The introduction of Kia’s latest three-cylinder, hybridised 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is welcome. The third-generation Rio suffered for its lack of a decent downsized motor, and in the ways likely to matter to most buyers, this new model prospers where previous incumbents floundered.
Principally this is because it fulfils the modern three-pot brief of being relatively quiet, tractable from low revs and parsimonious enough to compete with a small diesel’s running costs. And given that so much was true of the old 'Kappa' version of Kia's 1.0-litre T-GDI engine, it stands to reason that the new hybridised 'Smartstream' one (which offers decent improvements on mid-range torque as well as everything else) ought to have what it takes to impress.
And so it does. Kia's range-topping 118bhp petrol makes for plentiful performance, good response and matchingly good flexibility in the Rio; you are unlikely to want your short-hopper supermini to go much faster, be more amply responsive, or be much easier-to-drive than this.
Kia's mild hybrid system melds seamlessly with the engine, and so if you didn't know or care what it's doing for your fuel economy, you can simply get on with your driving without giving it a second thought. On a trailing throttle the car simply displays a yacht icon amid its instruments to tell you that it's 'sailing' along without burning any fuel. Otherwise you wouldn't notice.