Kia Rio review
The Kia Rio is a good alternative to the Ford Fiesta, with a competitive price and lengthy warranty
The second-generation Kia Rio arrived on UK roads in September 2011, and it marked a big step forwards over its lacklustre predecessor, with a stylish new look, improved dynamics and the build quality to rival big-selling superminis like the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio. The driving experience is still more functional than fun, with lifeless steering and an engine range that’s optimised for efficiency rather than performance. But the Rio’s trump card is that it should be painless to own, thanks to an inclusive servicing deal and lengthy warranty. So if you fancy a well built, low-maintenance supermini, the Rio is well worth a look. It’s available in three and five-door body styles, with the former costing around £600 less than the more practical five-door hatchback. At the beginning of 2013, Kia revealed a two-door, four-seat coupe at the Geneva Motor Show. The provo concept is based on the same platform as the Rio and, if it makes production, could arrive in showrooms within the next couple of years.
Our choice: Rio 1.1 CRDi 1
As with the Cee’d and Pro_cee’d models, the Rio has been designed with European tastes in mind, and it looks all the better for it. The front is dominated by the firm’s now familiar bow-tie grille, while the sculpted flanks, swoopy roofline and neatly rounded profile create a classy look that marks a significant step forward from its bland predecessor. The overall look is less aggressive than the smaller Picanto, although the three-door version still looks sporty. On the inside, the layout will be familiar to owners of recent Kias, with a three-dial instrument cluster, but there are new toggle switches on the centre console, inspired, apparently by Lamborghini. What’s really striking, though, is the quality of the materials used. Only the plastic door handles, which don’t feel especially robust, are a disappointment. There are four trim levels to choose from – 1, 1 Air, 2 and 3. Entry-level models make do with steel wheels and not much kit, but electric front windows, a trip computer, steering-wheel mounted controls and Bluetooth are fitted as standard. As the name suggests, 1 Air trim adds air-conditioning, while 2 cars also get 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, heated door mirrors and all-round electric windows. Range-topping 3 models come with LED daytime running lights, automatic headlights with cornering function, parking sensors, climate control, cruise control and 17-inch alloys. As with all Kias, there aren't many options, and you have to move up to the next model to add extra kit.
The Rio is available with a choice of four engines: two petrol and two diesels, ranging from the ultra-efficient 1.1 CRDi through to a 107bhp 1.4-litre petrol. The cheapest option is the 1.25-litre petrol with a five-speed manual gearbox, which produces 83bhp, 121Nm of torque and has a 0-60mph time of 12.6 seconds. The larger 1.4-litre petrol is the quickest option - and is also the only choice available with an automatic gearbox - while the 74bhp 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel is by far the slowest, as it takes an almost pedestrian 15.5 seconds to make 0-60mph – although it more than makes up for its lack of pace with a low emissions figure of 85g/km, although real-world economy is hampered by the fact you have to work the engine hard to keep pace with traffic. The 89bhp 1.4 CRDi isn’t the torquiest of engines and requires quite a lot of revs to get up to pace, too. The Rio’s handling falls a long way short of the class-leading Ford Fiesta, though. It offers little in the way of excitement and the lifeless steering is another issue. The ride is acceptable for the class, although it can feel a little too firm on poorly surfaced roads. However, what the Rio lacks in excitement it makes up for with refinement – good noise deadening ensures it excels here, and contributes to the general big car feel.
The Kia Rio has been awarded a maximum five-stars by Euro NCAP, with a 92 per cent score for adult occupant protection and 86 per cent in the safety assist category. Standard safety kit includes electronic stability control, as well as driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags. The Rio also comes fitted with an Emergency Stop Signalling system, which warns following drivers of impending danger by flashing three times when the car stops sharply. As well as its industry-leading seven-year warranty, Kia also has a great reputation for reliability. It finished 12th as a brand in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey and its cars were very highly rated. The highlight was the latest Sportage, which finished a very respectable 22nd in its first appearance in the Top 100. The Kia Rio was benchmarked against European rivals for quality, and it shows – this is one of the best-built Kias yet. Only flimsy plastic door handles are a disappointment; they don't feel especially robust. The three-dial instrument cluster used in other Kias features again, while all the key controls are logically placed.
When it comes to practicality, the Rio is on a par with its class rivals. The 288-litre boot is almost identical in size to the Ford Fiesta's, although it’s slightly less than the Hyundai i20's. It also has a sill that's usefully low for loading. All versions come with split-folding rear seats, which increases the luggage capacity to 923 litres. On the inside, one of the most noticeable things about the Rio is how spacious it feels. Kia claims it offers class-leading head and legroom in the front, while standard two-way height adjustment on the steering wheel on all models bar the entry-level diesel ensures it’s easy for the driver to get comfortable. Two adults should fit comfortably in the rear, although access to the back seats is trickier in the three-door model, while a decent-sized glovebox and array of in-cabin storage areas complete the package.
The Rio excels here. The star performer is the 1.1 CRDi 1 model, which comes fitted with the manufacturer’s EcoDynamics stop-start package and has claimed fuel consumption of 88mpg and emits just 85g/km of CO2. These figures mean that, when it was launched in 2011, it was the world’s most efficient non-electric production car. It has since been pipped by the Hyundai i20 Blue, which uses the same engine, and the Rio is still impressive. The entry-level 1.25 petrol returns 57mpg and 114g/km, while even the larger petrol engine manages 51mpg and 128g/km, which means all manual versions of the Rio are free to tax for the first year of ownership (the 1.4 auto emits 150g/km). A three-year fixed-price servicing pack is also available, while Kia’s seven-year 100,000-mile warranty is class-leading.