The Kia Rio has been with us for quite some time, but it’s always been an understudy to firm favourites such as the Ford Fiesta and the Vauxhall Corsa. The new model is here, but can it help to level the playing field? I spent the last week with the limited-run range-topping First Edition, which starts from £17,585. I’ll agree that’s not cheap, but is it worth your hard-earned cash?
Design and Styling
The latest Rio looks pretty sharp and I rather like the styling. This model has the optional ‘Blaze Red’ metallic paint finish, which looks rather fetching. It’s certainly better looking than the ‘Sienna Brown’ finish that comes standard with the car. Speaking of standard features, the First Edition hosts a chrome surround on the gloss black plastic grille, 17″ alloy wheels and a two-tone interior of black/burgundy.
The LED rear lights look sharp and the sharp crease that stretches above them helps to create some dynamic lines. Other than that, the back isn’t overly exciting, but I wouldn’t call it ugly either. Going back to the interior though, the dash also features the same two-tone design, although I was hoping for a more premium finish for a car of this price. The plastics are rather hard and scratchy, which was a tad disappointing if I’m going to be brutally honest.
(4 / 5)
The dash materials may be a little below par, but it is home to a decent sized infotainment system that packs plenty of features and is easy to navigate. In truth, the First Edition comes armed with a plethora of kit, but I suppose you’d expect it to, given its pricetag. The infotainment system will offer drivers features such as DAB radio, Bluetooth, navigation, and smartphone integration.
On top of this drivers will also be able to enjoy faux leather seats, the front of which are heated, heated steering wheel, climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic lights and wipers, rear facing camera with parking sensors, keyless entry/start, autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning. So it’s clear that the Rio’s generous specification is one of its biggest strength.(4.5 / 5)
Space and Comfort
The faux leather seats are a nice place to sit and the fact the front ones are heated makes them even sweeter. There is a decent amount of space in the front and getting a good driving position is made simple by a seat with decent adjustment and a steering wheel that follows suit. As you would expect from a family hatchback, there is plenty of headroom in the front, but the rear is a little tight.
With the driver’s seat set for my 6 foot 2 frame, taller passengers will find legroom on the tight side although there will be a decent amount of headroom to counteract this. The Rio now only comes in 5-door guise, which adds further practicality, although those looking for a sportier 3-door will be disappointed.
The Rio may be behind the Fiesta and the Corsa in the car sales rankings, but an area where it’s able to get some brownie points is in the boot department. With the rear seats up, you’ll be able make use of 325 litres, which is by no means class leading, but it’s almost 50 more than the Fiesta and the Corsa. It’s nice and deep, but it does mean there is a lip, which could be awkward when you are negotiating heavy bags. Fold down the rear seats and you will be able to enjoy 980 litres of room, so it should meet the needs for most families.
What’s It Like To Drive?
The First Edition comes with a three-cylinder 1.0 litre petrol unit which is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox and produces 118bhp. This means you can expect a 0-60 time of 9.8 seconds and a top speed of 118mph. I personally think it’s a decent little engine, it’s nice and fizzy around town and thanks to the 6-speed manual it’s not out of place on the motorway.
I was pleasantly surprised by the pulling power of the 1.0 litre engine and when you really open the taps you’ll think the 9.8 0-60 is somewhat pessimistic. However, most of the oomph comes around 4,000 revs and after that all you’re really greeted with is extra engine noise as the needle climbs to 6,500 revs. Mind you, there is still some enjoyment to be had by taking the Rio all the way to the redline.
The manual gearbox isn’t bad although I found it wasn’t the most precise when I wanted a quick downshift and it was vague at times. The steering is pretty decent though – it’s nice and light around town but it gets heavier with speed and it’s certainly not the worst tool for directing the Rio in to a bend.
Having said that, the Rio is not really a car you will enjoy throwing in to corners and it lacks the dynamic driving personality that has made the Ford Fiesta so popular. The body roll is noticeable and the ride is not brilliant. It’s a bit too busy for my liking and it can feel rather unsettled. Having said that, I had no real complaints on the motorway, but on country lanes you will find the ride a bit of a distraction. It’s not desperately uncomfortable, but it was a bit of a bugbear.
On paper, the 1.0 litre engine looks to be rather frugal, but in the real world where there is traffic, hills and wind, you’ll find the official figures impossible to achieve. For example on the motorway one should be getting almost 68mpg, but in practice I hit an all-time high of 47. The same applies to a combined journey – with the lightest feet possible I was able to muster around 45mpg – quite a way short of the official figure of 60.1.
At that is when I was trying – the engine is actually rather nippy, so I found it was quite enjoyable grabbing the Rio by the scruff of the neck and forcing the needle to the redline. Obviously this kind of spirited driving is going to have an adverse effect on the economy. 107g/km are emitted the the 1.0 litre GDi engine, meaning that drivers will pay £140 for the first year and then the same amount each year thereafter.
(3 / 5)
Kia has definitely stepped its game in the last few years and the new Rio is evidence of that. It’s stylish and it offers a healthy level of equipment but it’s still lacking in areas and it’s not the best car to drive. It’s in a very competitive segment and despite its level of kit, I cannot help to think that the Rio in this trim level is a tad overpriced. The Rio is by no means an unattractive proposition, but it’s not quite as attractive as the it rivals.
Car Obsession Rating (3.5 / 5)
- Plenty of kit
- Stylish design
- Decent sized boot
- Fizzy engine
- Busy ride
- Average economy
- Not the most engaging to drive
- A tad overpriced
The Fiesta has been a big hit for many years in the UK, so the Rio would need to do something special to take away the its crown. The range-topping Fiesta is cheaper and offers a better drive, but it does have slightly less kit.
The Corsa is another car popular with UK buyers, plus for some buyers it may hold stronger badge appeal compared to the Rio. The range-topping model is about the same price and comes with a similar specification, however sat nav and keyless entry do not come as standard.