Kia Rio

The Essentials

  • Price from £9,995
  • What Car? says: 3 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 88.3mpg
  • What is it? The Rio keeps up with the best superminis in most ways, so be a brand snob at your peril


  • Value-tastic - one model offers 88mpg!
  • Seven-year warranty will help you sleep at night
  • Spacious, comfortable and well equipped


  • Diesel engines need plenty of whip-cracking to get going
  • Not as much fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta
  • Rear window offers letterbox-like visibility
  • Drive

    Not as fun as a Ford Fiesta, but strikes a good balance between road-holding and comfort. It's impressively quiet, too

  • Inside

    Easy to get comfortable and operate the controls; difficult to see out of the narrow rear windscreen

  • Safety

    Very respectable: six airbags and stability control are standard

  • Reliability

    Kia has outperformed both Volkswagen and Ford (and BMW and Merc for that matter) in recent reliability surveys, and there's a seven-year warranty

  • Space

    Excellent space for a car of this size but the high boot lip and folding rear seats that leave a stepped floor are annoying niggles

  • Standard and extras

    All versions get electric front windows and iPod connectivity, for air-con, alloy wheels and shiny chrome trim on the grille opt for 2 trim

  • What's it like to drive?

    The Kia Rio comes with a choice of two petrol engines - a 1.25 and a 1.4 - and two diesel engines - a 1.1 and 1.4. All of them produce too much noise and vibration, but in different ways; the petrol models become very vocal at higher revs, but the diesels are extremely clattery at any speed. They're tuned for sensible economy rather than seat-of-your-pants driving thrills, so no Rio is particularly quick. We'd recommend going for the 1.25, because it's cheapest to buy and reasonable to run.
    The Rio's suspension is a little on the firm side, so it doesn't ride as comfortably as its best rivals. This does help the body stay well controlled in corners, and there's also plenty of grip to make it feel even more secure. Sadly, the numb steering leaves you feeling disconnected from the road - there's too much travel in the wheel before it actually helps the car change direction. Still, at least it's light at low speed, which helps when you're parking.

  • What's it like inside?

    The Rio has a comfortable driving position and offers plenty of adjustment. It's roomier than many rivals - four adults will fit comfortably - so it's a practical choice for a small family. The boot is a useful size, too, and bigger than that in a VW Polo.
    We have a few grumbles - the rear windscreen is narrow and flanked by thick pillars, so the view out is like looking out of a letterbox. There's also a high boot lip to haul your stuff over, and if you fold the rear seats flat, you're left with a big step in the floor.
    Basic '1' models do without air-conditioning, but do come with Bluetooth, MP3 connectivity and electric front windows. For air-con, go for the 1 Air' model, and to add alloy wheels and shiny chrome trim on the grille, opt for '2' trim.

  • How reliable is it?

    The latest Kia Rio doesn't feature in the JD Power ownership satisfaction survey, but the previous generation didn't fare so well. It finished bottom of the Supermini table last year, and came in the bottom five in the most recent survey. Mechanical reliability was also considered to be average, but hopefully things will improve with the new model.
    The Kia scores well for safety equipment, though. It comes with six airbags and stability control to stop you skidding off the road, which helped the Rio score an impressive 92% and 84% for adult and child occupancy safety in the Euro NCAP crash tests. Isofix child seat anchor points are standard, too.

  • Should I buy one?

    Kia no longer feels like a budget brand, but it still represents good value. As well as being cheaper to buy (and better equipped) than many rival superminis, most versions offer impressive fuel economy, and come with Kia's seven-year, transferable warranty.