Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review

Published: 17 October 2011

Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

This is Kia’s new Rio, a B-segment rival for the Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 207. It costs from £10,595 to £14,895 and comes with a choice of four engines: 1.25-litre and 1.4-litre petrols, and 1.1-litre three-cylinder or 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesels. The three-cylinder diesel produces just 85g/km C02 and delivers 88mpg – better than any current internal combustion engine, including those with hybrid trickery. For now, all Rios are five-door hatches, but a three-door will come on stream in early 2012.

The Rio is an important car for Kia – the brand has ambitious plans for growth in Europe, and it sees much of it coming via the fast-growing B-segment.

So, how does this trick three-pot drive in the new Kia Rio?

Ah, sadly we don’t really know, having been restricted to a very limited test drive of a development hack earlier in 2011. The only model available at the launch was the 1.4-litre petrol. It costs from £13,095, produces 106bhp and 101lb ft, and is good for 51.4mpg and 128g/km – a near exact match for the Corsa, and more powerful and more frugal than the Polo. Road tax is free for a year, and £95 annually thereafter.

Is it any good?

There’s much to recommend the Rio. Ex-Audi man (and Kia design director since 2006) Peter Schreyer designed the Rio, and it looks great – clean and crisp and engagingly, distinctively modern. You’ve also got an industry-leading seven-year warranty, and the interior is decently spacious too: at one point we packed a family of four inside, plus a pushchair and luggage in the boot, and we didn’t feel like sardines squashed in a can – the wheelbase is 70mm longer than the car it replaces, and 81mm longer than the Fiesta, for instance. The interior is cleanly and stylishly laid out, and while the plastics can’t match, say, a Fiesta for quality, they’re not at all bad.

Having said that, a comfier seat and the option of lowering the driving position further than is currently possible wouldn’t be a bad idea.

It’s a similar price to rivals, though, isn’t it?

Yes, perhaps you could expect more of a discount versus the competition, but Kia has targeted high levels of specification instead: even the entry-level ‘1’ trim level gets daytime running lights, Bluetooth, front electric windows and an MP3-compatible radio and CD player.

How does the Rio drive?

It’s fine, but certainly not class leading. The ride can feel a little under-damped and unnecessarily firm, and the 1.4-litre petrol – while fine for zipping around town – is short of puff when you call for acceleration at motorway speeds; journalists bemoan the march of turbos, but this is one instance where some forced-induction puff would add some much-needed zest. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Rio is its electronically assisted power steering – it’s inconsistently and strangely weighted and doesn’t really deliver any sense of connection with the driver.

On the plus side, the Rio is still quite agile and noise levels are well suppressed at speed.

Verdict

After sampling the excellent Picanto earlier this year, we had high expectations for the Rio – the Picanto is incredibly cohesive and simply delivers everything you need in that class. The Rio is more of a mixed bag: its style, equipment, warranty, frugality, emissions and spaciousness are all spot on, but the price isn’t as enticing as you might expect – a basic 1.4-litre Fiesta is over £1000 cheaper – and the driving dynamics are outclassed by the competition.

This isn’t a bad car, but, for us, it’s Kia’s more familiar B-segment rivals that still win out.

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Specs

Price when new: £13,095
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1396cc 16v 4-cylinder, 106bhp @ 6300rpm, 101lb ft @ 4200rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 11.1sec 0-60mph, 114mph, 51.4mpg, 128g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1248kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4045/1720/1455

Rivals

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  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review
  • Kia Rio 1.4 (2011) review

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator