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Car Review

Kia Rio review

£12,730 - £18,210
Published: 30 Mar 2021


What is it like to drive?

There’s a sense in which Kia wants you to think the Rio is sporty, in perhaps the same way that someone wearing a tracksuit and trainers does, but for driver enjoyment it still falls short of the class leaders. The steering is quick, but there’s no real feel.

The suspension set-up is standard supermini fare: struts at the front, torsion beam behind, electric power steering motor mounted to the column. Kia touts the car’s stiffer body shell and retuned ride, but this isn’t a sports car.

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There’s a typically characterful three-cylinder thrum from the 1.0-litre engine – it takes a moment or two on the throttle to spool up, but it’s torquey once you get it going. Not as refined as other 3cyls from the likes of Ford and Volkswagen.

The Rio’s new post-facelift party piece is the drive-by-wire clutch combined with a 48V mild-hybrid set-up. The starter-generator motor can generate energy under braking which it then uses for extended bouts of stop/start, coasting and will even smooth out the torque curve by providing a boost under acceleration.

The electronic clutch uses a pedal as normal, but there’s no mechanical linkage here. This allows the car to switch the engine off earlier, adding to the fuel efficiency. In practice, the gearshift itself feels a little elastic and the clutch pedal is entirely devoid of any feel, but covers over any clumsiness on the driver’s part. Occasional bounciness makes you feel like you’ve got your L-plates on again.

For all the fanfare, the higher-spec Rios merely offer eco tricks rather than anything gamechanging – the engine might gain 19bhp as you move from 2 to 3 on the spec sheet, but all that new tech gains you 0.2secs to 60mph, a 1g/km CO2 improvement and exactly the same fuel consumption.

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One area the Rio could have done with some attention is in refinement – it’s terribly loud once you head away from urban roads and pick up speed along A-roads and motorways, road noise bleeding into the cabin. This is another area where the Kia falls short of rivals, but if you’re going for the budget option you have to expect economies somewhere.

Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Package is standard fit from ‘2’ spec onwards, and strangely a £350 option on the 1. You get forward collision avoidance, pedestrian and cyclist detection and lane-keep assist as part of that. There are six airbags inside the cabin too, should the worst happen.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Kia Rio 1.0 T GDi 118 GT-Line S 5dr
  • 0-629.8s
  • CO2
  • BHP118
  • MPG
  • Price£21,515

the cheapest

Kia Rio 1.25 1 5dr
  • 0-6212.5s
  • CO2125.0g/km
  • BHP83
  • MPG51.4
  • Price£12,730

the greenest

Kia Rio 1.0 T GDi 2 5dr
  • 0-6210.3s
  • CO2114.0g/km
  • BHP99
  • MPG56.5
  • Price£15,730

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