7 June 2017

Review: Kia Rio

Kia’s Rio has always been a little more understated than the other models from the Korean brand, and the new one recently arrived retains that trait, writes Brian Byrne.

But there are advantages there. An evolutionary styling will wear better than something dramatic. And I’ve always thought that a small quality gem is better than a big flashy bauble.

For the latest Rio, all new, the style is clean and practical. There are recognisable previous model cues, but a close inspection of the details shows a car very much for today. The grille, lights, and under-bumper air intake are latest in the Kia design thinking, and bring significantly more punch to the front looks. The side sheetmetal is subtly sculpted and the glasshouse and rear pillar meld well together. It’s smart from the rear, with LED lights. All in all, to use a phrase I’m wont to, a very coherent production.

As the fourth generation of the car, which won the Semperit Irish Car of the Year accolade from members of the Irish Motoring Writers Association in 2011, it is a tad longer, and lower and wider than its immediate predecessor.

There’s a larger boot, with 325L capacity. The rear seat-backs, of course, fold flat, and the car has a good overall cargo-carrying ability. As it happened, I had a number of occasions during my time with the car to use that.

The overall interior design and quality of the latest Rio reflects the continuing upgrade path in both of those areas by Kia across its models range. I particularly liked the new dashboard and instrumentation layout, both of which didn’t take any special time or attention to master. (Don’t smile … there are cars which I get that require time with the manual, are not always intuitive.)

My sojourn with the Rio also coincided with a three-day trip south, during the last of which I had a 430-kilometre drive home. This proved to me that the front seats might well be the best in class, because I never became uncomfortable or tired during the journeys.

The 1.2 petrol engine was uncannily quiet, especially at idle. To the point that I sometimes had to check that I hadn’t switched it off. On the other hand, there was an amount of road noise, I suspect partly due to the Michelin tyres. And that’s not a complaint, as I do like those tyres and road noise can sometimes co-relate to good grip.

The ride comfort and handling were both as good as anything I’ve driven in the class, so I’d have no difficulty in recommending the car to anyone in the market for a supermini with more sparkle than it might seem to have on first sight.

ENGINES: 85hp 1.2 petrol; 77/90hp 1.4 diesels; 1.0 turbo petrol coming later.

EQUIPMENT: Grades LX, EX and Platinum. EX ADAS with radar-operated autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear camera. Platinum has sat-nav.

PRICING: €15,950-€20,450.

STAR RATING: 4/5.