Kia Rio review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2011 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Kia Rio has a competitive price and a great warranty, and is a fine alternative to the Ford Fiesta

For: 
Top value, spacious interior, seven-year warranty
Against: 
Rivals more exciting, vague steering, some cheap plastics

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The Kia Rio challenges big-selling superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio. Since it was introduced back in 2011, it has helped Kia's march upmarket, too. It benefits from smart looks, roomy dimensions, a high-quality interior and an appealing engine range. Those after driver enjoyment should opt for the Ford Fiesta, however, as the Kia Rio engine range has been tuned for low fuel consumption, rather than strong performance. In the line-up are two diesels, a 1.1-litre and 1.4-litre, as well as two petrol engines in the form of a 1.25-litre and a 1.4-litre. Fitted with the smallest diesel engine makes the Rio one of Britain's most efficient cars, emitting just 85g/km of CO2, meaning it's road tax-free. The Kia Rio is available as a three-door hatchback or as a five-door model, but the latter adds around £600 to the price. The Kia also comes with the manufacturer's great seven-year warranty and inclusive servicing package.

Our choice: Rio 1.1 CRDi 1

Styling

4

The Kia Rio is characterised by a great, high-quality interior - it 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 versions are available in a wide variety of finishes: Blaze Red, Bright Silver, Electric Blue, Midnight Black, Graphite, and Clear White. There's also lots of trim levels to choose from, including 1, 1 Air, 2 and 3 specifications. Entry-level cars have to do without alloy wheels, but still get electric front windows, a trip computer, steering wheel-mounted controls and Bluetooth connectivity. 1 Air, as the name suggests, introduces air-conditioning, while 2 specification gets 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, heated door mirrors and electric windows all-round. Meanwhile, top-of-the-range Kia Rio 3 boasts LED daytime running lights, automatic headlights with cornering function, parking sensors, climate control, cruise control and 17-inch alloy wheels. 

Driving

3.2

The Kia Rio may well steal the show from the Vauxhall Corsa and the Volkswagen Polo, but it can't match the Ford Fiesta for driving fun. The steering can be a bit vague at times and doesn't fill you with the same confidence that the Ford Fiesta offers. There two petrols and two diesel engines to choose from. The 1.25-litre petrol delivers 83bhp and 121Nm of torque, as well as this, it's hooked up to a five-speed manual gearbox, helping it reach 0-60mph in 12.6 seconds. The 107bhp 1.4-litre petrol, meanwhile, is the only Kia Rio to get an automatic gearbox. 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. 

Reliability

4.4

The Kia Rio was awarded the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP 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, there's an Emergency Stop Signalling system, and all Kia Rios come with driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags. In the Auto Express Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, the Kia Rio finished in a superb 17th place. Plus, in Auto Express' manufacturer rankings, Kia finished seventh 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 Kia Rio 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. 

Practicality

4

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. The Kia Rio offers 288 litres of boot space, which is on par with rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai i20. Plus, all specifications 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.

Running Costs

4.5

As mentioned earlier, the engine range on offer with the Kia Rio was 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 88mpg and emits an industry-leading 85g/km of CO2. The 1.4 CRDi is amazingly cheap to run, too, offering 70.6mpg and emitting 105g/km of CO2. The 1.25 and 1.4-litre petrol models are competitive with other petrol-powered superminis, and the 1.25 still returns low emissions - 114g/km of CO2. Kia Rio insurance group ratings range from three to eight, and the fantastic seven-year/100,000-mile warranty should provide peace of mind.

Disqus - noscript

The 1.1L diesel - innovative though it is - with a 15 second 0-62 sprint does not seem enough to enable a driver to enjoy this car. Is it not possible for the Kia engineers to fit a twin-turbo to improve acceleration?

The Rio bitchslapped every supermini in slalom and lane change tests everywhere.

The second-generation????

As a very happy Rio owner i agree mainly with the above comments but the door handles don't feel that flimsy to me and the steering impoves a lot when the tyres are bedded in even after a few thousand it improved.
Fit finish and build quality are very high as is comfort and it feels bigger than it is.

A trip computer, even on the base model? Be still, my beating heart!

I own a i20 which should have exactly the same setup as Rio. I switched to Conti PC5 185 R15 tyres when I bought it new straight away. Believe me it generates scary amount of g in corners and lane changes are very very confident despite some initial roll. Yes, it required some getting used to the steering and it feeled vogue at the beginning, but after some time it felt very natural. I have also driven a Fiesta on 175 R14 again on Conti but Eco tyres as a company car for some time. Feeling was OK but grip was relatively low, I would say 75%. I can't comment on a Fiesta on 195 R15 tyres though

I've done 36k miles on my Rio 1.1 in 18 months. Sits at 99.9mpg at 70 on motorway, needs a wee poke into 4th now and then if the hills get a little steeper but all in all a very civilised little safe feeling car.

Doesn't feel as slow as the paper stats suggest, but no, it isn't a fast car, did anybody really expect it to be? Does it's target market need it to be be?

Plenty of front and rear space, good spec even on my 1 air version. Stock tyres really rotten however, I replaced my fronts with goodyear eco tyres. Far less noise, car feels much better on windy roads (still not a sports car... not meant to be)

We looked at Polos, Ibizas, Fiestas and Corsas before getting the Rio, we could have spent £3k less on an ibiza and £2k on a polo or fiesta, so it wasn't a decision made on the cheap.

Last updated: 7 Nov, 2013
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