KIA Insider

Sunday Drive: Kia Rio and Cerato GT Line

Base price:
Powertrain and performance: 1.0-litre turbo-petrol 3-cylinder, 88kW/171Nm, 7-speed dual clutch automatic, FWD, Combined economy 5.4 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4065mm long, 1450mm high, 2580mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 325 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels with 205/45 tyres.
We like: Chirpy looks, three-cylinder direction.
We don't like: Not as invigorating as you'd hope, jittery ride, a touch expensive.

Base price:
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder, 112kW/192Nm, 6-speed automatic, FWD, Combined economy 7.4 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4510mm long, 1445mm high, 2700mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 428 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/45 tyres.
We like: Packaging, wireless phone charger.
We don't like: It's just about the look.

Some years back I met someone quite displeased with his BMW M3. Massive wallop, a race car-like experience? He just didn't get it. It was almost as if he'd bought a regular 3-Series. On seeing the car, all became clear. He had. This was all a matter of misinterpretation. His 'M3' was, in fact, a 325i with a Motorsport kit.

So to Kia's GT Line also asks you take time to understand what badges are saying. You might think GT Line means 'sporty', pure and simple. Actually, it's more about dressing for the part.

* Cerato GT does give you something to go with the bling
* Kia toes the (GT) line
* Kia warms up the Cerato

With the Cerato GT Line, you need to take care not to confused with the visually similar, yet far more hot-tempered Cerato GT. Rio GT Line is a bit different again, in that it is the top choice within its family, through showcasing a new one litre, three-cylinder turbo engine that has more power and torque than the engine in cheaper variants. Yet, while effervescent, it's also not a pocket rocket.

Who wants cars more about looking like they go hard than actually being as hard as their appearance suggest? Quite a few people, apparently. There's a market for just this kind of thing.

The common GT Line aims of decent value for money, good assembly quality and presentation, solid practicality and the cost-effective operability show through in both.

Even without a body pack, Cerato would stand out: the new hatch is a distinctive exemplar of advances in Kia design and also reflects well on its engineering. While Rio is well built, Cerato has tighter, more even panel gaps and shutlines and superior paint finish. From the kerbside, it's a car that speaks to a more confident, more mature Kia.

Pity the story isn't quite as strongly told within. Look between these cabins and you'll see how this brand keeps improving its technical sophistication, yet the material quality is still sub-par to Hyundai's. Still, they do kit out well: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, six-speaker sound, Bluetooth, parking sensors, reversing camera, cruise control are handy while autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and an idle-stop system also implement, the latter all being firsts for Rio.

Passenger space is a predictable selling point for the Cerato – you needn't reach for a tape measure to find that it meets, and sometimes beats, the category favourites for interior room. Rio, despite its patent pertness, is also something of a Tardis, though it clearly trades boot space to get a half-decent cabin dimension.

As driver's cars they're... not really driver's cars. The general chassis calibration is okay, the brakes are good and stability and traction control systems are properly calibrated and hold everything in check.

Rio's city-centricity isn't absolute. It impressed with its nippiness on a country road; this is a car that knows how to scoot through bends. Yet it's no surprise Cerato handles with a stronger sense of security, has better honed directional responses and grip levels are higher.

And, yet, there's nothing going on here to suggest why you'd form any level of emotional affinity. What irks with both is the suspension tune. They feel over-damped; too aggressively checked in compression. You feel and hear too much from the road surface, particularly when it is coarse-chipped.

Explanation as to why the GT Line can be expected to give only so much comes when examining the drivetrain. Cerato's engine is not one of the world's best; it has little character, becoming coarse when given the message, and the outputs are modest.

The six-speed auto is adequate but the point of the drive mode escapes me. The Comfort, Sport and Eco functions don't seem to deliver any obviously tangible difference.

Three-cylinder engines are coming of age and the Rio's has promise. It's smoother and sweeter than Cerato's and the transmission relationship is more fulfilling, too.

The GT Line models look good and strong specifications; but even accepting that Kia has – at least in the case of Cerato – another sports model in the wing to better fulfil the fun factor, you're still left wishing these editions did something more to raise a smile.