From £12,1357
Kia's updated, fourth-gen supermini gets mild hybrid tech and boosted standard kit levels.

The Kia Rio is now one of the biggest-selling global models of the world’s third-largest car-making group, worth almost half a million annual sales. 

The car has a much greater profile elsewhere in the world than it has here in Europe, where, despite consistent sales growth, it has yet to break into the top 10 best-selling cars in the supermini class, and it remains out-sold by both Kia's Ceed and Sportage.

‘Tiger-nose’ grille is longer and thinner than it was on the last Rio. It helps to emphasise the car’s more refined and sophisticated overall look

You don’t come by a top-10 place in the European supermini sales charts easily, of course.

In order to earn one, the Rio needs to displace a more established European-built small cars, such as the Seat Ibiza, Citroën C3, Peugeot 208 or Skoda Fabia (it already sells better than the Mazda 2, Honda Jazz and Nissan Micra).

With that in mind, slowly but surely over the past couple of revisions and not at all by coincidence, the Rio has begun to feel more and more like a small car tailored to European tastes – and this latest version develops that trend.

Now in its fourth model generation and recently facelifted for the 2021-model-year, this new Rio is outwardly a match for the pre-facelifted version, although Kia claims that it has gained a little on cabin space. It was designed by teams working in parallel at Kia’s design centre in Germany and North America charged with the idea of making it look more cleanly and sharply cut, and more smoothly surfaced, than it used to. A revised 'tiger nose' front grille and bumpers are among the features new to the latest version.

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Under the bonnet, the car gets a choice of very Europe-focused petrol engines: a pair of new 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot petrols making 99bhp or 118bhp (the latter being available for the first time as a 48-volt mild hybrid), and a cheaper 1.2-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol with 83bhp. Diesel engines were discontinued for the car's 2018-model-year, and so only very briefly figured in the fourth-generation car. Both manual and seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearboxes are on offer in the Rio, depending on selected engine.

That's a powertrain lineup that promises to bring the Rio bang up to date and in line with the likes of the VW Polo, Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio on driveability, economy and emissions.

Inside the cabin there’s a new ergonomic approach to the fascia design and a focus on new connectivity features, while Kia's very latest infotainment system has now been added to the car also.

Perhaps most interesting of all, there’s even a new focus on dynamic sophistication for the Rio. Kia has trumpeted the efforts of its chassis engineers in introducing more agile handling, crisper steering, greater driver appeal and a more compliant ride.

We've tested two versions of the car so far: the 1.0-litre, 118bhp, 48-volt hybrid with automatic gearbox and highish-end 'GT-Line S' trim, and a 1.2-litre car in cheaper mid-range trim.  

First drives