THE range-topping versions of Kia’s cheapest car, the Rio, have returned.

The three-door Sport and five-door SLi each get a direct-injection 1.6 good for 103kW. However, a manual transmission is absent (the Soul manual has also been dropped), with Kia offering only a sixspeed auto. That means the only manual Rios get the lessenticing 1.4-litre engine.

The Rio won’t be the cheapest Kia for long though, with the arrival of the $14,990 driveaway Picanto slated for late this year. And, again catering to the two-pedal brigade, it will be fitted exclusively with an automatic because the brand “doesn’t want to be the cheapest in the marketplace … [we] want to have the best offering”.