2022 Kia Rio S review

  • Doors and Seats
  • Engine
  • Engine Power
  • Fuel
  • Manufacturer
  • Transmission
  • Warranty
  • Ancap Safety

No-frills motoring ain’t what it used to be. Sam Purcell spends time in one of Australia’s cheapest new city cars: a 2022 Kia Rio S.

  • Surprisingly zippy and willing around town with the manual gearbox
  • Great seven-year warranty
  • Agreeable seven-year capped-price servicing
  • Seems thirsty in comparison to more modern engine options
  • The automatic transmission tends to dull the powertrain
  • This specification lacks some advanced safety equipment

With an asking price now starting just over $20,000, the 2022 Kia Rio S remains a worthy consideration for those who want straightforward and effective motoring that might seem cheap (albeit not as cheap as it once was), but doesn’t carry the nasty taste.

While there is no shortage of navel-gazing when it comes to the engineering prowess of luxury and high-performance vehicles, making and selling a car like the Kia Rio comes with its own balancing act of engineering and design. A car like this can’t be expensive. But if it wants any modicum of success, it also can’t be rubbish.

The Rio isn’t the cheapest car in Kia’s own stable, let alone on the broader car market. Kia’s Picanto exists, just under $16,000 in its most basic form, and the Rio sits on the next step up the ladder in terms of size and price.

However, new cars underneath the magic $20,000 threshold are increasingly hard to find. The cheapest version of the MG 3 starts from $18,490 drive-away, but comes as an automatic only, something other low-price cars keep as a cost option. The old-bones Mitsubishi Mirage starts from $17,490 drive-away but is on borrowed time, the Suzuki Baleno scrapes in with a $19,990 drive-away sticker, but other compact runabouts have joined the over-$20K club, including the Fiat 500, Skoda Fabia, Volkswagen Polo, Mazda 2 and Toyota Yaris.

Like the broader passenger car segment, this is one part of the automotive world that is withering in the face of sports utility vehicles. However, I can’t help but think that many buyers at this cost-conscious part of the world are missing a trick by not considering a good old-fashioned hatchback.

Opting for an automatic transmission plumps the asking price up to $22,990 drive-away, an increase of $1500. And while automatic Rios will likely garner the lion’s share of sales, we’d implore buyers to consider this cheaper, punchier and more efficient model at $21,490 drive-away.

This Rio could be one of the smartest options for those wanting a slice of cost-effective motoring in Australia, and for a few reasons. Here’s what we found after one week with the cheapest Kia Rio variant you can get, which included a round trip from Sydney to Canberra in one day.

Key details 2022 Kia Rio S
Price (MSRP) $21,490 drive-away
Colour of test car Clear White
Options None
Price as tested $21,490 drive-away
Rivals Mazda 2 | Skoda Fabia | Suzuki Baleno

Inside, the 2022 Kia Rio S is basic in terms of features and materials, but feels well-executed. One could certainly complain about the abundance of hard black plastics on the dashboard, doors and centre console. But at this price point, I can’t bring myself to do such a thing.

Those bits of polymer are screwed together quite well, however, with no apparent loose parts to my prodding hands or ears.

There’s a small two-storey storage slot below the air-conditioning controls, which includes your single 12-volt and USB power outlets. That’s it for the car, as well.

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There are also two regulation cupholders, and a small but usable centre console cubby. Other details include mirrors in the sun visors but no lights or extendable arms. There’s also a sunglasses holder, and room for large bottles in the door cards.

Cloth seats with manual adjustment are comfortable and well-bolstered, and I had little complaint after using them for seven hours in one day. Combine decent seat adjustment with tilt-and-rake on the steering column, and the Rio proves to be ergonomically solid.

The funny thing about this Rio is that it doesn’t seem much smaller or less practical than a compact SUV when you’re using it in the real world. The Kia Stonic boasts a larger boot and more overall length, for example, but I didn’t come away from my time in the Rio thinking it was excessively cramped.

The biggest difference you’ll notice against the cheaper and smaller Picanto is the width. The Rio feels noticably wider, which translates into more space and comfort inside.

In the second row of the Rio, I had expectations of a cramped and spartan experience. However, it’s actually quite decent in the back. There is enough legroom without being overtly spacious, and those in the back can fight over a single USB power outlet. There are no air vents, but ISOFIX points are accounted for and you can fit a bottle in each door card.

The seats have a 60/40 split, with the smaller division on the driver’s side. When they’re folded down, you’ve got 1074L of storage space. With the seats in use, you’ve got 300L. It’s a decent size in reality, and made more useful by tie-downs, hooks, a light, and separate (small) storage bin.

Our tester looked to be missing a more solid floor to the boot, with a flimsy unit covering the space-saving spare wheel below.

2022 Kia Rio S
Seats Five
Boot volume 300L seats up / 1078L seats folded
Length 4065mm
Width 1725mm
Height 1450mm
Wheelbase 2580mm

Infotainment and Connectivity

Infotainment in the Kia Rio comes from an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, which is common across many of the brand’s models. It’s a decent unit, and a good size for a base-model specification. It’s a traditional style as well, with buttons and dials at the ready for your more commonly accessed key functions.

A set-up like this is easy to learn, and superior for easy controls on the move with minimal removal of the driver’s main focus: driving.

