When a car is a brand-new arrival, even if it’s a cooking hatchback, it’s common for it to garner attention at fuel stations and in traffic.
You can spot other road users sparing it their attention. Some cars, though, are immune to such treatment and the Kia Rio seems to be one of them, which seems a shame because, to the eyes of most of our testers, it has very tidy styling, with some neat touches and attractive proportions. But overtly distinctive? Evidently not.
It is, however, longer, wider and lower than the Rio it replaces, to improve the dynamics, interior volume and appearance. As seems to be the accepted supermini norm, the Rio now nudges just beyond four metres long (at 4045mm), some 70mm of which is an addition to the previous model’s wheelbase, increased to improve cabin room. That it is 15mm lower overall is part of the desire to improve the styling; if you want a tall, small Kia, there is now the Soul and the Venga.
The size increase has come, Kia says, with no weight increase. The lightest Rio (the 1.25-litre three-door) is claimed to weigh exactly 1200kg, the heaviest (1.4-litre CRDI three-door) 1334kg. Fully fuelled but otherwise empty, we weighed a 1.4-litre three-door at 1165kg. Not too much shame in that – particularly considering it’s 75kg under Kia’s official 'EU' claim - but we’d prefer it if more superminis were closer to a tonne.
Kia’s 1.4-litre ‘Gamma’ petrol engine produces 107bhp - a particularly competitive power output considering the capacity - and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, as does the 1.4-litre diesel and the 1.1-litre diesel. The 1.25-litre petrol only gets a five-speeder. An old-tech four-speed automatic is offered for anyone who insists on having only two pedals, but only with the 1.4-litre petrol engine in mid-spec trims.
Suspension is entirely conventional for the class, with MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear.
The power steering is electrically assisted, but that’s the only nod towards energy-saving ancillaries that comes as standard. Automatic stop-start, a part-time alternator and energy-saving tyres are optional, but packaged up as EcoDynamics technologies, they come as standard on the diesels.