in visual harmony. For me, the similarly priced Honda Jazz has a better overall look (though they’ve been axed in Australia from early 2021).

As for the inside of the car, I had much the same feeling. An almost overpoweringly large touch screen dominates the centre console which is otherwise populated with the usual plastic trim and buttons you’d expect from an older-model sedan. The seats aren’t powered, and you still have to use a key to start the engine.

But driving the Rio is fun.


I was in the top-of-the-line GT version, which has a rather zippy 1.0L petrol turbo engine. In Eco Mode, the car tootles around inoffensively, but switch her to Sport and you can launch away from the lights with gusto. Well. As much gusto as you can hope from a small engine with expected turbo lag.

And in terms of tech? The Rio GT is slopping over with it.


The aforementioned touch screen – or should I say “infotainment system” – connects to either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto with ease. (Although I will mention that my iPhone X connection seemed to drop out at semi-regular intervals). Having such effortless access to music, maps and calls was a delight. If you haven’t had modern phone-to-car integration before, it really will improve you commute.

There’s also a very clever lane assist function and a forward collision warning system. The Rio will also politely beep if you’re changing songs and don’t notice that the traffic has started moving again. This nifty tech coupled with the automatic climate control (which means your windows will never fog) makes it feel as though the Rio is driving itself at times. And I was one happy passenger.

Steph says…

If you’re looking for an affordable car right off the construction line with bucket loads of tech, the Kia Rio GT-line is a very good option. So have another drink with the Tinder match who has funny teeth and give the Kia Rio GT a test drive.