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Kia Rio 1.1 CRDi

We drive the most frugal and road tax-free version of the new Kia Rio

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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If you’re in the market for a Ford Fiesta-sized car, put the Kia Rio EcoDynamics on your shortlist. It’s one of the best cars yet from Kia – a smartly styled supermini that promises incredible economy, low tax bills and virtually no compromises. The driving experience may still trail a Fiesta’s or a Polo’s, but with the bonus of a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty, this Rio comes highly recommended.

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The new Kia Rio is one of the most impressive cars we have driven all year – and now it has arrived in penny-pinching 1.1-litre EcoDynamics guise. There are three versions, with CO2 emissions ranging from a world-best for a non-electric car of 85g/km on the 1, to this 2 model with more luxury kit at a still impressive 99g/km.

That equates to claimed average economy of 74.3mpg, but the most eco-orientated model claims 88.3mpg and a (theoretical) 800 miles between fill-ups. Road tax, not to mention London’s Congestion Charge, will be completely free for all three 1.1 CRDi models.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Kia Rio

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What’s just as impressive is the lack of trickery needed to achieve this – just the usual line-up of stop-start, low-rolling-resistance tyres, longer gearing and aerodynamic tweaks. The 85g/km 1 car gets drum brakes, a roof spoiler and ditches air-con and the rear wiper to achieve its headline figures.

With peak torque of 170Nm arriving at only 1,500rpm and a wide powerband, the Rio feels much more gutsy than its 0-60mph time of 15.5 seconds suggests. The little three-cylinder engine sounds pretty good, too, with a distinctive note under acceleration, but it’s not especially quiet when cruising.

There’s quite a bit of tyre noise, too, and the ride is always firm, but while the steering lacks the sporty feedback of a Ford Fiesta’s, the Rio still feels nimble and good to drive. 

Inside there’s plenty of space, and material quality and design approach that of the class leaders. The kit count is good, too, with six airbags, ESP and plenty of luxury kit. It’s the presence of air-con and other items that pushes CO2 up and mpg down, but not by much. And whatever EcoDynamics model you choose, you’ll be buying the best Rio in the line-up.

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