Kia Rio

Pleasing, smart-looking supermini is frugal to run

7.9
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 14 reviews
  • Smart styling
  • Roomy interior
  • Low running costs
  • Very light steering
  • Surprisingly expensive
  • Noisy engines
 

£10,345 - £17,595 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

44 - 85 MPG

Review

The Kia Rio is a small family car with a spacious interior and a comfortable ride. Its main rivals are the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and the Hyundai i20.

Prices start from £10,345 and if you buy your new Rio using carwow you can save £2,010 on average.

A facelift in 2015 improved the quality of the interior plastics and as a result the Rio feels extremely well screwed together. Only if you look really hard can you find some low quality materials, but the overall feel is that of a more expensive car. The cabin is roomy for four adults and the boot is decent in size.

With a suspension set up specifically designed for UK roads, the Rio has a nice ride and is comfortable on almost any surface. Little noise comes into the cabin at speed and the light steering makes urban manoeuvring easy.

While its rivals now sport super-frugal small petrol engines boosted by turbochargers, the Kia makes do with an old fashioned non-turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol. A 1.2-litre petrol and two diesels joined the engine line-up later in the model’s life but none of them can match the performance of Ford’s Ecoboost or VW’s TSi engines. It’s worth noting, though, that the Rio gets closer to its claimed fuel economy figures.

All models come with Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio, electric front windows and remote central locking, but you’ll have to pay more than £1,000 over the basic price to get air-conditioning fitted to the Rio 1 Air.

Keep reading to see how the Kia Rio shapes up against its competitors and have a look at our colours and dimensions guides for the Rio. Read our dedicated 2017 Kia Rio price, specs and release date article for full details on this model’s replacement. 

Cheapest to buy: 1.25-litre 1 petrol

Cheapest to run: 1.1-litre 1 EcoDynamics diesel

Fastest model: 1.4-litre 2 petrol

Most popular: 1.25-litre SR7 petrol

The build quality of the cabin is very good for a car of this type, with large swathers of soft touch plastics and some tactile and well laid out controls. It’s all easy to operate and clear and getting a good driving position is simple. However, some testers did have a few negative comments regarding some cheaper plastics on the doors.

Kia Rio passenger space

There are enough storage cubbies up front for hiding , and there’s a fairly good amount of room in the back. The seats are comfortable but not really supportive and visibility isn’t that good due to thick pillars and a relatively small rear window.

Kia Rio bootspace

The size of the boot is pretty good for a supermini too at 288 litres. For comparison a Ford Fiesta has a 290-litre boot, but a Honda Jazz has a much bigger 379-litre one. When folded the rear seats don’t form a flat boot floor and there is a relatively high boot lip, so long and heavy objects would be difficult to load. 

Thanks to the unique suspension set-up for our road conditions, the Kia Rio copes with British tarmac fairly well. The ride’s a bit on the firm side, especially on rougher surfaces, but it’s still quite comfortable. Refinement is also very good for a car of this type, with well suppressed tyre and wind noise.

The steering attracts a few negative comments through. While it’s nice and light around town, it’s a little inert and even inconsistent if you like to drive quickly down country roads and you might find yourself taking a couple of attempts at each corner. This detracts from the overall dynamic package and puts the Rio well behind some better known rivals in the fun stakes. But for most folk, it’ll do the job perfectly well.

There’s a fairly small range of engines on offer – a pair of petrols and two diesels – and all seem to excel in the same areas, being cheap to run and well suited to driving in town.

Kia Rio petrol engines

The 1.25-litre petrol is a little unconvincing with just 84hp and the 1.4-litre version makes for a much better all-rounder, with stop/start equipped models still returning fuel economy of 53.3mpg.

Kia Rio diesel engines

In terms of headlines though, it’s the 1.1-litre EcoDynamics three-cylinder diesel that grabs the attention. 74hp makes for a glacial 15 seconds 0-60mph sprint, but it also shows an 88mpg return and coughs out just 85g/km of carbon dioxide. This puts it firmly into VED (road tax) band A for a free yearly ticket. Be aware that this comes at the price of not having air conditioning, as the AC-equipped model’s figures plummet to 78mpg and 94g/km.

The 1.4-litre diesel isn’t as quick as the petrols, but has 60 per cent more torque and makes for a better cruising machine, returning 70mpg combined. However, to justify the higher price you’ll need to cover a lot of miles. 

The new Kia Rio EcoDynamics 1.1 CRDi reviews are very positive. The experts agree that it's an impressive engine in a great little car.

The critics are generally quite pleased with the Kia Rio in general, and quite a few reckon that the EcoDynamics diesel model is the best in the range. Not only is this model incredibly efficient and cheap to run, but the Rio is also surprisingly refined and pokey for an ‘eco special’ model.

Despite being a tiny 1.1 litre diesel unit with a low power output, it never feels terribly slow as there’s a good slug of torque across the rev range – many testers were surprised that by its pulling power in the higher gears. The small engine is also quite refined, so it’s quite well suited to motorway journeys.

