Believe it or not, the Kia Rio supermini is the Korean brand’s best-selling model. The latest fourth-generation version wades into a congested field dominated by established rivals including the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and Skoda Fabia.
On the outside, the Rio is an evolution of the style set out by its predecessor. A similar face with piercing headlights flanks the ‘tiger nose’ grille – now finished in glossy black plastic. The new Rio’s body now takes a more conventional hatchback shape compared to the last car’s quirkier outline, and to our eyes it’s pleasing but doesn’t stand out much.
The cabin has seen the most significant improvements compared to the last model. Gone are the swathes of hard black and grey plastic that covered the dash, which is now framed by a piece of body-coloured soft-touch material. The same colour transfers to the arm rests on the doors and the sides of the seat bolsters and generally helps lift the cabin ambiance.
Under the bonnet, the Rio gets a choice of 1.25 and 1.4-litre non-turbo petrol engines in lower trims or a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder petrol. Diesel buyers can pick a 1.4-litre unit with either 76 or 89hp but, thanks to its inflated purchase price compared to the petrols, you’ll need to cover really high mileages each year to make it worth it.
It’s easy to drive thanks to light controls and it’s easy to put the car where you want it. That said, enthusiastic drivers should look elsewhere – the Rio is untaxing to drive but definitely not 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 VW Polo is more comfortable and refined.
Equipment is fairly generous and simply divided across four trim ranges – dubbed 1, 2, 3 and First Edition. All models get air conditioning, front electric windows, Bluetooth connectivity and LED daytime running lights. ‘2’-grade cars get alloy wheels, DAB digital radio, a five-inch infotainment screen, reversing camera and rear parking sensors. ‘3’ adds luxuries such as faux-leather upholstery, a sat nav with a larger infotainment screen, heated seats and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The Rio is pretty decent but you need more to stand out in class nowadays
The Kia Rio is agreeable in many ways but, compared to the best models in the class, there’s little to recommend it for. Its interior quality is easily a match for the VW Polo but that car strikes a much better balance between comfort and control. Likewise, its cabin design is more modern and spacious than the Ford Fiesta’s, but that car is a genuine hoot to drive.
The 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine is commendable, with better responses and a more satisfying noise than the equivalent fitted to Ford models. Equally, while the build quality is as high as ever, the material quality has been lifted to the top end of the class – an improvement desperately needed over the grey predecessor.
Ultimately, if this car’s qualities appeal to your sensible side – its industry-leading seven-year warranty, its sturdy cabin and its frugal powertrain – then its 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.
For more information on the Kia Rio, read through the interior, practicality, driving and specifications sections of our review over the following pages. And, if you want to see what sort of offers are available on the Rio, visit our deals page.