We have the 2017 Kia Rio – Kia’s car to take on the Ford Fiesta – with the new 1.0 litre T-GDi three-pot petrol and trim level ‘2’ in for review and road test.
It’s a year since Kia revealed the latest Rio at the 2016 Paris Motor Show as a replacement for a car which had become Kia’s best-selling car globally, even if it missed the same sort of success in the UK.
But that success means Kia didn’t play too much with how the Rio looks, even if it is a little anonymous, with a new grille, new headlights, bigger front overhang and a slightly longer wheelbase than the previous Rio, all conspiring to make the new Rio look a bit more purposeful.
When the new Rio went on sale in the UK earlier this year, it did so only in five-door guise, a choice of engines including the 1.0 litre T-GDi petrol engines and a healthy spec.
There was the usual 1, 2 and 3 Trim levels (plus a First Edition model) as well as more engine choices with the 1.4 diesel, 1.25 petrol and 1.4 petrol.
But we’ve had a car which perhaps has the pick of the engines – the 99bhp 1.0 litre T-GDi petrol – and the mid-grade ‘2’ trim level. It sits bang in the middle of the Rio’s offering and should be the sweet spot.
But does it have enough to take on increasingly strong competition?
Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDi ‘2’ Inside and Out
It would have been nice if Kia had managed to make the Rio a bit more dynamic looking in this, it’s fourth iteration, to take help it stand out in a very competitive sector.
That they didn’t is probably because the previous Rio worked, and sold, very well, but the new Rio does look a bit more dynamic than the last Rio, and its styling obviously appeals to Kia’s buyers so why break a winning formula?
But the Rio does look a properly convincing, grown-up supermini now, and the spec includes, in the Rio ‘2’, a decent set of 15″ alloys, folding electric mirrors, Air Con, electric windows, Keyless entry, Bluetooth, a 5″ colour touchscreen, reversing camera and Kia’s Connected Services.
The interior is, like the exterior, more about practicality and competent than stunning with funky looks and oodles of customisation. But it works pretty well.
What the Rio also has is a decent amount of space, and with its longer wheelbase it’s a supermini where you really can get grown-up in the back without surgery, and the boot – although not large in outright terms – is a chunk more capacious than you’d expect.
It’s all ergonomically sound, and the things you use – like the HVAC – are well-paced and easy to use, although the almost token touchscreen looks a bit of an afterthought and doesn’t offer even the option of Sat Nav.
It all sounds a bit like damning with faint praise, But Kia knows its marker very well, and the interior of the Rio is the sort of practical, easy to use, un-flashy environment Kia’s Rio buyers clearly admire.
Rio 1.0 T-GDi on the Road
The arrival of the 1.0 litre T-GDi three cylinder engine in the Rio is welcome, and, even in this 99bhp version, it offers a credible and appealing alternative to a diesel lump.
The three-pot is mated to a five-speed manual, and it does a good job with sensible ratios, rowing the engine along well around town and on a B-road blat. Although an extra cog would be nice on motorways.
Unlike many three-pots, the Rio’s does seem to be happier when it’s got a few revs going, but it’s plenty good enough to make brisk progress – and venture some back road overtakes – as well as provide a quite appealing three-pot noise (unless you really wring it out).
Predictably, perhaps, Kia hasn’t really tried to make the Rio engaging in the way a Fiesta is, and have focussed their attentions on making it competent and comfortable, and on the whole they’ve succeeded.
In the process Kia has crated a supermini which has fail safe handling which borders a bit on the cumbersome, but it’s only really cumbersome if you’ve been persuaded by the three-pot to tackle a B-road with real intent.
The rest of the time the handling and setup deliver a supermini with a decent ride a round town and on the motorway, and a resulting cabin ambience which does more to comfort and reassure than entice to push on.
But it all suits the Rio very well.
2017 Rio 1.0 T-GDi Verdict
The UK market is a diffuclt one in this class, because it’s a market where so many buyers have grown up with a succession of Fiestas which really are a fun drive.
So rather than tackle what the Fiesta offers, Kia seems to have taken a pragmatic approach with the latest Rio, delivering in the process a supermini which isn’t exactly dynamic or standout, but one which does everything competently.
It’s an easy car to drive, it comes with a decent spec, has more room than much of the competition and offers perfect transport for those wanting a safe, reliable, well-priced and accommodating supermini.
If your desire is for something that’s a bit of a hoot to drive, you need to look elsewhere. But if you need a supermini which is very much fit for purpose, and not trying to be a pocket rocket, the Rio could be a very good option.
Add in good residuals and Kia’s outstanding warranty, and you can’t go far wrong.
2017 Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDi Quick Specs
- Engine: 998cc, 99bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 10.3 seconds / Top Speed 115mph
- Economy: 62.8mpg – Official / 44.4 mpg – Test
- Emissions: 102g/km
- Price: £15,035
- Test car supplied by Kia UK