Kia Rio – Launch Report

2017’s version of the Kia Rio is now better equipped to take the fight to its rivals, as Tim Barnes-Clay found out at the car’s UK launch in Buckinghamshire.

It’s still not the most gorgeous small five-door hatchback, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the Kia Rio punches way above its weight in lots of other areas. For instance, driver comfort is great, with ample seat and steering wheel adjustment. There is no lumbar adjustment, which is normally a ‘must’ for me. However, I felt properly supported – even after an afternoon of driving around Marlow and Henley-on-Thames.

The dials in the Rio are clear and the switchgear is intuitive to operate. A modern, bright touchscreen shows the Kia is now ‘down with the kids’, and, importantly, it’s easy to use. The dashboard plastics are cheap as chips when touched, but they don’t look it, so Kia can be excused. After all, non-padded plastics are lighter – and a lighter car is a more fuel efficient one.

On the road, the all-new Kia Rio’s engines are fairly quiet. That goes for the 1.0 litre petrol as well as the 1.4 oil-burner unit. I spent my time driving the 90PS 1.4-litre diesel. It’s good at pulling from low revs and very efficient, returning 74.3mpg on average. Real-world, I hit 68mpg – but that’s hardly fuel glugging – and I do tend to put my foot down. The six-speed manual gearbox isn’t the slickest, but it’s not nastily notchy either, and the steering is very light, making parking a piece of cake.

The marginally harsh ride rains on the all-new Kia Rio’s parade a bit, but it’s not appalling. The potholes on the rustic roads I was testing the Rio on were cavernous, so the Kia did sound like a bag of coal being dragged across the floor as it drove over them. Yes, I know, you’ll notice the thump of a pothole in any motor, but the Kia Rio did seem more susceptible to them than the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta – both of which I’ve driven over similar surfaces. It’s not the end of the world by any means, just ensure you ride on the Rio’s 16-inch wheels rather than the 17-inch rims. The latter makes the Rio jittery on scarred tarmac. The new Rio also embraces corners well, with hardly any lean – and grip is first rate.

The all-new Kia Rio’s cabin offers heaps of space up front, but the rear is more constrained. Two adults will be okay, although the long of leg will not thank you if you take them for a lengthy trip. They’ll be fine in terms of headroom, but their feet will be restricted. Mind you, the latest Rio’s boot is 13 per cent larger than the outgoing model. There’s now 325 litres of load space, which is far better than the Ford Fiesta’s 276-litre offering, or the Vauxhall Corsa’s 280-litre boot.

Kia is big-hearted when it comes to equipment, too. It’s distributed across four trims – called 1, 2, 3 and First Edition. All Rios get air conditioning, front electric windows, Bluetooth connectivity and LED daytime lights. Head for the ‘2’ and you get a reversing camera, DAB digital radio, an infotainment screen and alloys. Move up to the ‘3’ and replica leather seats, a larger infotainment screen, and Apply Carplay and Android Auto are chucked in. Finally, the ‘First Edition’ adds extra embellishments, such as a smart key entry system, 17-inch alloy wheels, black and red faux leather seats and LED rear lights.

The all-new Kia Rio might not be the most eye-catching car, but it offers low running costs, lots of kit, a pragmatic cabin – and a large boot. On top of that, the 2017 Rio comes with Kia’s well-regarded seven-year warranty.

Pros ‘n’ Cons

  • Equipment √
  • Efficiency √
  • Boot Room √
  • Traction √
  • Dull Looks X

 Fast Facts (Rio ‘3’ 1.4 CRDi 90PS 6-speed manual ISG- as tested)

  • Max speed: 108 mph
  • 0-60 mph: 11.6 secs
  • Combined mpg: 74.3
  • Engine layout: 1396cc 4-cylinder turbo diesel  
  • Max. power (PS): 90
  • CO2: 98 g/km  
  • Price: £17,245