Functional and ergonomically sound is how we characterised the last Rio’s cabin, and neither description is misplaced in its replacement.

Kia measures itself chiefly against Volkswagen, and it’s a yardstick that manifests in sensible placement of most the car’s switchgear.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
No one has a deeper love of heated steering wheels than me, but Kia perhaps needs to rethink the grade of its covering. After a while there was a slightly sweaty pong about the cabin

The temperature and blower are controlled by knobs, as they should be, with their own digital readout (ditto), and the USB socket, which glows invitingly, is sited front and centre, while a smattering of other ancillary functions migrate to buttons on the centre console.

Kia’s improved build quality provided a pleasant surprise in the last generation, but its failure to move the game significantly on now generates pause for thought.

The cabin materials feel much like the same medley of plastics that graced the previous car, so while they’re fine to look at and touch, and apparently well secured, they are not a match for the best of the European competition.

The Rio’s cabin design is correspondingly unremarkable. Kia is hardly alone in making its touchscreen infotainment system look a bit like an afterthought, but its more successful competitors tend to at least set it against a striking swoop of dashboard.

The Rio, though, declines the opportunity to try to be aesthetically interesting in its fascia layout, choosing instead the sort of conservative look that will put off as many supermini buyers as it attracts.

While it isn’t integrated into the dashboard with any particular sympathy, Kia’s multimedia set-up mirrors the straightforward overall appeal of the Rio’s interior.

The menu system is a workmanlike effort that eschews a flashy interface in favour of easily understood icons.

There are certainly more intuitive alternatives offered by its rivals, but the Kia is unlikely to provoke many exasperated moments — even among the uninitiated. Certainly, though, it is best sampled in the upper-mid-level 3 trim tested, where you get a 7in touchscreen and all the trimmings, including TomTom-powered satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto thrown in as standard. Away from the range-topper, the display shrinks to 5in, and while Bluetooth and a DAB tuner remain standard, you can’t have the nav.

The inability to upgrade particular bits of kit from within a set trim level is a familiar feature to Kias, and to an extent it simplifies the process of choosing and specifying a car — but it does also slightly limit its offerings compared to the competition.

Nevertheless, Kia’s by-the-numbers approach pays dividends in spaciousness. The last Rio was a large car for its class, and its replacement makes even more of the advantage.

Its extended wheelbase only underlines the idea that this is a small hatchback built to accommodate adults in the rear.

The lower roofline has not significantly impinged on head room, and the largely flat bench will cater for three abreast at a push.

The boot is also adequately large for a class that tends to underwhelm in the stuff-swallowing department. Naturally the load bay’s seats-up length is not hugely plentiful at 700mm, but its claimed 325-litre capacity – a 13 percent increase on that which went before – is certainly not to be sniffed at. Much like the hard work that has gone into the marginal gains everywhere else. 

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