Review and road test of the Kia Rio - Long Term Test 2
"If you're thinking of buying in the supermini segment, you may not be considering this car as an option. Perhaps you should be.."
We continue to be impressed by our dependable Kia Rio supermini long term test car. It won't be the first car you think of in this segment, but it really deserves a place on your shopping list if you're in the market for a car of this class. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Look beyond the obvious choices in the supermini segment and you might be surprised at what you'll find. Take the fourth generation Kia Rio we've been trying on your long term test fleet for the last few months. It's a smartly-styled supermini that challenges for class honours in a way that will suit sensibly-minded buyers. It's pretty spacious, easy to drive and very affordable to run, especially in diesel form or when fitted out with the brand's impressive 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol engine - which is what we've been trying. Plus prices are pitched keenly and you get a seven-year warranty. We think that it is, in short, a very competitive car indeed.
Accepted wisdom from supposed industry experts like 'What Car' appears to be that Ford's Fiesta leads the supermini sector. And since it's not the best value, the best equipped, the most practical or the best packaged model out there, this determination is presumably based on handling dynamics, the least important small car attribute for most typical buyers. With the Rio, Kia has designed a supermini around the people who will actually buy it, so it's fair to say that in the design phase, on-the-limit handling wasn't exactly top of the priority list. Even so, this still manages to be one of the better cars in the class to drive.
Which will be a revelation for customers graduating to this Kia from much earlier Rio models, though there won't be that many of them. So what'll you notice if you come to this car more familiar with a commoner supermini - a Vauxhall Corsa, a Peugeot 208, a Renault Clio, a Volkswagen Polo or, yes, even a Ford Fiesta? Well, drive a Rio for any length of time on our appalling British roads and you might well conclude that it rides better than many of its rivals. Yet there's no major penalty to pay for this when it comes to the twisty stuff. Yes, it's true that a Fiesta - but only the Fiesta - is more composed and responsive when you throw it into a corner and generally feels sharper to drive. Having said that though, the difference between the two cars in this respect wouldn't be that great if this Kia wasn't saddled with an electric power steering set-up that's still rather vague, despite recent efforts from the Korean engineers to improve it. You'll appreciate this around town though, where it facilitates a now-tighter 10.2m turning circle.
Overall then, a strong showing, which comes courtesy of the considerable efforts Kia has made in trying to improve the design fundamentals of this fourth generation model. Key to this is the creation of a much stiffer body this time round, which allows the suspension to do its work without having to compensate for flexing in the chassis structure. That, along with a set of revised spring and damper settings, reduces roll through the bends yet at the same time, you get the impressive ride quality standards we just mentioned. It takes a really challenging set of tarmac tears to properly unsettle this car.
What about the interior? Well getting comfortable at the wheel is easy thanks to plenty of wheel and seat adjustment and there's more room for front seat folk with this generation model. That's something the dashboard has been redesigned to emphasise, with straight lines supposed to give the impression of spacious width and angling that's a little more driver-orientated. The soft-touch plastic is a little shiny for our tastes, but classy silver-trimmed horizontally-shaped air vents feature at either end of the fascia and there's a clean look thanks to the significant reduction in the number of switches and buttons, courtesy of a centre stack fashioned to incorporate a more 21st century approach to in-car entertainment.
Avoid entry-level trim and this is where you'll find a colour monitor that'll deal with most of your motoring media needs, with a 5-inch display provided on mid-range models and the 7-inch touchscreen that we've been trying supplied at the top of the line-up, complete with navigation and a full suite of 'Kia Connected Services'. These include wi-fi options and an opportunity to link in your smartphone via either 'Apple CarPlay' or 'Android Auto'. My kids love it. Plus partnership with Tom Tom allows this 7-inch system to offer things like full UK postcode entry, speed camera location warnings and live updates on traffic and weather, along with fast, short or economical route planning.
And at the back? Well, as usual with a car of this kind, you'd certainly struggle to fit three fully-sized folk across the rear bench, though if that was ever necessary, the low centre transmission tunnel would make things a little easier. There's no central armrest though and, rather meanly, Kia only provides a map pocket in the back of the lefthand seat.
The boot space isn't bad though. The tailgate is light to lift and reveals a 325-litre luggage area that's one of the very largest in the supermini segment. It's swallowed plenty of mega supermarket shops - and an expensive family visit to the CostCo cash and carry store. The load bay is well shaped too, with little intrusion either from the wheelarches or the suspension turrets. Plus you get a wide opening and a low lip, though from that, there's quite a drop to the cargo floor.
So how to sum up? Well overall, we're pretty impressed with our Rio. If Kia could complete the package with a more sophisticated engine range, then the opposition really would start to worry. As it is, the impressive 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol unit we've been trying here represents just a taste of what's to come. In summary, you're thinking of buying in the supermini segment, you may not be considering this car as an option. But take it from us, you should be.
Facts at a Glance
CAR: Kia Rio
PRICES: £10,505 - £17,935 - on the road
INSURANCE GROUPS: 5-7
CO2 EMISSIONS: [1.0 T-GDI] below 100g/km
PERFORMANCE: [1.0 T-GDI 99bhp] top speed 115 mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION: [1.0 T-GDI 99bhp] (combined) 62.8 mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: six airbags, stability control, ABS brakes
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Height mm 4065/1450mm
WHO TO SEE: