Students of Greek mythology often refer to Helen of Troy, the daughter of Zeus and Leda, as the most beautiful woman in history.
Married to King Menelaus of Greece, she eloped with Prince Paris of Troy.
This brought about the Trojan War, when King Menelaus mustered a vast army and navy to go and fetch his errant wife. Never underestimate the male ego.
In the process Helen became known for having “the face that launched a thousand ships”.
Which is where we differ from the popular perception. We do not think it was the loss of her face that caused her spurned husband to launch the ships and incite widespread genocide.
It was the loss of something situated about a metre further south, the joys of which usage we are not allowed to reflect on in these hallowed pages.
We and Greek mythology students throughout the world have agreed to disagree on that point. As it was when we test drove the all-new, fourth generation Kia Rio.
We really liked the car’s looks, but its underlying abilities caused us to love it. They really got the looks right. In profile, the new Rio boasts a lengthened, more balanced stance than its predecessor, achieved with a long bonnet, a longer front overhang, a 10mm longer wheelbase, a thinner, more upright C-pillar, and a shorter rear overhang.
Other enhancements include a redesigned front grille, new headlamps with U-shaped LED daytime running lights, side vents which house the car’s front fog lamps, a more upright rear section and sculpted rear lamps with LED taillights.
The whole package sits on machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels in 205/45 R17 rubberware.
Inside, the new Rio boasts a modernized cabin, designed to accommodate a seven-inch touch screen infotainment system and a driver-oriented centre console.
The dashboard itself is angled towards the driver, and the car comes with USB and auxiliary-in ports, plus an additional 12V power socket for front passengers. All models feature steering whe el-mou nt e d audio controls and Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free telephoning.
The test vehicle had black leather upholstery, plus a leather-clad steering wheel and gear lever. There was air-conditioning, central locking with an alarm and immobiliser, plus a radio system with RDS, MP3 and six speakers.
There were electrically controlled side windows and door mirrors, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and a Rear Park Assist System with reverse camera.
The Rio has 325 litres of luggage space, 60:40 split folding rear seats and a full-size spare wheel beneath the boot floor.
The fuel tank is located under the rear bench, with a capacity of 45 litres. The vehicle’s four-cylinder, 1 396cc, 16-valve DOHC engine produces 74 kW of power at 6 300 rpm and 135 Nm of torque at 4 200 rpm.
The above goes to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.
Passive safety is taken care of via a reinforced bodyshell, driver and front passenger airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and impact sensing door unlocking.
The Rio was sprightly – again showing that 1 400cc cars these days achieve what two-litre vehicles used to do. It accelerated briskly, and would easily keep up with Gauteng’s traffic.
Kia claim a 0 to 100 km/h time of under 12 seconds, plus a top speed of over 170 km/h, and we have no reasons to disbelieve them. The steering was direct, the gearchanges slick and the brakes – discs front and drums rear – confidence-inspiring.
Handling was neutral, with a minimum of body roll, even during spirited cornering. Meanwhile a turning radius of just 5,1 metres made the car a cinch to manoeuvre in tight parking spots.
We made no efforts to drive the car economically, and an overall test fuel consumption figure of 6,7 l/100 km was impressive.
The Kia Rio 1.4 TEC Manual will set you back R274 995, and comes with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, inclusive of five years, unlimited kilometres roadside assistance, plus a fouryear, 60 000km service plan.