Kia Rio Review & Prices
The Kia Rio has a well-built cabin and efficient petrol engines, but it’s dull inside and you can have more fun behind the wheel in other small cars for the same money
What's not so good
Find out more about the Kia Rio
The Kia Rio is a sensible five-door hatch with decent space and a solid cabin. But is that enough when you consider the Rio is in the same shopping basket as the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza, Volkswagen Polo and Peugeot 208?
Next to that lot, the Rio is a bit like going out for dinner at the Ritz and ordering a ham sandwich. It just doesn’t have the same sort of pizzazz as many of the alternatives, either inside or out.
Kia has tried its best, but the Rio is basically an evolution of the sensible style set out by its predecessor. The similar face to the old car has new, piercing headlights flanking the slightly narrower ‘tiger nose’ grille while the front bumper is lower and wider, with more prominent fog light surrounds.
The cabin has seen the most significant improvements over the old model. The materials are higher quality, while mid-spec models and up have a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen and a high-definition colour display between the instruments.
There are four trim levels to choose from and the Rio’s interior quality is easily a match for the VW Polo – the benchmark of cars like this. The plastics used on most of the surfaces are soft to the touch and the fit-and-finish of every component is superb. Its design just won’t wow you like the Peugeot 208 interior would.
But if boot size wows you, you’ll be pleased to see the Rio’s is bigger than that of a Polo or Fiesta, though its rather awkward shape means it’s not quite as easy to load as those cars are.
The Rio is pretty decent but you need more to stand out in class nowadays
You can only have a petrol engine in your Rio. There’s a choice of a 1.2-litre with 85bhp, a 1.0-litre turbocharged motor with 100hp, or a mild-hybrid 1.0 turbo with 120hp.
The car’s easy to drive thanks to light controls and accurate steering, but if you love driving, though, maybe look elsewhere – the Rio is untaxing to drive but not exactly fun. Refinement and comfort are likewise agreeable but don’t rival the best models in the class. A Ford Fiesta is generally better to drive while a Volkswagen Polo is more comfortable and refined.
Ultimately, if this car’s qualities appeal to your sensible side – its industry-leading seven-year warranty, its sturdy cabin and its frugal powertrains – then it’s worth a look. If, however, you demand a little more from your car – such as a fun driving experience, desirable looks and luxurious ride quality – its rivals might be better suited to you.
If you’re more bothered about a reassuring warranty and going from A to B than going around corners quickly, check out our Kia Rio deals. If a used car is what you're looking for then check out our used Kia Rio page.
The Kia Rio has a RRP range of £13,040 to £21,980. The price of a used Kia Rio on carwow starts at £8,500.
There are four trim levels available on the Rio. Three of them are helpfully numbered – 1, 2 and 3. The higher the number, the more standard features it has. The sporty-looking GT-Line S tops the range.
The Rio is only available with petrol engines and a manual gearbox. A 1.2-litre with 85hp is available in the Rio 1 and 2. The latter is also available with a 100hp, 1.0-litre turbocharged engine. The Rio 3 and GT-Line S have a 120hp version of the 1.0-litre with a mild-hybrid system that helps improve fuel efficiency.
There are many small hatchback alternatives to the Rio. They include the Citroen C3, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20, SEAT Ibiza, Skoda Fabia, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio, Peugeot 208, Vauxhall Corsa and Toyota Yaris.
Looking at the starting prices, only the Citroen costs less than the Rio. The rest cost up to several thousand pounds more. However, that doesn’t tell the full story, because the specification and features of the entry-point models don’t match across all of these cars. Still, however you slice it, the Rio is great value for money.
The Kia Rio is perfectly pleasant to drive, but not exactly fun
The Rio’s small size and good visibility means it’s as easy to thread through town as you’d expect an urban-focused car to be. Parking is a doddle just using the mirrors but it’s made even easier in 2, 3 and GT-Line S models which have rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
The driver’s seat and steering wheel have a wide range of adjustment, so finding a driving position that works for you takes but a moment. The seat’s quite comfortable, too. The ride quality is reasonably smooth, as well. A little firm, perhaps, but not so much you get bounced around.
The 1.2-litre provides perfectly adequate performance around town and uses relatively little fuel. The 1.0-litre engines don’t work quite so well because they’re a touch unresponsive when pulling away from stationary because their extra, turbocharged power doesn’t come in until you reach higher speeds. But, whichever engine you go for, the manual gearbox feels pleasingly light and slick.
On the motorway
The 1.2-litre engine, the least powerful of the alternatives, feels out of its depth on the motorway – you have to thrash it to get up to 70mph and stay there. Both 1.0-litre engines are more than up to the task, though. You can’t actually feel much difference between the 100hp and 120hp versions, but we’d get the latter because it’s available with the more generously equipped trim levels.
