Carzone drives Kia's newly updated supermini on Irish roads
Pros: Very practical, improved cabin, high safety standards
Cons: More exciting rivals, unengaging drive
Kia’s new fourth generation Rio comes with improved safety tech, sharpened styling and a more refined cabin to compete in the uber-competitive supermini class for 2017. With best-sellers like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and the all new Nissan Micra to compete against, the Rio has its work cut out however. We spent a week driving the Rio shortly after its Irish launch to see how it has changed for 2017 and if it has the right ingridients for success in the ever growing small hatchback segment.
What is it like?
The last Rio was rather trendy in the looks department, so it’s surprising to note that Kia has toned down the styling of the new model for a more conservative look. Highlights include a larger grille and reshaped lights, but the overall styling of the new Rio is understated, so it will probably appeal to a wider demographic than before. Our test car is one of the higher specification models in the range, the EX, meaning it has 16-inch alloy wheels and projection headlights, however base specification Rios make do with steel wheels and standard lights.
The highlight of the new Rio is undoubtedly its interior, which feels more durable and better laid out than its predecessor. Space is plentiful up front for the driver and passenger, and there’s enough space in the rear to seat two adults in reasonable comfort. The dashboard feels nicely designed and there’s a small infotainment display in the centre console which is responsive and easy to use. Higher specification Platinum models get a 7-inch colour touch screen display but the regular display should suffice for most buyers’ needs. The Rio has excellent boot space (325 litres) and the rear seats also drop forward easily for carrying larger loads if needed.
The Rio is available with three different engines; a 1.25 litre petrol engine carried over from its predecessor, a larger 1.4-litre diesel unit and a new 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine which arrives on the market later this year. We drove the 85hp 1.25-litre petrol, and it’s a frugal package offering low running costs married with reasonable performance. The Rio’s turbocharged rivals are more fun and exciting to drive however, but the new 1.0-litre turbocharged unit will likely be the pick of the range when it arrives. Our 1.25 petrol averaged in around 5.5-litres per 100 kilometres in fuel economy with a mixture of motorway and urban driving, while annual road tax is competitive at €190. Those seeking lower running costs and covering higher annual mileage should consider the 1.4 diesel.
Out on the road the Rio feels safe and assured, but it’s not as fun to drive as cars like the Ford Fiesta on twisty back roads. The Rio is quite comfortable thanks to supportive seats and good ride quality, especially with smaller alloy wheels fitted. At speed the Rio is quiet and refined and especially so with the quieter petrol engine fitted, but it lacks the overall premium feel of the Volkswagen Polo, which is one of the leaders in the supermini space. The Rio is available with a whole host of new safety tech that will likely be of interest to family buyers, including autonomous emergency braking (ADAS), lane departure warning and a system called DRIVE WiSE, which detects hazards out on the road in real time. We were impressed with ADAS on our test car which anticipates potential collisions well in traffic situations.
Prices for the new Kia Rio start from €15,950 for the base specification 1.25-litre L petrol, which puts it in similar territory to the comparable Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris models. Base specification for the new Rio is decent, with body coloured bumpers, rear tinted windows, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth and a tyre pressure monitoring system as standard. The equipment on our EX-level test car is much more generous with a parking assist system, cruise control and 16-inch alloy wheels included, so it’s a better but more expensive bet.
Carzone verdict: 3.5/5
The new Kia Rio is a well-rounded supermini, majoring on practicality and comfort, with good refinement and low running costs too. Competition in the supermini segment is high however, and the Rio lacks the outright desirability of some of its key rivals. For example, the Ford Fiesta is more exciting to drive, the Volkswagen Polo is more refined and the new Nissan Micra is more thrilling in the styling stakes. If you are looking for a small hatchback that covers all bases well however, the new Rio is definitely a good bet.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Kia Rio EX ADAS
Prices from: €15,950
Price as tested: €19,450
Annual Road Tax: €190
Engine: 1248cc four-cylinder petrol
Top Speed: 172km/h
0-100km/h: 12.5 seconds
Transmission: Five speed manual
Body style: Hatchback
Boot Space: 325 litres