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Ford, VW and Vauxhall should await the Rio’s arrival with some trepidation
22 March 2011

What is it?

It’s the new Kia Rio, billing for which hasn’t caused much of a blip in the automotive industry for the past decade. But while previous incarnations of the car haven’t been that exciting, this one does have the potential to shake up the Fiesta/Polo/Corsa segment; it’s Kia’s first attack on that area of the market since it stepped up a gear with the Cee’d.

The Kia Rio takes on styling cues from that model, plus the more recent Sportage, to further develop Kia design chief Peter Schreyer’s edgy styling. It also grows, with a wheelbase that stretches by 70mm over the old car’s. As such, it’s almost 10cm longer than a Fiesta, and more than that amount clear of the Hyundai i20. It’ll be offered as a five-door initially, although a three-door variant will follow early in 2012.

The engine line-up comprises two petrols - a 1.2 (shared with the latest Picanto) and a 1.4 - and a pair of diesels, a 1.4 and the 1.1-litre three-pot tested here. The baby oil-burner is arguably the most interesting unit of the lot - it can offer CO2 emissions of as little as 85g/km when equipped with stop-start - and while Kia has yet to confirm that it’ll make it to the UK, we’ll be surprised if it doesn’t.

What’s it like?

Our brief drive at the Kia R&D test track revealed that the Rio has grown up in more than just size. The prototype’s cabin finish wasn’t representative (we weren’t even allowed to take in-car images, despite the fact that the cabin has been revealed), but the layout and architecture made it feel like a bigger car. The rear was even more impressive, with enough leg and headroom for six-footers. Customer clinic feedback has suggested buyers are comparing the Rio with Focus instead of Fiesta, and we can see why; it’s worth noting, though, that the Rio’s 288-litre boot capacity is slightly down on that of the Ford (295).

The three-cylinder motor is far from silent, but it produces a smooth kind of rumble without any great metallic rasping. You will want to work it, because a) it’s not about to melt asphalt and b) it’ll pull all the way from 1750rpm to 4000rpm. Once you reach a motorway cruising speed, it’s an audible but non-intrusive companion; depending on your choice of wheel size, road noise is likely to drown it out.


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We had precious little opportunity to test the steering, but when we did turn it felt quite heavily weighted and nicely linear. And ride quality was acceptable on our test car’s 15in wheels (up to 17-inchers will be offered).

Should I buy one?

You can’t yet; it’s on sale in the autumn. We’d want to evaluate a full finished example before recommending any vehicle. And pricing will be key - although we’d be surprised if it didn’t end up undercutting Fiesta and Polo by a couple of grand.

But accepting those caveats, the Rio does feel encouraging. That stretched wheelbase has given it a cabin that feels more spacious than any of its obvious rivals’. The claimed economy and CO2 figures for the three-pot diesel are excellent. And Kia’s plan to offer ‘big car’ features - including keyless go, auto lights and a heated steering wheel - will allow it to tap into the booming market for ‘downsizers’, particularly if it delivers on its promises for soft-touch, more ‘luxurious’ materials.

Ford, VW and Vauxhall should await the Rio’s arrival with some trepidation.

John McIlroy

Kia Rio 1.1D

Price: £12,000 (est); 0-62mph: 16.4sec; Max speed: 100mph; Kerb weight: na; Economy: 88.3mpg (with stop-start); CO2: 85g/km; Engine: 3 cyls, 1120cc, turbodiesel; Max power: 69bhp at 4000rpm; Max torque: 119lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate


22 March 2011

Beware established players, beware.

22 March 2011

[quote TegTypeR]Beware established players, beware[/quote]

second that. Kia have turned themselves into an increasingly credible mainstream player.

From an emissions point of view this is quite some achievement, although I can't help thinking that a 0-60 time of >16s would make the car feel a bit 1970's in its performance compared to modern traffic.

22 March 2011

Any hope of the new Hyundai/Kia twin-clutch box (or other auto) in the Rio? With a 7 year warranty that would make it a downsizer's choice.

22 March 2011

[quote uk_supercar_fan]although I can't help thinking that a 0-60 time of >16s would make the car feel a bit 1970's in its performance compared to modern traffic.[/quote] But with so much more "modern traffic" on the road, 0-60 times are irrelevant with the roads as congested as they are. I had a diesel smart fortwo, 0-60 in around 19secs. Very rarely did I feel that that car was under powered in traffic. It sat at 75 on motor way, and more than kept up with traffic. So I doubt that will be of much concern to most drivers

22 March 2011

At my (very large!) company there are many people that get 'perk' cars with very occasional business travel need but mostly a daily crawl a few miles to the office and back.

They want a car at minimal cost to themselves, they don't care what it is. Has to be big enough for some family use, weekly shop etc. They have to repay the (mostly private) mileage fuel so MPG is crucial.

Car tax is list price x CO2 band. These cars will be unbelievably cheap to own on our scheme with low list price and comfortably within the 10% band and zero car tax. In fact our allowance levels will go positive on this, the company will pay the driver to own it possibly enough to negate the tax liability.

This ticks all the boxes for them. As the car ownership is 4 years, Kia getting the CO2 to 85 gives an excellent safety margin below 100 for future budgets over the 4 years putting the screws on and lowering band limits.

22 March 2011

It's safe to say that Kia and Hyundai are no longer up and coming, but rather they are the big boys. The Far East is on the rise and Korea is leading the charge.

22 March 2011

Kia go from strength to strength. But beware, any car is going to drive well on the test track where it was developed!

22 March 2011

KIA's new 1.1L three-pot sounds like a Kei car engine. Would it be offered with a CVT 'box?

22 March 2011

Its another very competitive car from the Hyundai Kia stable.The Japanese are starting to fall behind quite a bit it would seem

23 March 2011

When you consider that the Kia Pride, the Mazda 121 clone with "stylish" whitewall tyres was Kia's only model not that long ago, they've certainly come a long way very quickly.

Both Hyundai and Kia have model ranges which you'd choose because you want them, not because you can't afford anything better.

Buyers who are spending their own cash will be tempted by Kia's 7 year warranty on models which are as good as and in some cases better than models from other manufacturers.

When I decide to change my car the Rio and Picanto will be on my short list, not because they're cheaper than rivals, but because they're better than them.


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