What is it?
With the fourth generation of Rio, Kia has boldly set out to steal sales from five rivals – the Renault Clio, Peugeot 207, Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Polo and class-leading Ford Fiesta.
The Korean firm says it wants to sell 12,000 Rios in the UK next year. That’s an increase of about 30 per cent on its projected 2011 sales. It’s an ambitious battle plan, but with its latest generation of cars – the Rio is the fifth new unveiling in 18 months – Kia has made significant strides in quality and style.
What's it like?
The new Rio, penned by Kia’s design guru Peter Schreyer, is longer, wider and lower than the old version, although the styling is a touch less striking than that of its baby brother, the Picanto. The trademark ‘tiger nose’ grille is given an aggressive treatment, and the large headlamps and swooping roofline give the car a sporty look, with a hint of coupé to it.
It is a big car for the class. At 4045mm, it is 55mm longer than the Fiesta, for example, and the wheelbase of 2570mm is 70mm more than the previous Rio’s. As a result, the cabin has a roomy, spacious feel. The car’s occupants feel the benefit in terms of decent legroom and headroom in the front and rear, although boot space isn’t as generous as some rivals’ – at 288 litres, it is slightly smaller than the Fiesta’s.
The cockpit layout is logical, and the materials used are a major leap forward from the spartan environment of the previous, low-budget Rios. There are some minor quibbles: for example, the toggle switches for some aspects of the climate control aren’t particularly convincing in their operation, and the thick needles on the instrumentation aren’t always easy to read and smack of style over substance.
A generous level of standard kit is ample compensation. There are four trim grades. Our mid-range 2 includes items such as 16-inch alloys and front fog lights. Inside, this version has air-con, rear electric windows, wheel-mounted audio controls and leather trim on the wheel and gearlever.
Four engines form the basis of the range – two petrols and two diesels. At present, only petrol models are in the UK, and our 1.4 version achieves 51.4mpg (combined) and 128g/km of CO2, according to Kia’s figures. On our test route, which involved town centre, motorway and country road driving, the car returned 44.5mpg.
The engine packs a healthy 107bhp and pulls from rest to 62mph in 11.5sec. Torque isn’t as impressive, although the six-speed gearbox is fairly slick and the car makes solid progress on motorways, provided you keep your momentum up.
The light steering is welcome in town driving and a boon when parking but it isn’t so capable on faster, twisting B-roads, where it lacks feel and contributes to the sensation that the Rio doesn’t offer quite the same driving involvement as a Fiesta.
Should I buy one?
The thoroughly capable Rio has plenty of strengths in other areas that will catch the eye of prospective buyers, in particular the array of standard kit on offer for the money and the maker’s seven-year warranty.