This is the new Rio, Kia’s B-segment rival for the Ford Fiesta. It’s 20mm longer, 25mm wider and 15mm lower than its predecessor. More importantly, though, its wheelbase is also extended by 70mm to 2570mm – significantly more than the Fiesta’s 2489mm.
It’ll be on sale as a five-door hatch in the third quarter of this year, the three-door following in early 2012, and two petrols and diesels will be available: 1.4-litre 108bhp and 1.25-litre 84bhp petrols and 1.4-litre 89bhp and 1.1-litre 69bhp diesels.
We’re driving the 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel, with 69bhp, 119lb ft and 94g/km in the manual trim we’re sampling, or just 84g/km with the four-speed auto.
What are your first impressions of the 2011 Kia Rio?
Well, it’s a tricky one. Even though the Rio has already been unveiled in Geneva and we’re tucked away at Kia’s Namyang proving ground in Korea, our test car is still sporting full camouflage, while the interior panels are pre-production lash-ups.
Judging by the show car, though, it’s a sharp looking thing. And there’s certainly plenty of room in the back – six footers can sit behind six footers with room to spare – and there’s bags of headroom too, even though you’re perched too high on the front seats. There are also 288-litres of boot space – just 62 litres shy of a Golf, though we couldn’t actually access the boot due to that heavy camouflage. Nonetheless, the space is more comparable to cars in the class above.
There are also six airbags as standard – Kia is aiming for a five-star NCAP safety rating.
Bin-bags and prototype trim aside, does the new Kia Rio drive?
Another tricky one – our test drive amounted to two lengths of an empty Olympic swimming pool. But I can tell you this: the three-pot diesel does have that typical thrummy character exhibited by all threes, but it’s a little loud and coarse and not very quick at all – the Polo Bluemotion’s comparable powerplant is better, and we’d sooner have the petrol three-pot from the Kia’s Hyundai i10 sibling.
As far as we can tell, the Rio’s ride is pretty compliant, but the steering feels dead and heavy for a car so small, and, when we swerved in and out of the lane, the body didn’t feel particularly well controlled. There was also quite a high level of wind noise – presumably down to the camouflage – and the manual gearbox crunched into third.
Forward visibility is okay despite the swooping A-pillars, but the chunky C-pillars make seeing over your shoulder tough.
With such a short drive in a pre-production mule, it’s hard to draw any serious conclusions from this drive. There are many plus points to the Rio: the excellent interior and boot space for the class, the frugal running costs, good safety equipment and decent value for money.
We know the production car will be more cohesive, but judging from this early drive, we’d bank on the Hyundai i20 or, better still, the Ford Fiesta being superior.