The Rio is Kia's entry in the supermini class and a great alternative to the Ford Fiesta. Introduced last year, it continues Kia's march upmarket and benefits from smart, contemporary styling, generous space inside and an appealing engine range – two diesels (1.1-litre and 1.4-litre) and two petrols (1.25-litre and 1.4-litre). Of these, the smaller, 74bhp diesel is one of Britain's lowest-emissions cars, at 85g/km, meaning you can enjoy road-tax-free motoring. It also delivers a claimed 88mpg iin fuel economy. Both five-door and three-door versions of the Rio are available. The Kia is now one of the most distinctive supermini's on sale today with its wide grill and distinctive creases down the sides. The overall effect is to give the car a look that makes it stand out from the crowd without being too odd to put some buyers off. All models come with a choice of three metallic colours and solid white, with the 2 spec getting the choice of another metallic colour, and the 3 offered in a total of six colours.
Looking to steal buyers away from the Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo, the Kia Rio drives well but cannot compete with the Ford Fiesta's high level of driver enjoyment - but it probably wasn’t designed to do so. The gearbox feels solid and body roll is well controlled through most corners and compares favourably with the previous model Rio. The steering can feel a bit vague on twisty roads, however, and fills you with a lot less confidence than Ford's popular supermini. None of the Kia Rio models are very fast – the focus is entirely on economy, the 1.4-litre petrol going from 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds. The Kia is really good, however, on the motorway, especially the higher-power models. Road and wind noise are kept to a minimum, which gives the Rio the feeling of a bigger car. If it's let down by anything, the ride – as is common with many smaller cars – is a bit firm over poorly surfaced roads.
The Rio's interior is very spacious for a supermini. The rear seats have good leg and headroom and the low transmission tunnel means that carrying five people is easy. The front cabin is a great place to travel, too – up-front the Rio has class-leading amounts of room and even very tall people will find it more than accommodating. Six footers may struggle during long journeys sat in the back, but for shorter jaunts the rear is a very comfortable place for most people.
All Kias come with a seven-year warranty that provides total peace of mind should anything go wrong. In general, Kia does well in reliability surveys with the Kia Sportage achieving 22nd place in the 2012 Drive Power survey, so we expect the Rio to do well in the next poll. Build quality and design has been benchmarked against other European models and Kia have noticeably improved the quality of the car over the previous model. As a result, it's is much improved, easily matching the standard of rivals such as the Renault Clio or Peugeot 208. The only obvious issue with quality came from the plastic door handles, which didn’t feel very robust.
Despite its compact proportions, there's generous space in the Rio for four adults. Only on longer journeys will rear passengers over six foot have any complaints. Up front, the heating control panel sits above a useful storage area for mobile phones, keys or wallets and, although shallow, the door bins will hold a large water bottle. The boot is a useful 288 litres – almost identical to the Ford Fiesta's, although a high lip makes lifting heavy items in and out more difficult. All specifications come with split folding rear seats that raise the luggage capacity to 923 litres. Parking the Rio is easy thanks to its tight turning circle, although the rear window pillars create a disappointingly large blind spot.
Value for money
Kias are renowned for providing value for money, and even entry-level models feel well equipped. Kia Rio deals may not be as subject to haggling as, say, a Vauxhall but they are great value even at the list prices.The Kia Rio 2 model is priced the same as the Hyundai i20 and starts at £9,995 - you’d have to spend £2,000 extra to get into a similarly equipped Ford Fiesta. The spec list includes electric front and back windows, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, front fog-lights, Electronic Stability Control, plus USB and aux-in ports for connecting an MP3 player.
The 1.1-litre diesel model fitted with stop/start is one of the cleanest non-electric cars on sale in the UK. Emitting just 85g/km of CO2, it's beaten only by the Hyundai i20 hatchback. It's also capable of up to 88.3mpg which makes it one of the most efficient, too. Exempt from road tax, this model attracts low insurance premiums, making it an attractive choice for city dwellers and young drivers alike. Even the most powerful 107bhp manual 1.4-litre petrol returns 51.4mpg fuel economy and only costs £100 a year to tax. The Rio has a seven-year warranty to further ease the potential strain on your wallet.