The system is lacking some features like digital radio and native navigation, but that seems like less of an issue when you can plug in your phone and sacrifice some data. There’s wired and wireless Android Auto connectivity available, which worked for me without any issue. Apple users note that the Rio’s spec sheet lists only a wireless connection for Apple CarPlay, which can eat into battery life if you’re behind the wheel for longer stints.

The Kia Rio received a five-star rating by ANCAP, which came about back in 2017. This rating also covers the Stonic small SUV, which indicates how much underneath the skin is shared between the two models.

There are some large omissions on the safety front despite the impressive rating. While other spec levels enjoy things like autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assistance and driver attention alert, the entry-level Rio S grade goes without.

There are rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, along with front, side and curtain airbags.

The basic steering wheel control of volume and the trip computer are there, but you’ll notice that the Rio must be one of the few vehicles available these days without any form of cruise control.

Other technology is similarly old-fashioned: turn-key start with no keyless entry, manual air-conditioning, and hub caps over black steel wheels.

In the face of lacking some of the more advanced safety and convenience technology that many buyers would likely expect from a new car, it would be hard not to talk somebody into climbing one rung up the latter into a Sport specification.

Which is a shame, because this grade of Rio feels very good in many other instances. A manual transmission seems to be the pick, even though the 1.4-litre engine in the Rio S and Rio Sport doesn’t drip with power. There’s the option of a healthier 1.0-litre turbocharged engine in the range-topping GT-Line specification grade.

Infotainment is fine, and many I’m sure would like the no-frill nature of hub caps and the rest. Although, we would like to see all of the safety equipment across the board. No matter how you slice it, Kia’s seven-year warranty offers long-term peace of mind.

At a glance 2022 Kia Rio S
Warranty Seven years / unlimited kilometres
Service intervals 12 months / 15,000km
Servicing costs $1047 (3 years), $1958 (5 years), $2866 (7 years)

While we were able to match the Rio’s combined claim of 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres on a longer highway run, it settled on 6.1L/100km overall. 

Servicing costs of $1074 for three years or $1958 for five years is reasonable, although the fourth-year service could catch some by surprise as it’s the most expensive at $608 on its own. It’s not as cheap as others for service costs, like the Mitsubishi Mirage or Toyota Yaris, but you do have the ability to look ahead for upcoming service bills via the Kia website.

Fuel Usage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 5.6L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 6.1L/100km
Fuel type 91-octane unleaded
Fuel tank size 45L

With a six-speed manual gearbox mated to the 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine, performance is decent. The spec sheet might not be that impressive with 74kW and 133Nm, but the Rio is quite a fun little car to zip around in.

You do need to be feisty with your gear selections, and keep the motor on the boil to get the most out of it. The experience can be quite dormant below 4000rpm.

There’s not a stack of torque at the ready for taking off, but you soon find the sweet spot with clutch and throttle to get moving. Pedal operation is light, and the gears are easy to find with your left paw.

We even drove the Rio from Sydney to Canberra and back in a day, because sometimes you need to do that. And we found the car to be good enough in this case. It’s certainly not what I would call a home-field advantage for the little Rio, but it still did okay nonetheless.

We’ve noted in previous reviews of a Rio and Stonic that this 1.4-litre engine feels a bit dull and lacking punch when spinning through the more expensive six-speed automatic gearbox. I think the manual gearbox allows for some extra seat-of-the-pants perkiness in comparison to a more slushy torque-converter auto, but it’s also worth noting that the gearing – in the gearbox and final drive – is different.

The relatively short gearing for the Rio makes sense. Sure, 3000rpm on the highway in sixth gear might be tiring if you’re doing that for long stretches every day, but the first five ratios are closely tied together before that. For around-town driving, you can get a decent punch of acceleration provided you’re in the right gear.

In fact, it feels like it hustles along a little at times. Because the gears are so close, jumps from third to sixth were common for me. For example, running through the first three gears hard for acceleration for the on-ramp, and then hitting a cruise by jumping straight into top gear.

Ride quality is classic small car: responds to surfaces noticeably, but bigger bumps get handled well. It steers well, is responsive, and by no means dull. A good balance, I think. It’s light, remember? So going from a two-tonne SUV into this will feel liberating, if you take one on as a second family car.

Key details 2022 Kia Rio S
Engine 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power 74kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 133Nm @ 4000rpm
Drive type Front-wheel drive
Transmission Six-speed manual
Power to weight ratio 66.5kW/t
Weight (tare) 1112kg
Tow rating 1000kg braked, 450kg unbraked
Turning circle 10.2m

The 2022 Kia Rio S is good, honest, simple motoring. It seems to be at its best with the manual transmission, and carries good practicality and usability for a hatchback. Its infotainment is good as well, and proved easy to use. Provided, that is, you’re happy to leverage your smartphone for functionality.

However, the lack of safety equipment in this base specification is an important omission that buyers will need to be aware of.

But otherwise, the Rio is a solid and well-sorted little hatchback that’s easy to live with around town, and even capable of the odd longer journey.

Ratings Breakdown

2022 Kia Rio S Hatchback

7.4/ 10

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Sam Purcell

Sam Purcell has been writing about cars, four-wheel driving and camping since 2013, and obsessed with anything that goes brum-brum longer than he can remember. Sam joined the team at CarAdvice/Drive as the off-road Editor in 2018, after cutting his teeth at Unsealed 4X4 and Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures.

Read more about Sam Purcell

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