Kia Rio review
Affordable price tag and impressive seven-year warranty make the Kia Rio a credible alternative to the Ford Fiesta
The value-focused Kia Rio has helped the brand’s charge upmarket with a new range of more premium models. When the Rio was released back in 2011 it emerged straight away as a serious rival to the class-leading Ford Fiesta and even more premium superminis like the Volkswagen Polo.
Thanks to its smart looks, spacious and high-quality cabin, a range of peppy engines and prices that start from £10,145, the Rio is a practical and affordable compact hatchback – if you’re after driving thrills at this level, then the Fiesta might be a better bet, but if usability and fuel economy are top of your list then the Rio fits the bill.
Kia’s stop-start equipped 1.1-litre turbodiesel emits just 86g/km CO2, making it one of Britain’s most efficient cars. Road tax is free, and this version of the Rio will return up to 85.6mpg according to Kia.
Alongside this there’s another 1.1 diesel, as well as a 1.4-litre unit that both get stop-start. If you’re preference is for a petrol engine then there’s a decent choice here, too: Kia offers a 1.25- and a 1.4-litre unit. Neither get stop-start unfortunately, and there are no smaller capacity turbocharged engines similar to those offered on the Rio’s competitors.
There are six different trim levels to choose from, starting with the entry-level Rio 1. There are a few stand-out versions in the range, including the SR7, 1 Air and high-spec 4 models, while all engines are available in three- and five-door guise – although the latter brings with it more practicality thanks to the rear doors, it also adds an extra £600 to the price. However, given the rear doors make the most of the Kia’s roomy interior, we’d recommend spending the extra.
Basic versions don’t get much equipment as standard, but all Rios do come with Kia’s impressive seven-year warranty.
Our choice: Rio 1.1 CRDi 1
The Kia Rio is characterised by a high-quality interior – it might not feature large touchscreen infotainment systems like some more modern cars in the class, but it feels well built and is nicely laid out.
The Rio gets a three-dial instrument cluster, and toggle switches on the centre console, which are neat touches. The three-door Kia Rio is sportier than the five-door, but both versions get sculpted flanks, a swooping roofline and are designed with the European market in mind. Both the three-door and five-door models are available in a wide variety of paint finishes, including Blaze Red, Bright Silver, Electric Blue, Midnight Black, Graphite, and Clear White.
Entry-level cars have to do without alloy wheels, so if you want the extra style these rims bring you’ll have to upgrade to the sportier Rio SR7. However, all models still get electric front windows, a trip computer, steering wheel-mounted controls and Bluetooth connectivity. 1 Air, as the name suggests, introduces air-conditioning and is only available as a five-door, costing £11,345.
Next up is 2 specification, which gets 16-inch alloys, front fog lights, heated door mirrors and electric windows all-round, with prices starting from £11,245 for the three-door model. Meanwhile, the high-spec £13,445 Kia Rio 3 boasts LED daytime running lights, automatic headlights with cornering function, parking sensors, climate control, cruise control and 17-inch alloy wheels. The top of the range Rio 4 adds an electric sunroof, leather trim, a heated steering wheel as well as keyless go and costs £14,545.
On the road, the Kia Rio is a worthy alternative to many superminis, but it still can't match the Ford Fiesta for driving fun. With a new crop of rivals now hitting the market – including the Vauxhall Corsa and Mazda 2 – it has its work cut out to keep up. One of the Kia’s major problems is its steering – it can be a bit vague at times and doesn't fill you with the same confidence that the Ford Fiesta offers.
The engine line-up is better, however. The entry-level 1.25-litre petrol delivers 83bhp and 122Nm of torque, as well as this, it's hooked up to a five-speed manual gearbox, helping it reach 0-60mph in 12.9 seconds. The 107bhp 1.4-litre petrol, meanwhile, is the only Kia Rio to get an automatic gearbox – it’s a four-speed transmission and we’d recommend sticking with the six-speed manual alternative.
Diesel options include a 74bhp 1.1-litre three-cylinder and an 89bhp 1.4-litre, four-cylinder CRDi. Both offer great efficiency but neither is especially punchy. The Kia Rio is really good on the motorway, though; road and wind noise are kept to a minimum.
The Kia Rio was awarded a full five-star rating in Euro NCAP’s crash tests, scoring an impressive 92 per cent for adult occupant protection and 86 per cent in the safety assist category. ESP is fitted as standard and there's an Emergency Stop Signalling system, too. All Kia Rios come with driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags.
In the Auto Express Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, the Rio finished in a superb 5th place. Plus, in Auto Express' manufacturer rankings, Kia finished 7th overall, cementing its position as a reliable brand and helping its push upmarket.
The Kia Rio comes with the industry-leading seven-year warranty, too. The only negative thing we can say about the car in this department is that the door handles are a bit flimsy, but other than that, it's one of the best-built Kias yet.
Despite its compact dimensions, the Kia Rio is surprisingly roomy inside, and there's plenty of space for two adults in the rear. Kia claims the Rio offers best-in-class head and legroom for those upfront, while the steering wheel features two-way height adjustment on all but the entry-level diesel model.
With 288 litres of luggage space the Rio’s boot is on par with rivals like the Ford Fiesta – however, newer rivals like the Renault Clio and Hyundai i20 offer more space.
All trim levels come with split folding rear seats that increases the boot space to 923 litres. At the front of the cabin, a useful storage area sits below the heating control panel, which is ideal for mobile phones, wallets and keys. The door bins are shallow but can easily hold a large water bottle. Parking the Kia Rio is easy thanks to its compact dimensions and tight turning circle.
As mentioned earlier, the engine range on offer has been tuned with running costs in mind. The 1.1-litre CRDi 1 model, which features EcoDynamics and stop-start, delivers a claimed fuel consumption figure of 85.6mpg and emits a cost-effective 86g/km of CO2.
The 1.4 CRDi is amazingly cheap to run, too, offering 74.3mpg combined and emitting 98g/km of CO2, so it’s also road rax free. The 1.25- and 1.4-litre petrol models are competitive with other petrol-powered superminis, and the 1.25 still returns low emissions at 114g/km of CO2. Kia Rio insurance group ratings range from two to seven, and the fantastic seven-year/100,000-mile warranty should provide peace of mind.