The Kia Rio is an inexpensive supermini that more than punches its weight. June Neary tries it.
Will It Suit Me?
My only previous acquaintance with the Kia Rio was many years ago and it's an experience I've tried to scrub from my mind. It wasn't particularly edifying. I remember a car with suspension that seemed to be made of Victoria sponge and upholstery that generated more static electricity than a Van der Graaf generator. Therefore you can understand that when I was informed that I would be running a Rio for a week, I was hardly jumping for joy. When it arrived I was very pleasantly surprised. It looked very modern, the interior styling was neat, it was well equipped and build quality immediately seemed better than the much more expensive Alfa Romeo I'd just been driving. Call me impressed.
The Rio competes against cars in the Fiesta and Corsa class so it needs to be very good to even feed at the scraps from this particular table. Fortunately it looks to have what it takes. At this point, I should confess that the Rio and I didn't get off to the most harmonious start. I reached over to put something in the boot and managed to get a carpet burn from the parcel shelf edge right across the bridge of my nose. Things had to get better after that. There's a decent amount of space in the front seat and the driver's seat and the steering wheel are multi-adjustable. The seats are firm and the rearward visibility isn't particularly good. Shorter drivers might find reversing round a corner a bit nerve-wracking. The boot isn't long but it's fairly deep and measures 288 litres in all. There's a nice soft-touch pressure pad that you use to open the tailgate and the doors all shut with a reassuring thunk. Rear seat space is more than adequate for a six-footer to sit behind a six-foot driver.
Behind the Wheel
The Rio that I tried was a 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel. Although it only generated 81bhp, that's plenty for city duties and Kia has worked hard at engine refinement at low engine revs, that part of the power band you'll be using in urban areas. The 0-62mph of 16.4s looks a bit yawn-inducing but the torque figure of 162Nm means there's more zip than the sprint figure suggests. You have to work the gearbox to extract it though. The steering is crisp and accurate, the brakes powerful and body control is very good. The ride is fairly firm in a manner that's not unlike a Volkswagen Polo. The major controls are very well planned and I particularly liked the tab switches that control the air conditioning and the heated rear window. The stereo system was also very good with both aux-in and USB inputs.
Value For Money
Kia might be positioning the Rio affordably in the supermini sector but it hasn't stinted on kit. In the UK, standard safety equipment includes electronic stability control, six airbags and 'active' front seat head restraints, to protect against whiplash injury in a rear impact. A system called Emergency Stop Signal alerts following drivers that the car is slowing rapidly. Sensors detect when the driver is braking suddenly and hard, and then automatically flash the brake lights three times. This level of safety provision presents a challenge that will have many big name manufacturers revisiting their plans. The 1.1-litre diesel I was driving managed 88.3mpg and emits 85g/km of carbon dioxide. Perusing the price list shows that Kia would want around £12,000 for this model which doesn't seem at all exorbitant.
Could I Live With One?
There aren't too many vehicles which are easier to live with than a Kia Rio, especially if you're the one footing the bill. There are a couple of minor annoyances with this car, of which the poor rear three-quarter visibility and the slightly weak engine would be my primary complaints but otherwise the Rio puts in a very strong performance. It looks really smart and is very nicely equipped and finished. For the money it seems churlish to complain.