I’m very partial to a small, well-appointed hatchback. The class-leaders give back to their drivers with luxury and appointment aplenty.

Like all of the KIA range, the 2021 Rio has matured and become a handsome 5-door city runabout.

The exterior is now much smoother than it once was, and the reduction in the number of panel-gaps means the visual flow from front to rear and top to bottom is more pleasing to the eye. The review model we sampled was finished in Mighty Yellow and was the GT-Line specification so plenty of high-specification features fitted as standard.

Exterior

With fewer individual body panels, the KIA Rio GT-Line is a very smart looking 5-door hatch. The use of the interior and exterior space is very evident looking at the Rio as its overall footprint is more VW Polo or Ford Fiesta than VW Golf or Ford Focus.

With very little overhang at the front or rear, the KIA Rio GT-Line maximises the used of the 2.58m wheelbase which makes driving the Rio in the city a breeze.

In GT-Line specification, the front of the Rio is particularly attractive with a quad-array of LED fog lights and daytime driving lights, as well as high-gloss plastic, surrounds on the air-intakes and below the bonnet line. High gloss black exterior mirrors and chrome around the base of the windows set the side-on profile off very well.

The 17-inch 205/45 R17 wheels and rubber give the Rio some very appealing handling characteristics at high and low speeds. ABS, Traction Control, Emergency Autonomous Braking and Lane Keep Assist keep the Rio on the straight and narrow whilst looking great.

At the rear a GT-Line specification spoiler and privacy glass balance the attractive yellow paint with black accents.

Interior

Like the rest of the 2020 KIA Range, the interior of the Rio belies expectations. There is a pleasant combination of leather accented and very comfortable seating for five passengers (four in the real world). For a car that is only a tick over 4m long and 1.45m tall and 1.73m wide, there is a sense of space in the cabin.

Behind the wheel there are plenty of creature comforts that are expected in a car in such a competitive market in 2020.

Apple Car Play and Android Auto now have full wireless connectivity. The climate control air-conditioning has been enhanced and is very good for such a small engine – a 1L in-line 3 cylinder GDI motor with continuous variable valve timing which literally hums along all day.

KIA has been liberal with the faux carbon-fibre trimming across the dash but has been equally generous with the great seating position and the 6-way adjustment for both the driver and the passenger. The steering wheel has a very thick, sporty feel to it and is adjustable for both reach and tilt. The steering wheel also houses the audio adjustment and cruise-control buttons.

The luggage space is more than adequate for the weekly shop or a few school bags. Sadly it’s not enough to accommodate a set of golf-clubs. Interestingly the width of the Rio GT-Line is less than the heigh of a set of clubs so the folding rear seats come in handy for those occassions.

On The Road

The KIA Rio GT-Line has the smallest engine in the range, but the combination of the variable valve timing and the 7-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) gearbox means that the Rio is never short of enthusiasm on the road. Steeper gradients will have the buzzy 3-cylinder turbo-charged engine working hard and the cabin noise on those occasions is pretty intrusive.

With such a small foot-print the Rio GT-Line is very easy to park and is extremely frugal on even regular unleaded fuel. We covered just over 250km in our week with the Rio GT-Line and averaged 8.7L/100km in a lot of stop/start city driving.

The electric power steering is very direct and as a result the turning circle is only 10.2m which is considerably better than the VW Polo (10.6m) or the Ford Fiesta (11m).

USB ports and cup-holders are spread throughout the cabin and other convenince items such as heated folding exterior mirrors and rain sensing wipers are standard equipmement on the GT-Line.

Conclusion

The KIA Rio GT-Line is a great small car for the city and in its class I can’t see the case for buying one of its competitors. The build quality and standard safety features cannot be ignored and the styling of the 2021 model is crisp and sharp and very timeless.

Yes, its a bit noisy and the engine could do with another cylinder and the accompanying displacement, but that would bump the price up and make the Rio less competitive. It’s a very good balance of performance, practicality and purpose and for those reasons alone, it’s certainly worth a look.

Price as Tested: $25,525 drive away with the Mighty Yellow paint.