It feels safe and solid enough for you to relax behind the wheel on the motorway. Cruise control is standard on all but the base model, giving you an even easier time of it. The ride is quite smooth, the interior is quiet enough. Big journeys may not seem in the remit of a car like the Rio, but we’d have no qualms about embarking on one with it.
On a twisty road
The feeling of the Rio’s steering lacks the precision you need to really buy into the car going to go right where you point it, when you point it there. It’s not dangerous in any way, it just means you can’t really engage with the car, so you’re not encouraged to make rapid progress. Which is a bit of a shame because the turbocharged, 1.0-litre engines deliver punchy performance and sound sportily raspy when revved hard.
It may not be as much fun as the Ford Fiesta, but the Rio feels reassuringly safe and stable. It’s at its best if you settle into a relaxed pace and enjoy the scenery.
The Kia Rio offers a competitive amount of passenger and boot space, although the boot isn’t as square and useful a shape as some other hatches
Small hatchbacks generally don’t suit taller people but, even so, there’s enough leg and headroom in the front of the Rio for some around six feet tall to get comfortable. The seats are quite low down, though, so anyone of that height will have to stoop quite a long way to get in. There’s plenty of adjustment in the seats, so it’s easy to get comfy.
There’s the usual array of storage space – door bins with integrated bottle holders, two cupholders in the centre console, usefully-sized glovebox, glasses holder in the ceiling. All but the base model also have a cubby hole under the centre armrest.
Space in the back seats
Space in the back of the Rio is largely dictated by how tall the people in the front seats are. There’s room for four average-size adults to sit comfortably but, if anyone taller is in the front, there may only be enough legroom for a child. There are three seat belts in the back but the car is too narrow to comfortably use them all at once – even with children.
There are two sets of ISOFIX mounts, but installing a child seat is a faff. All of this is par for the course with this type of car, though. Unless you get a Skoda Fabia, which has as much back seat space as plenty of bigger hatchbacks.
Storage in the back of the Rio amounts to nets on the back of the front seats. All but the base model also have a USB charging port in the back.
The Rio’s 325-litre boot capacity is almost exactly average for this type of car. It’s enough to pack a family’s weekly food shopping, or a couple’s week-long holiday luggage, though it is a slightly awkward not-quite-square shape and the loading lip is quite high. There aren’t any clever extra storage spaces, either. The back seats fold down – not quite flat – if you need to carry anything bigger and bulkier. Once again, the Skoda Fabia beats all comers for boot space among the small hatchback fraternity.
A simple layout that focuses on functionality, but some of the materials highlight the Rio's low price
It’s fair to say the Rio’s interior is functional rather than stylish. That’s no bad thing, though. The dashboard layout is clear and simple, so it’s easy to find whatever buttons or knobs you need. Given the low price of the Rio, it’s inevitable the materials the interior is made from aren’t of the highest quality, but everything still feels quite pleasant to use and it’s all very well put together
The entry-level Rio 1 doesn’t have a full infotainment system, just making do with DAB radio and Bluetooth. The rest have an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that’s clear and responsive. 3 and GT-Line S models also have built-in sat nav. Kia’s infotainment is easy enough to use, but we’d just connect our phone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The Rio 1 also has air con, USB and 12-volt charging ports, front electric windows, central locking and a trip computer. The Rio 2 adds alloy wheels, cruise control, a digital driver’s display, rear electric windows, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. The Rio 3 gets heated leatherette seats and steering wheel and the GT-Line S adds a sporty bodykit and front parking sensors to 3 spec.
The Rio gives very competitive fuel economy for a petrol-powered small car. According to official figures, the 1.2-litre engine can do 53mpg, the 120hp mild-hybrid engine can do 54mpg and the 100hp 1.0-litre gets to 64mpg. Driving in the real world, you should be able to get mid-40s to mid-50s pretty easily.
CO2 emissions are around the 120g/km mark. Vehicle excise duty currently costs £165 per year after the car’s first birthday. Though the CO2 numbers would usually direct company car drivers towards a plug-in hybrid, the Rio costs so little to buy that benefit-in-kind rates are actually pretty reasonable.
Car safety experts Euro NCAP gave the base model Rio 1 a below-par three star rating. It actually scored very strong marks for protecting both adult and child occupants in a crash, but it was marked down significantly for its lack of driving safety features. Happily, higher-spec models have the required features and so score a full five stars.
Safety kit on the Rio 1 amounts to several airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control. Higher-spec models add automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist and a speed limiter. The GT-Line S also has blind spot monitoring.
Kia has a great reputation for building dependable cars that are very satisfying to own. The Rio’s top five placings in a number of owner satisfaction surveys suggest it’s a pleasure to own and almost totally trouble-free. No recalls have been issued for it and you get Kia’s industry-leading seven-year/100,000-mile warranty as standard.