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Kia Rio ‘2’ 1.2 Dpi

Rio – beautiful beaches, beautiful people, beautiful music and, of course, beautiful weather. Unfortunately that isn’t the Rio I’m going to be reviewing. The subject of this piece is the Kia Rio, the Korean firm’s wallet-friendly small hatchback.

It’s certainly not as glamorous or exotic as the Brazilian metropolis but it’s a lot easier to get to your local Kia garage than it is South America so it’s swings and roundabouts really.

Kia are looking to even things up a little – compared to its rivals, not the South American city – with the introduction of the fourth generation model.

Kia Rio 2021 (52999585)
Kia Rio 2021 (52999585)

It sits on a new platform and turbocharged engines have been utilised in the pursuit of improvements to the interior, in terms of both practicality and quality, and the driving experience. This, then, is a very different car to the one it replaces.

At the front the new Rio sports the firm’s signature tiger’s nose grille above a bumper that is both lower and wider than before. There’s new wheel and colour options, new safety kit, 48v mild hybrid engine technology and a clever iMT electric clutch that I’ll explain in more detail later.

Are all these changes enough to thrust the Rio to the top of the class? Let’s find out shall we?

Kia Rio 2021 (52999592)
Kia Rio 2021 (52999592)

Let’s start by exploring inside. AS I’ve touched on, Kia were keen to improve cabin quality and, for the most part, they’ve succeeded. Given that value is also high on the prerequisites, however, you won’t find many areas covered in squishy materials. In fact, apart from a soft dash, most of the surfaces are constructed from hard plastics.

It’s all bolted together properly and everything feels robust and built to last but there’s still some areas that look and feel a little on the cheap side but, given the price point that the Rio sells at, it feels like a reasonable trade-off.

No one should have any trouble getting comfortable as there is plenty of adjustment both in the seat and the steering wheel (reach and rake). There’s no option for adjustable lumbar support but the seats do provide reasonable lower-back support without it.so it shouldn’t prove a deal-breaker.

Ergonomics are excellent and all the controls feel nicely damped when you use them.

Kia Rio 2021 (52999625)
Kia Rio 2021 (52999625)

Space. It’s a useful commodity, particularly in a small car and the Rio boasts a decent amount of it. Front-seat passengers have lots of room for heads and legs but might occasionally find themselves bumping elbows.

There’s lots of useful storage in the front too. The door pockets will hold a bottle of your favourite non-alcoholic beverage while there’s a pair of cup holders between the seats and, in ‘2’ trim and above, a cubby between the seats. There’s also a couple of useful shelves below the air con controls that are big enough to hold even the largest smartphones.

Visibility out of the front is good thanks to relatively slim front pillars while the window line remains relatively level from front to back giving you a decent view out of the sides.

Kia Rio 2021 (52999747)
Kia Rio 2021 (52999747)

The opposite is true at the back, however, where thick rear pillars and an awkward window shape make reversing troublesome. Life is made a little easier by the fact that all but the base ‘1’ trim models are equipped with rear sensors and a rear-view camera as standard.

Rear-seat passengers fare reasonably well too. Headroom is good and the relatively small hump in the floor means that there’s enough space to put their feet. With a pair of taller people in the front there might be a few knees in the backs of seats and trying to squeeze a third adult across the rear bench might prove just a little too cosy for some but, overall, cabin space feels competitive.

There’s space in the rear door pockets for drinks bottles.

Kia Rio 2021 (52999639)
Kia Rio 2021 (52999639)

The boot is a decent shape and is fitted with a number of hooks and lashing points to help you secure your luggage. With the 60/40 split folding rear seats in place it will carry 325 litres while that rises to 980 with them stowed away. One thing worth noting is the sizeable drop from the boot opening to the floor, with another large step to negotiate when the rear seats are folded away. It makes loading heavier items and shifting them around just a little more difficult.

You don’t get the choice of a digital dashboard like you do in some of the Rio’s rivals but the analogue dials are clear and easy to read.

Entry-level models have to make do with a tiny 3.8in monochrome infotainment display. Other models get a significant upgrade with a full-colour 8in touchscreen that boasts wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well the rare ability to connect to two mobile devices simultaneously: One for phone calls and the other for multimedia playback though, to be honest, I’m struggling to image a case where this might be useful. Still, choice is rarely a bad thing.

Kia Rio 2021 (52999741)
Kia Rio 2021 (52999741)

You get some very useful physical shortcut buttons beneath the touchscreen that allow to switch quickly between functions and the onscreen menus are simple to use and responsive. Top-spec ‘3’ and GT-Line S cars add sat nav to the mix.

Entry-level grade ‘1’ Rio’s get a basic four-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, a DAB radio and USB and aux connections in the front, while stepping up to grade ‘2’ nets you a more powerful six-speaker sound system and an additional USB charging port in the back.

The engine line-up starts with a 1.2-litre petrol-powered unit that produces just 83bhp. Next is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with either 99 or 118bhp. The more powerful of the two is a mild hybrid that adds a small battery and electric motor to gently assist the engine.

My review car was fitted with the least powerful engine but, despite the meagre output, it fared reasonably well at motorway speeds although, as you can imagine, it wasn’t in a hurry to reach them. Overtaking has to be planned well in advance or, better still,a voided altogether.

Kia Rio 2021 (52999635)
Kia Rio 2021 (52999635)

It’s most at home pottering around town when expectations, like speeds, are lower.

Refinement is generally good. Work the engine hard and it will make itself heard but, whether cruising or speed or tackling urban traffic, the cabin is generally reasonably hushed aside from a bit of wind and road noise on motorways. Few small cars are oases of calm at 70mph anyway, so the Rio’s performance here is about on par.

The Rio doesn’t possess particularly supple suspension At low speeds the imperfect surfaces of urban roads can be felt a little too keenly through the base of your seat while potholes can send a real thud through the car. Things do get better as speeds increase but even on roads that look flat you’ll still encounter more vertical motion than in the Rio’s rivals.

Kia Rio 2021 (52999643)
Kia Rio 2021 (52999643)

The flipside of running with firmer suspension is that the Rio handles tighter corners with some composure, staying impressively upright through challenging country roads. Its quick steering lends it an agile edge too, though you’ll want more power than the engine under the bonnet of my review car to begin to make the most of that quality. There is, however, very little feedback from the front wheels which does reel in the fun factor a degree.

The new Rio is a huge improvement on the car it replaces. It’s not without its flaws – a fidgety ride and uninspiring handling among them – but there’s plenty of space for passengers and luggage, a class-leading warranty and, in ‘2’ trim and above, it is well-equipped. Most importantly of all, perhaps, the price is still right.

Kia Rio ‘2’ 1.2 Dpi

Price: £15,850 OTR

Engine: 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Max power: 83bhp

Max torque: 122Nm @ 4,000rpm

Max speed: 108mph

Fuel consumption (WLTP) mpg

Low: 40.9

Medium: 52.3

High: 57.6

Extra High: 44.8

Combined: 49.6

Emissions (CO2) g/km: 130

For more information visit www.kia.co.uk

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