The Kia Rio is a mixed bag here. Most models are as fast as they ought to be. In our test, the 1.4-litre engine and slick six-speed gearbox allowed it to reach 60mph in 11.4ec, roughly what Kia claims and perfectly acceptable for the class.
From there, performance tails off as peak power does with the other engines – but, broadly speaking, it stays competitive. The 1.2-litre petrol is next quickest model, at a claimed 12.6sec to 60mph – followed by the 1.4-litre CRDI (13.7sec) and finally by the 1.1-litre diesel (15.5sec).
There is, however, more to performance than sheer numbers, and although we would never expect a humble supermini to tug the socks from your feet, what we would like is the Rio to give the same feeling of willingness and response from lower revs that you get in some of its rivals.
This isn’t a big criticism, but while the 1.4-litre Rio has 101lb ft at 4000rpm (as much as many of its direct rivals), its engine seemingly wants to be spinning fast before it’s prepared to give its best.
It’s something that’s beginning to affect the feel of many naturally aspirated superminis. Smaller-capacity turbo petrols (you’ll find 129lb ft at low revs in the turbocharged 1.2-litre Skoda Fabia, and similar torque levels from Ford’s Fiesta Ecoboost) and turbodiesels give better low-end response.
Once you’re at your chosen speed the headline petrol Rio is fine, noise levels are low and the Kia makes a very respectable cruiser. So we are not making major criticisms here, but such is the competitiveness and tightness of qualities in this market sector that even little things count.
The 1.4-litre CRDI is more in step with the class state-of-the-art as far as diesels are concerned. It suffers with a rather flat zone at around 2000rpm, but pulls generously once you’re through that, and refinement levels are decent. It officially returns 68.9mpg and 109g/km, meaning it is broadly competitive with its supermini rivals on economy and emissions.
If economy is the main concern, the 1.1-litre CRDI EcoDynamics five-door model, despite its tiny capacity and apparently measly 74bhp, delivers respectable if somewhat uneven performance thanks to its 125lb ft of torque. CO2 and fuel consumption figures are outstanding, at 85g/km and 88.3mpg combined. For a one-off premium over a 1.25-litre petrol, those numbers should look very appealing indeed to anyone who plans to keep their Rio for a long time, and who isn’t looking for a particularly spirited driving experience.