2017 Kia Rio Si v Mazda 2 Maxx

2017 Kia Rio Si v Mazda 2 Maxx

A refined ride, thoughtful design, good technology
and modern day practicalities… are not the qualities you’d necessarily expect in a
sub-$20k light car. It’s true, and it’s good news for new-car
buyers on a budget. We’re pitching the all-new Kia Rio against
the top-selling Mazda 2 to see just how deep this good news story runs? And, which one is better? We’re testing the mid spec variants – Mazda
2 Maxx and Kia Rio Si. On paper, they tell a similar story – five-door
hatches, powered by similar-sized engines delivering comparable outputs, and both matched
to automatic transmissions. Dig a little deeper to reveal the Mazda 2’s
first win – it has a six-speed auto, while the Kia Rio settles on just four. Kia says there’s a six on the cards, in
time… but for now, we’re left two short of acceptable. However, the Rio’s locally-tuned suspension
pays dividends, delivering a ride that takes the Korean carmaker another step forward. The Rio’s refinement has matured significantly. But is it better than the Mazda 2? No is the answer. The engine and transmission are a low point
– both of which are laboured during overtaking and other foot to the floor moments. The Mazda2’s punchy 1.5-litre petrol engine
delivered the throttle response and decisive gear selection that the little Kia begs for. Combined with a smaller turning circle it’s
also a better fit for the demands of urban agility. Technology inside both vehicles is of a good
standard, offering the kind of kit once only found in more expensive vehicles, particularly
the Rio that includes satellite navigation as standard. They’re predominantly city-cars, but it
helps if they can still be flexible and practical – and the Rio brings this in spades. [Rio] Interior space is generous, given its
footprint, and with a larger boot than the Mazda, it wins the practical votes, too. The Kia also nails oddment storage, bettering
that on offer by some larger cars. But when it comes to driver comfort, it’s
the Mazda you’ll want to be driving on longer trips – its seats offering both better support
and comfort. As a passenger, maybe not so. While dimensionally there’s not much difference
between these two, sitting in the second row there’s a noticeable difference in headroom
in the Mazda – which means the Kia takes the win in that department too. The balancing act continues with the Mazda
being more economical, while Kia offers class leading after sales support. A rather balanced scoresheet, it’s the Kia’s
underpowered and underwhelming engine/transmission combination that brings it undone – shame,
because there’s much goodness there. But for now, the Mazda2s reign continues. A well-aged package and deserved winner.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. They probably test drove a lame automatic 2018 Kia Rio. No wonder – unfair test. If the Kia had a 6-speed manual it would've won because the power band would've been expanded by spades. Try by 5 or 6. Overall winner here – the 2018 Kia Rio. Done deal.

  2. i drove taht 4 speed auto RIO with sunroof, brown leather seats and chrome gauges as well as heated steering wheel. it´s awful underpowered or lets say the outdated 4speed torque converter takes away so much power from the engine that sometimes its dangerous if you like to overtake someone or crossing a road quick.
    Away from that the 2011-2016 model is for me the more unique and better looking model.
    Another downside is that KIA do not offer a independant rear suspension which sucks on bad surfaces with jumping and in winter with loosing grip more easily.

  3. If you consider a Rio, get the 1.4 with manual transmission. No turbo, this one is quiet, refined, smooth but responsive, economical (don't trust the official consumption figures) and won't drive you nuts. The Rio is beautiful, especially in that denim blue color and the cockpit layout is fantastic IMO. Even the back seats are comfy and the boot is practical.

    I tried the Rio with the 1l turbo with 120 PS. The suspension (German tune) and sound insulation were phenomenal in terms of comfort. The 6-speed manual gearbox was satisfying to shift but boy, the clutch and engine ruined everything. You're fighting between finding the bite point and the turbo boost coming in as the engine is put under load. Cruising at 1600 rpm in town and pressing the accelerator does nothing, wait about a second and it pulls well but simply too late. On the motorway (higher rpm) it's acceptably responsive but the fuel consumption is off the charts. The start/stop worked great, except when you engage the clutch right when it's shutting the engine off: then it just stays off and there's nothing you can do with the pedals or shifter to start it again, you have to turn the ignition off and on again…

  4. I have the previous generation Rio and yes that 4 speed transmission is sluggish so I ram the paddles to keep the engine revving high

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