Its main selling point, though, is the efficiency – it only emits 94g/km of CO2, so it costs nothing to tax, yet can return nearly 75 mpg. If you go without air conditioning, that figure rises to a staggering 88 mpg! However, we must point out that such figures are incredibly difficult to achieve in the real world.

Overall, the Rio EcoDynamics is a very good car with some hugely impressive economy figures. It’s not the most engaging car in its class to drive, and the feasibility of the 88 mpg claim is debateable, but it’s definitely worth looking at if you want a practical, affordable and highly efficient supermini.

There’s only one review of the entry level Rio, and it’s a fairly positive one. The critic is quite impressed with its enticing value and accomplished overall package, but still reckons that it’s still a short way off from being the outright best car in its class.

With only 83 bhp and a five speed stick shift to play with, it’s not especially quick, and the tester felt that it was a bit underpowered. That being said, the gearbox is slick and good to use, and there were hardly any complaints with the Rio’s urban manners.

If you spend a majority of your time behind the wheel in towns and cities, then the 1.25 petrol model does make a fair bit of sense.

However, if you need the Rio to be just as competent on the open road as it is at lower speeds, then we’d recommend you have a look at the other engines in the range. We'd recommend looking at the either the slightly more expensive 1.4 petrol or the super-economical 1.1 CRDi engines. They both get glowing reviews.

As befitting of a top of the range model, the flagship petrol powered Rio 1.4 gets some fairly good reviews. Critics are generally quite pleased with the engine’s refinement and efficiency, along with its fairly competitive credentials. However, some aren’t too sure if this is the one to opt for.

The 1.4 petrol motor does have quite a few good points. For starters, it’s quite a refined unit, so it’s fairly good on motorway journeys. Also, thanks to the 107 bhp and 51 mpg, it’s slightly more powerful and efficient than equivalent engines in some of its rivals. However, quite a few testers weren’t too fond of the limited pace, as you have to work the engine fairly hard in order to make brisk progress. Despite being quite a small engine the reviews say it's fine for motorway driving.

Overall, the 1.4 petrol powered Rio a good car with a decent all-round engine. It’s a fairly affordable car to run, and even with quite a few options is still a fair bit cheaper than some of its rivals. However, it is one of the more expensive Rio variants on sale, so we’d recommend having a look at the rest of the range as well.

These are general, non-engine specific reviews of the new Kia Rio. They give a nice overview as to what the car is like.

Unless you happen to be run over by one, there’s no safety concerns about the Rio whatsoever. When crash tested by Euro NCAP, the Rio scored the full five stars. It was commended on adult and child occupant protection with almost perfect scores. The standard stability and traction control systems helped it score well in the safety assists category as well.

It’s a little less rosy in pedestrian safety stakes because the top of that bow tie grille proving particularly troublesome for perambulists’ pelvises – so try not to mow anyone down and you’ll be fine.

It used to be the case that Kia and sister company Hyundai made cheaper – and cheaper-feeling – cars than the mainstream’s cheapest offerings, but there’s a lot more quality to the range these days and you’ll pay for it. 

However, even the most basic ‘1’ spec models come with a fairly decent, if not exactly amazing, amount of kit as standard that you’ll need to specify as extra on the Fiesta, pushing the two apart in the price stakes. Even though the base model is well equipped, we’d go for the SR7 trim.

Kia Rio SE

The SE trim comes with everything from the ‘1’ model – including air-conditioning – and adds 15-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, rear parking sensors, fog lights, rain sensing wipers, cruise control and heated mirrors as standard.

Kia Rio ‘2’

The next equipment level after SR7 comes with heated electric door mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, electric windows and air conditioning.

Kia Rio ‘3’

This trim level is the first of the two that in our eyes makes the Rio look quite premium and desirable – far from the what the brand image used to be a few years ago. It gets stylish 17-inch alloy wheels and striking LED headlights outside and inside – automatic air conditioning, park assist, rain sensing wipers, heated front seats and a seven inch touchscreen satellite navigation system.

Kia Rio ‘4’

The top of the range trim makes the Rio as luxurious as a any small Audi or Mercedes at a fraction of the cost. You get keyless entry with push-button start, electric sunroof, leather-upholstered seats and heated steering wheel among everything else from lesser trims. It bumps up the base price by about 25%, but it easily adds 100% more premium feel.

The entire range comes with the well-publicised seven year warranty though and all models are inexpensive to fuel, tax and insure.

Conclusion

The general consensus is that the Rio is yet another very good car from Kia. It looks great, is well built, has a surprising amount of space for a supermini and shouldn’t cost loads to buy and run.

It’s a difficult class to shine in though, as well established rivals have at least one area in which they are the very best. The Kia never manages these heights but overall it’s an accomplished all-rounder that’s certainly worth considering.

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