Kia Rio hatchback
Price £10,095 - £16,695
- Long warranty
- Spacious interior
- Cheap to run
- It's rather slow
- Vague steering
- Dated interior
At a glance
"The Kia Rio is an attractive, practical and thrifty rival to the Ford Fiesta with a seven-year warranty."
The Kia Rio is one of the best-looking small cars Kia has made and it also has a spacious interior, making it an appealing alternative to the popular Ford Fiesta. The Rio also has excellent economy and is easy to drive, while reliability is also spot on.
Unfortunately, vague and overly light steering means it's not as fun to drive as the Fiesta or Renault Clio once you get out of town. Instead this is the practical choice, and being quite large for its class, there's impressive space for rear passengers and plenty of stowage space around the cabin. The Rio is also available with a 1.1-litre diesel capable of a hybrid-beating 88mpg, although you will have to sacrifice some refinement and performance if you want one of the world's most economical small cars.
While it has more character than Kia's of old, many Rio buyers will simply want a hassle-free car to own, and thanks to a class-leading seven-year or 100,000 mile warranty, they should get exactly that.
Find out what we think is the best small car by watching our video below.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Excellent diesels, but the petrol engines are slightly mediocre
The star of the show is the 1.1 CRDi ‘1’ which can manage 88.3mpg and emits just 85g/km of CO2, making it free to tax. This places the Rio amongst the cleanest small cars in the UK: only the Toyota Yaris hybrid and Renault Clio Eco are greener. But, while it grabs headlines, this basic version isn’t the best all-rounder, you don’t even get air-conditioning here. More lavishly equipped versions of the same engine return between 74.3 and 78.5mpg and still cost nothing to tax.
There’s also a more powerful 1.4-litre diesel that returns 70.6mpg and 105g/km, costing £20 annually. Petrol versions include a 1.25-litre with a best economy of 56.5mpg and a 1.4-litre which is some way from class best with 53.3mpg and 124g/km, or a poor 44.1mpg and 150g/km if you choose the automatic gearbox.
The Fiesta has a more advanced petrol line-up, with the award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost the jewel in its crown, with 99bhp, 65.7mpg and 99g/km of CO2, however its advanced turbocharging and stop/start technology also means it costs more to buy.
Engines, drive & performance
It’s not quick but Rio has plenty of grip and strong brakes
While the Rio scored better than any other small car in the Driver Power survey, performance was its weakest area. The 1.1-litre diesel could at best be described as sluggish, with around 15 seconds required to go from 0-60mph. The 1.4-litre diesel takes 13.7 seconds. The 1.4-litre petrol is quickest, taking 11.1 seconds, while the 1.25-litre manages the 0-60mph dash in 12.6 seconds.
Performance might not be the top priority for small cars but the lack of pace could make overtaking difficult. However, the petrol models in particular are nippy enough around town and that’s where the car is likely to spend most of its time.
The Rio is quite wide and has a firm suspension, so it feels stable and secure when driving around bends even with several passengers on board. It’s also perfectly happy at higher speeds, where powerful brakes give you plenty of confidence. However, the steering is very light and lacking in feel. That means that it’s good for parking but isn’t as fun to drive as the precise Fiesta and Clio, both of which feel more at home on twisty country roads.
Interior & comfort
Not too many frills, but it’s comfortable and useful
Small cars are getting bigger, and few more so than the Rio. This extra size means the Kia is surprisingly good over long distances, with little of the wind noise or buffeting which can make some small car owners nervous of motorway trips. Choose a petrol engine if you like a quiet car - the small diesel engine is quite loud under acceleration. There’s no choice of suspension setup and the ride is quite firm but it rarely makes life too uncomfortable as larger bumps are dealt with adequately.
The interior is plain and functional with neat silver highlights but some of the plastics are a little dull and not particularly tactile. At least there aren’t as many confusing buttons as you’ll find in a Fiesta, but it also feels a bit dated next to the Clio and Yaris, which have touchscreen infotainment systems.
Visibility is generally good thanks to large windows and an upright driving position but the wide windscreen pillars can cause a blind spot at some junctions and the small back window makes rear parking sensors a desirable option.
Practicality & boot space
Very spacious with useful cubbyholes and sockets
The Rio is one of the largest cars in its class with excellent headroom, so it can carry ferry four adults in comfort or even five for shorter journeys. We think the added practicality of the five-door makes most sense, because it’s a little harder to climb into the back of three-door models. Although the three-door has longer doors making it easier to climb into the front – as long as you’re not in a tight parking bay.
The boot measures 288 litres, which is very close in size to the Fiesta and Polo, but smaller than the taller Honda Jazz, which boasts 379 litres behind its rear seats. The Rio’s seats split and fold to reveal 932 litres of cargo space, but there is a step caused by the folded seats that makes it hard to slide items into the extra space. The rear boot lip is also quite high to lift items over.
The Rio is one of the best cars of its type for interior storage with a large glovebox, doorbins and a handy slot in the dashboard for your mobile phone or sunglasses. There’s also a large area in front of the gearlever for your wallet or MP3 player, while some versions even get 12-volt chargers and USB ports here to keep your gadgets charged up.
Reliability & safety
The top-rated small car as voted for by you
Kia has won an excellent reputation for reliability, which saw it hold on to 7th position in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, ahead of brands like Porsche, Audi, BMW and MINI. Out of 150 cars, the Rio was rated 6th for reliability.
While the Kia doesn’t feel particularly upmarket, it does feel built to last and there isn’t much complicated technology to cause headaches in the future. Even more reassuringly, Kia still offers one of the best warranties of any manufacturer, lasting for seven years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
You can’t fault the Rio’s safety, with five stars from Euro NCAP, including an impressive 92 per cent score for adult occupant protection. Six airbags are included, along with technology to help prevent the car sliding and improve stopping distances in emergencies.
Price, value for money & options
Well-equipped, but its infotainment system needs updating to compete
The entry-level Kia Rio ‘1’ costs a few quid more than a basic Ford Fiesta but comes with steering wheel audio controls, front and rear electric windows, remote central locking and stop start with the diesel engines. The trim level ‘1 Air’ adds air-con, while ‘VR7’ includes 15-inch alloy wheels and an enhanced interior with leather and silver highlights. Trim levels ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘4’ progressively add more creature comforts, including cruise control, and even a heated steering wheel, keyless entry and leather seats on the range-topping model.
These are impressive features, but the Rio is starting to feel dated compared with the latest Yaris, Polo and Clio, which feature touchscreen infotainment systems offering sat-nav and controls for vehicle functions. The Polo now features the same set-up you’ll find in the Volkswagen Golf, which brings a very upmarket feel to its cabin.
The Kia isn’t expected to hold onto its value over time as well as the Polo, but its long warranty and excellent performance in surveys including Driver Power could bolster resale values.