The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
The Kia Rio is a competitive supermini that looks good and has low running costs. It’s an affordable rival to the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.
Reasons to buy
- Handsome design
- Generous rear legroom
- Impressive standard kit
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
If you think that Kia still punts out cars that look awkward, dowdy and unremarkable, think again. The firm’s products now have enough style to cut it against any European rival, and the Rio is a good example of that. Sharp lines, compact dimensions and interesting details give the car a modern, contemporary and almost sporty look. All models have body-coloured bumpers, mirror housings and door handles, but low-end 1 models miss out on alloy wheels and a chrome grille surround. They still look pretty smart, though.
What's the interior like?
It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position in the Rio, because all versions have a height-adjustable driver’s seat and the vast majority have two-way steering adjustment. The seats themselves are a little flat and have limited lower back support, but should be fine for most. Over-the-shoulder visibility could be better, though, because the thick rear pillars block your view. However, in most other respects, it's good news: Kia does a fine line in chunky buttons and easy-to-use controls, and the dash layout is simple and logical. And, it's pretty smart inside, with every model getting a high-gloss black fascia and metallic surrounds on the air vents.The cabin generally feels very sturdy and quite pleasant, too, but it can’t match the high quality standards set by rival cars like the VW Polo.
How practical is it?
The Kia Rio is one of the larger cars in the supermini class, so there’s decent room inside for four adults, in both the three- and five-door models. Rear legroom is especially generous for the class, but how simple it is to get into the back will depend on which model you choose – it's far easier in the five-door. The boot is a good size at 288 litres, too, and it’s a nice, square shape. However, there’s a big lip that you’ll have to haul heavy items over, and you’re left with a stepped load area when you fold the 60/40 split rear seats down.
What's it like to drive?
Kia has targeted comfort with the Rio, but has come up a little short. The suspension struggles to deal with rippled surfaces, so it never really settles as much as you’d like. The handling feels stable and assured, but this is not what you’d call an enjoyable car to drive. There's lots of body roll, but the steering is the biggest culprit, because it feels very numb and the weighting is inconsistent. Refinement isn’t ideal, either: the engines are rather raucous, and there’s too much road noise.
How powerful is it?
There are four engines on offer, starting with 1.25 and 1.4-litre petrols which put out 83bhp and 107bhp respectively. The former can struggle to get going, especially when you hit a steep incline, and it gets rather noisy when you inevitably have to work it harder. The latter is a good bit more flexible, making it a more relaxed, and quieter, companion. The two diesel engines, a 74bhp 1.1 and an 89bhp 1.4, both need plenty of revs to get going and still feel a little lethargic once they do. Both sound rather loud and clattery, too.
How much will it cost me?
The Rio isn’t exactly cheap to buy, but it is affordable and represents pretty good value. The 1.1 CRDi Rio in basic ‘1’ trim steals headlines with its 88.3mpg average fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of 86g/km, making it exceptionally frugal and extremely good on the various taxes motorists face. Choose the 1.4 CRDi, and 70.6mpg and 98g/km are still not to be sniffed at. Both petrol engines will better 50mpg (provided you don’t specify the automatic gearbox on the 1.4), which is reasonable, if nothing special, for the class.
How reliable is it?
Kia is carving itself an enviable reputation as a trusted brand for reliability, partly thanks to its standard seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, which is also transferable to the next owner of the car. There have been few major faults with recent Kia models - indeed, the previous-generation (2005-) Rio is rated as well above average for reliability by Warranty Direct - leading us to expect this latest Rio will perform just as well.
How safe is it?
The Rio was awarded the maximum five stars by Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2011. It’s fitted with an electronic stability programme as standard and also gets anti-lock braking, hill assist control (to prevent the car rolling backwards during hill starts), twin front, side and curtain airbags and front and rear seat Isofix child seat anchors, as well as a tyre pressure monitoring system.
How much equipment do I get?
There are five trim levels to choose from - 1, 1 Air, 2, 3 and 4 - and all models come with Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio, daytime running lights, a trip computer and electric front windows, while 1 Air simply adds air-con to the list. Front fog lights, 16-inch alloys, rear electric windows (on 5dr models), a cooled glovebox, heated and folding mirrors and leather covers for the steering wheel, gear lever and central armrest make the 2 a considerable step-up. Go for 3 trim, and you also get a touch-screen sat-nav system, 17-inch alloys, reversing sensors, LED daytime running lights, climate control, automatic wipers, cruise control and heated front seats, while 4 adds keyless go, leather upholstery and a heated steering wheel.
The Kia Rio is a decent all-rounder that looks good, is affordable to buy and provides a lot of equipment for the money. However, it can’t match the class leaders for quality, comfort, refinement or driver appeal.