The petrol engine is one of those that needs to be really revved to do its best work. You don’t get into a Kia Rio expecting your socks to be blown off by the performance, but downsized turbo engines with plenty of low-end torque are now commonplace in the segment and able to give even most the humdrum of models a degree of spirited performance.
So the absence of one here is noticed. Kia is listening, though, and the firm’s recently revealed 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo engine should make its way into the Rio over time.
Back to 2015 though, and while the 1.4 petrol unit here may lack spirited performance, it does at least return some decent economy figures. Something approaching 50mpg can be achieved on an average run, which is unusually close to the official figure of 56.5mpg - and that's something that can’t usually be said of a modern downsized turbo engine.
Kia’s 1.4 is also a quiet and refined unit and one that’s hooked up to a sweet-shifting six-speed manual gearbox.
Equally sweet is the ride quality of this car. It lacks the suppleness and maturity of the class's best, such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, but the Rio has a comfortable ride quality, and that’s going to be a big box ticked for potential Rio buyers.
The chassis tuning has been done with ride comfort in mind, then, but the Rio is still more than respectable when it comes to handling. Body control is particularly impressive, and the Rio turns in keenly enough. It’s never engaging – the overly light feel to the steering also helps see to that – but it's competent enough.
Other boxes the Rio ticks include a comfortable driving position, good visibility and well-matched control weights, again all things a good supermini should offer.
We knew a lot of that from the Rio before its facelift, though, so of more note are the interior improvements. It’s been a while since I sat in a Rio, but was impressed with the cabin’s general look, feel and overall perceived quality, particularly of the materials used in the key areas you’ll be interacting with.
However, the small, somewhat old-fashioned display screen in the centre console lets things down a bit, while the more tucked-away materials lack the classy finish of those you'll find in a Polo.