- Max Speed
There are about 50 different small cars. How do most of them ever scrabble to the top of anyone’s list? It’s all very well for a Polo or a Fiesta: they come from well-known brands with huge dealer networks, lots of faithful customers and, most of all, they’re absolutely brilliant. The old Rio was anything but, yet it sold a
few thousand every year.
So the new one will inherit those buyers, who want its industry-leading warranty (buy now, and it’ll be almost 2019 before it runs out) and reputation for reliability. It’ll be well placed against reliable Japanese superminis – like the Yaris and the Jazz – with a core customer base of people who’ve retired to towns that end in -mouth: Bourne, Teign, Tyne, Great Yar.
This story would be truly compelling if I could now tell you the new Rio wildly over performed that niche and was as brilliant to drive as the class-leaders. It isn’t. It is, however, good enough that if someone took away your Fiesta and gave you this, you wouldn’t feel like the sky had fallen in.
The looks help, of course. It’s neatly chiselled, and because the side profile has deep metal and shallow glass it looks strong, while a pyramidal cross-section makes it modern and even mildly sporty. Inside, again, it’s tidy, with a flourish of harpsichord keys for some of the climate functions. The sort of flourish that could do with being echoed elsewhere in the cabin. Still, there’s lots of room and kit for the money. Also a million useful cubbyholes, all rendered useless by not having non-slip lining, so at the first roundabout your phone, iPod and flapjack are going to career across to the passenger footwell.
Strangely for a supermini, the Rio feels at its most annoying at 40mph, where there’s a lot of road noise and a stickiness to the power steering around the straight ahead. Once off-centre, the steering is quick and the Rio feels agile. The ride, at least when there’s just me on board, is a bit busy and sharp, but it copes well with big undulations. On a motorway, it doesn’t care much for crosswinds. Basically, it’s good fun, but its dynamics don’t have the refined authority of a Fiesta or a Polo.
I had the quickest engine, a 1.4 petrol. It felt tight, but maybe that’s because it was hardly run-in. The intriguing variant is the three-cylinder diesel that gets close to 90mpg in the official cycle. It’s also 12 grand, which is a fair bit for a small Kia with no aircon, but a bargain for a very usable 85g/km eco-car.
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