Johannesburg - Let’s face it: four-speed automatic gearboxes certainly have a place in the world, but that place happens to be the automotive museum.

Yet there are still a few cars out there that feature such a configuration, albeit quite understandable in the ultra price-sensitive sub-R200 000 hatch market, but perhaps less so among more premium compact hatchbacks like the Kia Rio, which are gunning for a slice of the Polo pie.

Thankfully Kia has just upped its game in that regard, by replacing the four-speed automatic gearbox that was previously offered as an option on its 1.4-litre Rio models with a brand new six-speed unit, which is also a conventional torque converter unit.

Priced between R264 995 and R305 995 (see full list below), the new auto models command a small premium of R3000 over the outgoing four-speed equivalents.

The normally aspirated 1.4-litre engine continues unchanged with outputs of 74kW and 135Nm, but the gearbox does perk up overall performance levels, with the claimed 0-100km/h sprint time improving from 13.2 to 12.9 seconds and top speed from 166 to 175km/h.

Kia is known for offering its cars with a good spread of automatic models and that continues to ring true with the new Rio six-speeders, the auto option still available in three spec grades: LX, EX and TEC.

LX offers the basics like aircon, central locking, electric mirrors and a conventional radio linked to steering-mounted controls. EX adds things like a 17.8cm touchscreen system with reverse camera as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. TEC ups the game with leather upholstery, cruise control, rain sensing wipers as well as larger (and machine-finished) 17-inch alloys, among other additions.

All models are sold with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and 1.4-litre Rios have a four-year / 60 000km service plan while the 1.2 LS makes do with a two-year/30 000km plan.

KIA RIO PRICES

1.2 LS 5-speed manual R230 995
1.4 LX 6-speed manual R247 995
1.4 LX 6-speed automatic R264 995
1.4 EX 6-speed manual R261 995
1.4 EX 6-speed automatic R278 995
1.4 TEC 6-speed manual R288 995
1.4 TEC 6-speed automatic R305 995

IOL Motoring