From £12,1356
Practical, well equipped and inoffensive to drive, but not as cheap as it needs to be to compete with such talented rivals

What is it?

There’s something refreshingly unpretentious about the Kia Rio. It doesn’t present itself to the class with brash claims of sporting ability, premium feel, or any of that. Based on the 2016 Hyundai i20, fitted with decent equipment and a new turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine (available in 99bhp guise with a five-speed manual gearbox as well as the six-speed, 118bhp version tested here), the Rio simply seems to do the small car job well, and without fuss. 

Whether that’s enough to make it worth your wedge of cash, or more likely the circa £150 monthly payment that the Rio will be available from, is what we’re here to find out.

What's it like?

Everything about the Rio feels eminently fit for purpose but nothing more. The three-pot motor thrums along quietly when you’re pottering around and delivers a progressive rate of acceleration right through to around 4000rpm. Keep going past that and it starts to get very buzzy and feel strained in a way that something like a Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost engine doesn’t. So while the Rio is just as fast and flexible in everyday stuff as its rivals, there isn’t the enjoyable, goading-you-on character that the Fiesta – and indeed the Mazda 2 1.5 and Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI – count in their favour. The shift on the six-speed gearbox is a bit vague, but the leggy sixth gear means you can sit on the motorway at fairly low revs.

Handling is a similar story. The steering is light and quick enough to suit about-town wheel twirling, and it weights up at higher speeds to deliver a reasonably confident front end. For all that, there isn’t any of the vim and vigour that the aforementioned competitors offer. So as long as you’re just after a stable, inoffensive drive, the Kia does the job.

Ride comfort is a bit disappointing. It’s adequate most of the time, but on the 17in wheels of our First Edition test car, you get a rather lumpier ride than you might expect around town, albeit with a soft-edged initial bump absorption.

The cabin is a strong point in the Rio. Sure, some of the plastics on the door cards and around the window switches feel cheap, but in this class, that’s to be expected, and generally the variety of textures look and feel pretty good.


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The 7.0in colour touchscreen and nav system in our car were great: user-friendly and with all the media functions you’d want, including Apple CarPlay, although you only get this on '3'-trim cars and up, in which form the Rio is more expensive than many of its rivals.

Impressively, two average-sized adults can settle comfortably in the back, even behind a taller driver, and the boot is a really good size, albeit with a huge drop to the boot floor over the load lip.

Should I buy one?

Sadly, the only trim you can get this engine with is the limited-run First Edition, which you’d be a bit mad to buy, given the price, even taking into account the full-fat media system, heated leatherette seats and steering wheel and other luxury car features.

We had a brief spin in the 99bhp, five-speed Rio, which is much cheaper and still generously equipped in '2' or '3' trim and feels much the same to drive in most situations. The problem is, even at that more moderate point in the Rio range, the Skoda Fabia stacks up just as well financially – if not quite a bit better if you want sat-nav – while also being better to drive and just as roomy inside. Meanwhile, the Mazda 2 and Ford Fiesta are much more fun, if not as practical.

Which brings us back to the fact that the Rio is fit for purpose and entirely inoffensive, but – except for the tempting seven-year warranty - it’s also outclassed on some crucial fronts.

Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDI First Edition

Location Buckinghamshire; On sale Now; Price £17,445; Engine 3 cyl, 998cc, turbo, petrol; Power 118bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 126lb ft at 1500-4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1160kg; 0-60mph 9.8sec; Top speed 118mph; Economy 60.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 107g/km, 20%; Rivals Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta



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30 January 2017
Over 17k!


31 January 2017
If this is a pig, then care to tell me what a Yaris, Micra, Corsa and Fiesta would resemble?

So you seriously believe Kia's designs lag behind the competition's?

The reason why Kias are selling well in the UK is precisely because of their eye-catching styling. If you think otherwise then you really need get your eyes examined.

31 January 2017
People buy Kias because of the warranty don't they? The styling etc of this is okay but there are so many interesting competitors. The warranty is the only thing that stands out, though I wonder how many people buy it because of this and sell it aafter three years.

30 January 2017
To go for "First Editions" or loaded over the top versions, but this, surely, is a good looking car, if a bit conservative. On the same day as Autocar reviewed the mad, bad, pensioner carrier Honda, which is fugly from every angle, what the Rio should say to Honda is "for goodness sake, sack your designers and hire in a European"

30 January 2017
Not quite sure why Kia has asked £17500 for a top of the range s Rio,especially as it's £8k over the entry level model,can't see it selling too many at this price myself,these over equipped and over priced "First Editions" are getting rather out of hand with this sort of money being asked.

30 January 2017
As said by some comments above this is not a bad looking car but its also nothing really special. Kia should have been more radical and braver with there design for this instead of been so conservative. Kia can,t rely on there 7 year warranty to attract customers forever they need to make cars that are good to look at,stylish and fun to drive.

31 January 2017
Good looking, if a little bland. I'd imagine a level 2 at around £13-14k would make a good case for itself once you've had a haggle and taking into account the 7 year warranty and 5yrs servicing for around £500 upfront. I'd agree with the above regarding First £17500 its just too expensive and ultimately, will have no stronger residual than a standard level 3. Leatherette?? Imagine jumping in there on a hot summers day in shorts or a short skirt.....I can feel my skin blistering now!

31 January 2017
The car looks good, the interior as well - the car drives fine at moderate speeds and is refined as well. Most folks probably don't notice the issues Vicky is talking about. Except the price -- expect 'em to hackle on the price. The car probably with some discounts sells well enough.

31 January 2017
As in the stupidly written "I am a clever auto journo" article about the new Civic comes another blunder. As a UK buyer is it not important to know WHERE each model entering the UK (or made in the UK) is coming from?? The Rio is a top seller along side the Solaris in Russia. Indeed they go down the same production facility in St Petersburg so I know this car very well. It is absolutely the little bullet proof dogs body that the Datsun was coming into the UK 40 years ago - except the game has moved on considerably, but its the same idea. Make it reliable make it pretty and different and flog it at a good price with sufficient standard kit to attract cheap muggins through the swing doors

31 January 2017
Is this Rio made in Russia and imported into the UK ???


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