SLEEK, stylish and surprising, the 2021 Kia Rio GT-Line is everything you’ll want in a warmed up hatch, and more. This fourth generation of the top of the line Rio rocks a rev-happy turbocharged 1.0-litre engine and a facelift to boot too.
To keep up with modern times and to ensure conformity with the rest of their current range of models, the new Rio underwent some cosmetic changes. Sharper lines, more aggressive styling, LED headlamps and quad ‘ice-cube’ fog lamps.
The well thought-out 17-inch alloy wheels come standard with the GT-Line, as well as a rear diffuser, rear wing, gloss black mirrors, dark chrome front grille and a dual exhaust.
Inside the cabin, you’ll find a dark colour scheme with some carbon fibre styling to the typical Kia layout.
Cloth-trimmed seats are a tad disappointing considering the GT-Line is a range topper, but they’re comfortable nonetheless and keep you at the steering wheel when cornering spiritedly.
Entertainment is provided by an 8.0-inch LCD screen with Bluetooth connectivity, as well as wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, along with a 6-speaker audio system.
Storage is plentiful all around, with two cup holders up front, a bottle holder in each door, a centre console which is of decent size, and more cup holders in the second row’s middle pulldown console.
The back seats fold down into a 60:40 split if the boot space, which is quite large considering the diminutive size of the Rio, isn’t large enough for you.
There are also two ISOFIX tethers and three top tethers on the back row for those who want to accommodate their miniature humans.
The second row seats are surprisingly comfortable and spacious, and we put this to the test by taxiing three adult males, all of whom were over 180cm tall, to spectate a track-day at Wakefield Park, two hours outside of Sydney.
At the end of it, nothing but praise and surprise at the Rio’s comfort factor. But what you most likely came here for is what you’ll find under the bonnet of the GT-Line.
That boosted three-cylinder petrol engine makes 74kW of power, with 172Nm of torque, delivered to the front wheels. This is mated to a mostly responsive 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
We experienced some delays in the shifting of the dual clutch, but it generally worked well. Put your foot in it and churn through the gears, and before you know it you’ll be at your destination, wishing you could get back in and do it all over again.
The only thing missing from the interior of this pocket rocket is paddle shifters.
On the road, the GT-Line handles surprisingly well. Sudden braking plus a mixture of bigger wheels with smaller tyre profiles, along with some aggressive turning, can send the back end out if you’re not wary, especially in wet weather.
Aside from the short wheelbase complications, the Rio GT-Line feels at home on short drives in urban areas. Although we did have the car parked at a race-track, we couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like out there, at full noise.
With the right driver, the GT-Line could potentially perform quite well and pull off some sneaky lap times.
This brings us to fuel economy, because around town, we struggled to get the economy below 8.0-litres/100km, but on our nice little road trip down south, we were able to get it down to 5.8-litres/100km.
Up against Kia’s claimed 5.3-litres, that’s not bad at all for the zippy little hatch. You’re guaranteed to save a few dollars on ever increasing fuel prices if you drive one of these sensibly.
The safety technology in the GT-Line has also received an upgrade over the base model Rio S.
The range topper sports forward collision warning, which can be a touch sensitive at times, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist and a driver attention alert system.
The GT-Line, along with the rest of the Rio range, carries a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. Prices for the GT-Line start at $25,525 excluding on road costs.
It’s a small hike from the previous generation Rio, but unsurprising considering every other competitor of this size, such as the Mazda 2 range, have also seen a small price increase over previous generations.
Kia also offers a 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with capped price servicing for the life of the warranty, with 12 month or 10,000km service intervals.
A fantastic little hatch for daily driving purposes, the 2021 Kia Rio GT-Line breathes new life into the small car category.
It’s a zippy little load of fun, whether you’re on your way to the daily grind of work, or to pick up some groceries, or even if you want to just get some quiet time along some long winding roads.
Our 2021 Kia Rio GT-Line was supplied by Kia Australia. To find out more, contact your local Kia dealer. Pictures courtesy of J_Hui Design/Photography.