Kia Rio review
The Kia Rio offers good value and practicality, but it's a safe pair of hands in a talented supermini class
The Kia Rio has come on in leaps and bounds since the no-frills first generation car was launched. Unfortunately, the current fourth generation model isn’t a huge step on from the Mk3. It has an evolutionary design inside and out, merely average ride and refinement, and some hard, cheap-feeling interior plastics all hurt its cause in the hugely competitive supermini class.
Still, the Korean supermini has a number of selling points. It’s reasonable value, top models feature a tech-filled touchscreen and there's a decent amount of space for passengers. The 1.0 T-GDi turbo petrol engine is our range highlight, offering strong performance and efficiency. The Rio also comes with Kia’s seven-year warranty. It’s just a shame that the firm played it safe with the Rio’s styling, meaning it fails to stand out in this hard-fought sector.
The Kia Rio is a supermini that has a tough battle on its hands. While the current car is the best version yet - and light years ahead of the Rio Mk1, which was sold as a budget saloon or estate from 2000-2005 - it has a tough battle to pick up sales in the class.
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While the original Rio stood out for all the wrong reasons, the Rio Mk2 (2005-2011) established it as the firm's supermini, while the Mk3 (2011-2017) put Kia's styling stamp on the car, as well as delivering fuel efficiency and standard kit that helped it stand out in the crowd.
The Rio Mk4 arrived in 2017, with styling that was an evolution of the Mk3 and more of the tech and quality that supermini buyers have come to expect from these cars. Those new lines feature a more prominent 'tiger nose' grille, while the interior has improved switchgear and all bar the most basic model come with a touchscreen infotainment system as standard.
The Rio range comprises the straightforward 1, 2 and 3 specifications, while the occasional limited edition crops up from time to time. At launch, the First Edition was offered, which is essentially what will become the Rio 4 once it's no longer on sale.
All cars come with at least air-con, electric heated door mirrors, Bluetooth, auto lights and LED daytime running lights, while 2 cars feature 15-inch alloys, cruise control, a colour touchscreen with DAB radio and better speakers, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. Go for 3 spec and you get fake leather, auto wipers and an upgraded seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The First Edition brings 17-inch alloys, keyless entry and LED rear lights, which will also appear on 4 trim. Prices range from £12,000 to around £18,000.
Four engines are offered in the Rio, three petrol and one diesel. There's a 1.25-litre petrol, a 1.4 and Kia's low emissions but powerful 1.0 T-GDi turbo three-cylinder in two power outputs. You can't get every engine in every trim, with the most powerful 118hp 1.0 T-GDi only coming in First Edition/4 trim, and the 99hp version only offered in 2 and 3 trims. The 1.25 comes in 1 and 2 trims, while the 1.4 comes in 2 and 3 specs, too, with an auto gearbox optional on the 1.4 2 and standard on the 1.4 3.
Diesel isn't as popular as it once was in the supermini sector, and while Kia used to offer one of the most economical cars on sale in the shape of the Mk3 Rio CRDi, the current 1.4 CRDi is only offered in 2 and 3 trims with 76hp and 89hp respectively. The lower powered diesel has claimed economy of more than 80mpg. All versions of the Rio are front-wheel drive
There are many supermini rivals to the Kia Rio, and a lot of these have been updated or replaced since the Rio arrived in 2017. Chief among them are the UK's best-selling cars, such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, while the SEAT Ibiza, Citroen C3 and Nissan Micra have come on in leaps and bounds over their predecessors. Elsewhere, the Hyundai i20 is closely related to the Rio, while the Toyota Yaris is a sensible choice that has been given a bit of an update to keep it competitive. The Mazda 2 offers a sporty drive, while the Vauxhall Corsa is a great supermini that can be had at a heavily discounted rate and the Skoda Fabia is well worth considering.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Kia Rio offers good value and practicality, but it's a safe pair of hands in a talented supermini class
- 2Engines, performance and driveTurbo petrol engine is punchy and refined, but disappointing ride and refinement and average handling disappoint
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe Rio offers decent fuel economy despite some old-tech powertrains, and the seven-year warranty should benefit residual values
- 4Interior, design and technologyWhile it's well built, the Rio's plain looks and a dark interior hurt the car's appeal
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceA big boot is a plus for the Rio, but rear legroom isn’t the best
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe long warranty is one of the Kia’s best aspects, with seven years of coverage as standard