New Kia Rio 2017 review

All-new version of the Kia Rio supermini arrives with its sights set on the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

In isolation the new Kia Rio is a capable supermini, thanks to a neatly designed interior, range of efficient engines and big luggage area. Unfortunately, it’s entering a market with many excellent competitors that beat it in virtually every area, so it’s a tough one to recommend. If you love driving, the Ford Fiesta is better. If it’s comfort and refinement you need, go for the Volkswagen Polo. And if practicality is most important for you, the Honda Jazz has more space.

With the likes of the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa fighting it out for the supermini crown, it’s easy to forget that the efficient, practical and sensible Kia Rio even exists. Now there’s a new model on sale – but Kia hasn’t made it that much easier to remember.

While the old model had a few interesting design touches, such as the ‘tiger nose’ grille and sharp front bumper, this newcomer features a more conservative design. Even the ‘tiger nose’, which is now a single piece of plastic and not a grille at all, doesn’t help the Rio to stand out.

The large lower grille and headlights are the design highlights, as neither the car’s profile nor its rear end stand out from other models in this class. That’s a real shame, as much of Kia’s modern range is distinctive and handsome. While the Rio isn’t ugly, it’s simply a bit dull to look at.

Best superminis on sale right now

Things improve when you hop inside, as the dashboard design is pretty good. The seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system fitted to our test car looks great and is responsive, and there are enough buttons to easily control the air-con and media functions without looking cluttered.

Although the cabin materials look solid, they’re not as high quality as in rivals such as the Polo. There are a few soft-touch areas, but while the interior looks upmarket in pictures, in reality it doesn’t feel as posh as the VW, or even the new Nissan Micra. It’s a step up from the previous model, but not quite enough to match its main rivals.

In fact, that’s pretty much how we’d describe the new Rio on the whole; while it’s moved on from its ageing predecessor, it simply can’t match similar cars in key areas. The new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, for example, is a great unit; it feels punchy, is economical and has an enjoyable, thrummy note. But the same-capacity turbos in the Polo, Corsa and Fiesta feel more flexible, are more fun and match the Kia’s economy.

The Rio manages 62.8mpg – competitive with the Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost’s 65.7mpg – and emits 102g/km of CO2, just behind the 99g/km Ford. Yet while the Kia’s engine is fairly quiet on the road, it can’t match the 89bhp 1.2-litre TSI unit available in the Polo and Fabia. It returns 60.1mpg in both cars and is extremely refined.

Other Rio engines include a 1.25-litre petrol, as well as 1.4 petrol and diesel units. The diesel is top for economy, returning 80.7mpg and emitting 92g/km of CO2 as a 76bhp manual. Avoid the 1.4 petrol automatic if costs are a concern, as it manages only 46.3mpg, which is very disappointing for a small car such as the Rio.

One advantage the Kia does have, though, is the company’s standard seven-year warranty, which is still industry-leading. It covers you for up to 100,000 miles, too.

The 1.0-litre will be the engine of choice for those doing low annual mileage, as well as keen drivers. Unfortunately, the Rio’s dull steering means it’s not particularly fun from behind the wheel, and while the chassis feels more composed than before, it’s still put to shame by the brilliant Fiesta – and the all-new Micra is more fun to drive as well. That’s not something we thought we’d ever be able to say. Our first drive in the Kia included a long motorway run, and while the Rio can’t match the Polo for ride quality and refinement, it’s not uncomfortable. It crashes over bigger bumps, though, and there’s quite a bit of tyre roar at speed.

The driving position is good, with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, although rear legroom is tight when seated behind a tall driver. Headroom in the back is sufficient to allow adults to sit up straight, however.

Boot space is one of the Kia’s real strengths, and the 325-litre luggage capacity is greater than in the Polo, Fiesta or Corsa. It’s just beaten by the Fabia, though, and the Honda Jazz has nearly 30 litres more – plus that car’s neatly folding seats are more practical.

Our 3-spec test car boasts plenty of equipment, including a heated steering wheel and seats, automatic lights and wipers, plus a large sat-nav and infotainment system. It’s well equipped, but most will prefer the better-value 2.

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e
Fiat 500 vs Honda e vs MINI Electric
Car group tests

Fiat 500 vs MINI Electric vs Honda e

The new Fiat 500, MINI Electric and Honda e are three retro-inspired electric superminis - but which is best?
19 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review
Volkswagen ID.4 GTX
Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

New Volkswagen ID.4 GTX 2021 review

VW ID.4 EV gets another electric motor and four-wheel drive in hot GTX form
21 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review
Volkswagen Caddy California MPV - front
Volkswagen Caddy

New Volkswagen Caddy California 2021 review

It’s a family hauler and weekend camper all rolled into one, but is the Volkswagen Caddy California any good?
21 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021