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First Drive

Kia Rio

The story:
The longest-serving nameplate in Kia’s range, the fourth-generation Rio is the Korean brand’s supermini hatchback, and the new model brings grown-up features to the small car segment

Key rival:Ford Fiesta
Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDI 99hp 3
On sale:February 2017

The Kia Rio is a fine example of just how much small cars have grown up. Comfortable, refined, well-equipped and with decent interior and boot space, the new five-door hatchback comes with a choice of four engines and four trim levels.

The Rio is Kia’s biggest-selling car worldwide, though behind the Sportage and Ceed in the UK, and the new model grows in terms of length, width and wheelbase, though has a lower roofline to emphasise the more sleek and stylish design. Boot space is up by 42 litres to 325 litres, excellent for the class, and Kia claims head and shoulder room is among the class best. Certainly two adults can be carried in the back in reasonable comfort.

The most popular engine is likely to be a revised version of the 83hp 1.25-litre petrol from the previous Rio, which joins a revised 98hp 1.4 petrol, while the most efficiency engine is the 1.4-litre diesel, coming in at 92g/km for the 76hp model, and 98g/km for the 89hp alternative. But we’ve sampled another engine new to the Rio line-up, the 1.0-litre turbocharged unit available in 99hp or, in top-spec First Edition model only at this stage, 118hp.

The 99hp car offers decent emissions of 102g/km, which puts it in the middle of the class as the Ford Fiesta gets under 100g/km, and the new Citroen C3 and Renault Clio are at 103g/km and 105g/km respectively.

The new Rio is a lesson in complete competence, in that it’s not the most exciting car to drive, but everything does its job well. Refinement, ride quality, steering and engine performance are all above average, and it makes for a car that goes about is business in an unflustered manor. Likewise, the gear shift is pleasantly solid in feel, the interior is nicely put together and laid out, and the seating position comfortable. Equipment levels are good, with the ‘2’ trim level being the one of choice. The entry ‘1’ trim gets standard air conditioning, Bluetooth, auto headlights and hill start assist, but the £1750 step up to ‘2’ trim adds 15-inch alloys, DAB radio, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, cruise control, front USB port and the autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning safety systems. Another £1750 to the ‘3’ trim brings heated front seats and steering wheel, climate control, satnav, auto wipers and privacy glass, none of which are essential on a B-segment car.

Whole life costs also pout the new Rio in the middle of a batch of cars including the Skoda Fabia, as well as the Fiesta, Clio and C3, coming in third across a 0.9p per mile span from first (Clio at 38.9p per mile) to last (C3 at 40.8p). The Rio’s residuals aren’t, according to Kwik Carcost, its strongest suit, with the 27.6% figure being the weakest of the group, but low insurance costs and decent all-round figures put it in the right ball park.

In summary, the Rio appeals not for its particular strengths, but in fact for its lack of weaknesses. That might not sound particularly interesting, but will make for a rewarding ownership experience backed up by Kia’s seven-year warranty.

The verdict

The Ioniq impresses as much in feeling like a regular model without the refinement and drive compromises of a hybrid as it does for its clever efficiency technology