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The Top Gear car review:Kia Rio
For:Feels lively. Warranty and servicing. Space.
Against:Road noise. Odd equipment list. A bit boring.
What is it?
The Kia Rio is the Korean company’s mainstream supermini. Their UK operation is pitching it against the Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 208 and Skoda Fabia.
It comes only as a five-door. Three-door supermini sales are falling away, so Kia didn’t reckon one of those was worth the bother.
You’ll spot the characteristic Kia ‘grille’ between the headlights, even though it’s not a grille at all but a blank gloss-black shape. The real grille is below. Beyond that, design is pretty restrained. It’s very well surfaced and shows no awkward spots. But on the other hand it’s short of distinction. Superminis are usually more expressive. A Clio or 208 or Corsa is instantly recognisable. The new Rio, not really.
This might be an issue for Kia, because although it’s the company’s best-seller globally, here in the UK the old Rio underperformed. For instance, the Sportage gives Kia a big share of the crossover sector, but the Rio gives them a much smaller share of supermini sales. What helped the Sportage get noticed and gather sales momentum? Distinctive design, that’s what.
Inside, the cabin is similarly straightforwardly designed. It’s ergonomically efficient and has some nice details, but the overall effect is unmemorable. Centre-dash screens come in three sizes, depending on trim level.
The platform is shared with Hyundai’s i20, and this means slightly bigger dimensions than the previous Rio. Overall length is now slightly more than the supermini average.
Suspension is supermini-orthodox: struts at the front, a torsion beam behind, with an electric power steering motor mounted to the column.
It might come in only one body style, but there’s a huge range of engines. The highlight is a one-litre three-cylinder petrol unit, which already does good service in the Cee-apostrophe-d. For the Rio it’s served up in two outputs, 99 and 118bhp.
Other petrol engines are an 83bhp 1.25-litre lead-in job, and a 1.4 99bhp. The 1.4 is available with a four-speed auto – yes just four – that knocks holes in performance and economy. One for the seniors.
On the diesel side, it’s a 1.4, with 76 or 89bhp.
But to simplify the range, each of the engines is offered in only one or two trim levels.