The Kia Rio hatchback is a supremely sensible supermini that's easy to drive and offers a decent amount of room for passengers and their luggage. It competes against firm favourites like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia and Vauxhall Corsa. While the Polo outshines it for desirability and the Fiesta is better to drive, the Rio is a thoroughly competent car, with a wide breadth of abilities – although it's quite slow, whatever engine you go for.
The Rio's standout feature is Kia's class-leading seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, which provides greater peace of mind than any other manufacturer can offer. The Rio is available as either a three or five-door hatchback and both offer excellent passenger space and a reasonably sized boot.
Kia offers the Rio with a range of small petrol and diesel engines. If economy is your top priority, the super-efficient 1.1-litre diesel engine can return up to 88.3mpg and is road-tax-exempt, but this engine is noisy and slow (taking 16.1 seconds to go from 0-62mph), so it's hard to recommend. The 1.4-litre diesel is a more appealing prospect. It's still capable of 74mpg and – while it's by no means fast, with a 0-62mph time of 13.4 seconds – it's easier to live with.
It's a similar story with the petrols. The entry-level 1.25-litre offers the cheapest route into Rio ownership, but it needs to be worked hard on the move, making the Rio somewhat unpleasant compared to cars like the Ford Fiesta, which is available with more modern and efficient turbocharged petrol power.
The 106bhp 1.4-litre petrol is the most powerful engine offered, getting the Rio from 0-62mph in 11 seconds – not blisteringly quick by any stretch of the imagination, but fast enough to make keeping up with traffic easy. Fuel economy of 56.5mpg means the 1.4-litre petrol is pretty economical, while CO2 emissions of 114g/km will leave you liable for just £30 a year in road tax.
The Kia Rio's firm suspension minimises body lean in corners, but it doesn’t deal with potholes and poor road surfaces as well as some cars. The steering doesn’t provide as much ‘feel’ as cars like the Fiesta, either, and it can seem a bit vague and imprecise when going around corners. On a long cruise it's comfortable enough, though, with little wind and tyre noise.
The Rio is available in four core trim levels, simply numbered from 1 to 4. The entry-level 1 is pretty well equipped, coming with DAB radio, electric front windows and Bluetooth phone connectivity, although the £800 Kia asks for the Rio 1 Air (which adds air-conditioning and little else to the basic car) seems steep.
Our pick of the range is the Rio 2, which adds alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a leather steering wheel and gearlever, as well as useful touches like a front central armrest and all-round electric windows.
In our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the Rio did well for reliability (where it came 39th out of 200 cars) and in-car technology (where it came 20th), but it was let down somewhat by a 178th-place finish for performance, something we can understand given the underwhelming engines offered. There are no such concerns over safety, however, with Euro NCAP awarding the full five stars to the Rio in its tests. It bears repeating that Kia's seven-year warranty is more than double what most manufacturers offer, so Rio ownership should be a hassle-free affair.
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