New Kia Rio 1.4 diesel 2017 review

The new Kia Rio will be more popular with petrol power, but how does the 1.4 CRDI diesel drive?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

While the new Kia Rio gets the basics right, it doesn’t do enough to stand out in the competitive supermini sector. We take issue with the unexciting design, mixed cabin quality and so-so ride and refinement – things that could be overlooked if there weren’t so many talented alternatives out there. This diesel might sip fuel, but the 1.0-litre turbo petrol would be our choice in the range.

We’ve already driven the new Kia Rio in its petrol form, which is predicted to be the best-seller in the range. We concluded that while it was a capable if conservative supermini, the overall package left us a little cold.

However, a change in spec can often make the world of difference in a modern car – so here we’re trying the most powerful Kia Rio diesel for the first time to see if the more frugal car can deliver.

New Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDI review

This 1.4 CRDI isn’t expected to be the volume seller in the range – that honour goes to the strong and refined turbo petrols. Still, the diesel will surely appeal to private or company car buyers who intend to rack up big miles in their supermini. For them, it should prove very cheap to run, as the base 76bhp unit promises over 80mpg on the claimed combined cycle and emits just 92g/km of CO2.

We’ve got the more powerful version of the same engine here, however. Producing 13bhp more but the same 240Nm of torque, claimed fuel economy drops to a still respectable 74.3mpg, while CO2 rises to 98g/km. Despite the modest power increase, nearly two seconds is shaved off the 0-62mph time, too.

Most economical cars on sale

It behaves like a traditional diesel in the sense that it picks up quickly from just under 1,500rpm, giving the Rio a decent amount of in-gear punch. Unfortunately, it’s also like a traditional diesel when you stray above 3,000rpm, where the torque dies off abruptly and it promptly runs out of puff. There’s also noticeable clatter at the top of the rev band, although things are mostly subdued when you’re taking it easy.

It’s much more refined than the 1.4-litre diesel found in the Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia, but companies like Citroen and Mazda will sell you a similarly frugal diesel supermini that’s more willing to rev. At least the six-speed manual gearbox lets you keep the Rio in its narrow power band without too much fuss. Regardless, if it’s flexibility and refinement you want, the 1.0-litre turbo petrol offers that plus pretty decent economy.

You don’t really feel the extra weight of the diesel engine, though. Push really hard in the bends and you’ll notice it isn’t quite as keen to turn in, but most of the time it’s as composed and predictable as the petrol. The steering is direct, but lacking in feel, though body control is adequate.

Best superminis on sale

Our main dynamic complaint concerns the ride, however, which is fidgety and occasionally harsh on mixed British roads. There’s quite a lot of suspension noise over potholes, too, while road noise is more noticeable than it is in cars like the VW Polo. It means the Rio isn’t ultimately as well rounded as it should be given it’s priced to compete with the class best.

The Kia’s interior is solid and well laid-out, yet the hard and scratchy plastics that grace the doors and dash top let down what is otherwise a smart and spacious cabin.

Our 3-spec model was identical to that of the turbo petrol we’ve tried already, and comes with loads of kit including a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, man-made leather upholstery and climate control all feature too. The standard-fit 16-inch alloys fail to lift the rather restrained and plain exterior, however.

Most Popular

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini
LEC MINI Electric
MINI

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini

The conversion sees the Mini’s A-Series engine replaced with a dinky electric motor and a 20kWh battery for a range of 70 miles in the city
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 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
Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features
Audi S5
Audi

Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features

Almost every car in Audi’s line-up has received a tweak, with major updates including Amazon Alexa integration and a Sonos stereo
11 Jun 2021
New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Lexus NX - front action
Lexus NX SUV

New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain

The new Lexus NX 350h features a standard hybrid set-up, while the NX 450h+ gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 40 miles of pure electric powe…
12 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review
Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition - front
Volkswagen T-Cross

New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review

The small Volkswagen T-Cross SUV turns on the style in new Black Edition trim
11 Jun 2021
New Toyota Land Cruiser 300 revealed with six-cylinder petrol and diesel power
Toyota Land Cruiser - front
Toyota Land Cruiser

New Toyota Land Cruiser 300 revealed with six-cylinder petrol and diesel power

Six-cylinder engine line-up and clever new suspension tech for the new large Toyota Land Cruiser, but it’s not destined for the UK
9 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet 2021 review
Mercedes E 300 Cabriolet - front
Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet

New Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet 2021 review

The soft-top Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet gets the same updates as the saloon and estate variants
10 Jun 2021
New Genesis G80 2021 review
Genesis G80
Genesis G80

New Genesis G80 2021 review

Is the new Genesis G80 a worthy competitor in the executive saloon segment?
9 Jun 2021