The Kia Rio is a supermini rival to the Ford Fiesta, and has an attractive exterior style, abundant interior space and an excellent range of engines, comprised of two diesels (1.1-litre and 1.4-litre) and two petrols (1.25-litre and 1.4-litre). The smaller 74bhp diesel actually offers one of the lowest CO2 emission figures of any non-electric car in the UK at 85g/km, making it exempt from road tax. It also returns a truly excellent 88mpg in fuel economy. You can get the Rio in both three and five-door versions, both sporting Kia's wide grill and distinctive creases along the sides. As a whole package, the Rio still stands out from the crowd, even though it has been available for a couple of years. The Kia Rio comes in three main specifications – entry-level 1, mid-range 2 and top-of-the-range 3. You get to choose between three metallic colour schemes or solid white on entry-level models, with the 2 spec also getting an extra metallic colour, and the 3 offered in a total of six colours.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Kia offers one of the cleanest non-electric cars in the UK, in the Rio 1.1-litre diesel that's fitted with stop-start technology. With CO2 emissions of only 85g/km – making it road tax exempt – and economy a very impressive 88mpg, there aren't many cars on the road that cost less to run. This model also tends to get low insurance premiums, which makes it a great choice for city drivers and younger first car owners, too. But even the most powerful 107bhp manual 1.4-litre petrol model manages to return 51.4mpg in economy and only costs £100 a year to tax. The Rio also has a seven-year warranty to further reduce costs over the course of ownership.
Interior & comfort
You do get quite a lot of space inside the Rio, considering its compact supermini dimensions. There's decent head and legroom in the back seat for adult passengers, and enough space to squeeze five people back there – even if it's not advisable over long distances, when your passengers will end up cramped and grumpy. The front of the Rio is really a great place to be, though, with class-leading amounts of room – even very tall passengers should find it more than accommodating.
Practicality & boot space
Don’t be deceived by the Rio's compact dimensions – like with many modern superminis there's more space inside it than you would expect. That includes space for four adults in relative comfort, although any passengers over six-foot tall may want to think twice about squeezing themselves in the back for any long drives. In the front, you get a handy storage space for mobile phones, keys or wallets just below the heating control panel, while the door bins are a little shallow but still capable of holding a large bottle of water. The boot offers 288 litres of storage space, which is virtually the same as in the Ford Fiesta, but a high load lip does make it awkward to load heavy or bulky items into it. All models come fitted with split-folding rear seats as standard, which can be folded down flat to expand the boot space to a reasonable 923 litres. It also has a nicely tight turning circle that makes parking the Rio a doddle, even if the rear window pillars do create an alarmingly big blind spot.
Reliability & safety
The Rio made a pretty spectacular debut in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, ranking at an excellent 17th place in the list of the top 100 cars. Meanwhile, Kia itself also performed well in the manufacturer rankings, coming seventh out of 32 and besting many of its more established European rivals. All of this reflects that the Rio is one of the best-built Kias yet – and Kia's standards are getting higher and higher. In fact, Kia deliberately measured the design and build quality against other European models to be able to significantly improve the quality of the Rio over its predecessor. The result is a much-improved car that easily competes with the likes of the Peugeot 208. The only real negatives are some flimsy-feeling plastic door handles. All Kias come with a standard seven-year warranty that really does give amazing peace of mind should anything go wrong. In terms of safety, the Rio secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, scoring 92 per cent for adult occupant protection, and 86 per cent for safety assist technology. All models come fitted with electronic stability control (ESP), driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags and an emergency stop signalling system that flashes the indictors three time to warn other motorists when you stop sharply.
Engines, drive & performance
The Kia Rio certainly offers a good drive – it's not up to the standards of the Ford Fiesta, but it might steal away some customers from the Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Corsa. There's minimal body roll through corners, while the gearbox is responsive and robust. When driving on winding roads, the steering feels a bit light and vague, though, and none of the Rio models are actually particularly fast. Even the 1.4-litre petrol takes a lengthy 11.1 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph. The Rio is most in its element when driving on the motorway, however, particularly the higher-power models, with road and wind noise barely audible inside. If there is a negative point, then the firm ride lets it down, but this is quite common for small cars when driven over the UK's poorly surfaced rough roads.
Price, value for money & options
Kia's cars may now cost more than they did in the firm's bargain basement days, but the Rio still lives up to Kia's reputation for providing value for money. Even entry-level 1 specification comes very well equipped for the cost. Electric front and back windows, air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, front fog-lights, electronic stability control (ESP), and USB and aux-in ports for connecting an MP3 player, are all fitted as standard equipment. You might not be able to haggle very much with Kia dealers for your Rio – they’re still getting used to having a more premium and in-demand product on their hands – but you should still get great value for money and a better car than, say, the Vauxhall Corsa. The Kia Rio 2 model is priced at around the same mark as the Hyundai i20 and starts at £9,995 – and if you wanted to get a Ford Fiesta with a similar level of equipment, you’d have to fork out up to £2,000 more for the privilege.