Kia Rio 1.25 review

The Kia Rio looks to have really come of age with this fourth-generation model. Now stylish inside and out, it has the presence to make buyers look at it when they might have previously dismissed the compact Kia for the traditional choices of Fiesta, Corsa et al. Promising more space, improved efficiency, and grown up features inside, NGC takes the Rio for a spin.

Review by Chris Lilly


There are a few engine options available to Rio buyers, with a range of petrols and one diesel on offer. The 1.4 litre diesel is the efficiency champion in the range, with two power outputs available - 76 hp and 89 hp and , but the fuel type isn't as popular in superminis as it is in larger cars. Instead, the most popular engine option could be the new 1.0 litre T-GDi petrol. This is available in either 99 hp of 118 hp states of tune. There is also a revised 1.4 litre petrol available, and a 1.25 litre unit - also revised, and tested here. The 1.25 litre petrol produces 83 hp and 121 Nm of torque for a reasonable balance between power and efficiency, all while offering an entry-level option in terms of pricing. The powerplant isn't the greatest, with a number of options from rivals offering better performance and greater refinement. Compared to other models then it falls down, though Kia’s 1.0 T-GDi unit is at least on a par with rivals’ efforts, so the Rio is far from sunk before it gets into battle. The 1.25-litre petrol isn't bad though, especially when considering its value for money, where it scores well. For not much cash, you can get a Kia Rio that will get from 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds, reach a top speed of 107 mph, and buzz about the place willingly. Matched to a five-speed manual gearbox, the Rio 1.25 is well suited to buyers that stick to urban and country roads, and without much desire to tear about the place - a great number of people it must be said. The 1.25 unit will cope with motorway speeds, and easily keeps up with traffic, but it’s not at its most refined; far from out of its depth, but not the best pick for a long-distance run.


While supermini performance needn’t be super quick, there is no excuse these days for a small car that doesn’t drive well. The standard-spec Ford Fiesta for example is one of the best handling cars on the road without any sporting pretensions. At the other end of the scale, the VW Polo offers as refined a driving experience as models in at least one class above it, and sometimes two. Therefore, the Rio has some tough competition - but it holds its own well. It’s not as entertaining as a Fiesta, or as grown-up as a Polo, but it is a good middle-ground car - a Jack-of-all-trades. It doesn’t excel in any particular area of the handling set-up, but it scores highly across the board. Throw it into a corner and there is grip available for the Rio to pull you through tidily. On the other hand, the little Kia deals with the often pockmarked urban landscape well, cosseting occupants from all but the worst of UK roads. The steering is light, as you might expect from a supermini, which makes things easy in town or a car park. There isn’t much feedback, but it’s accurate and you always know where the wheels are placed on the road. It’s a good little runabout overall.


The Rio is a stylish small car as far as I’m concerned. Available only as a five-door model, there’s a bit of a bullish look to it - but not too much so to put buyers off. The four-square design creates a purposeful stance, and the Rio is certainly no wall-flower in the crowed supermini market. The design translates well to interior space, which is very good for its class. Although not a boxy design, the Rio is a squarer shape than a Nissan Micra for example, and the interior reflects this. There is a good level of occupant space in the rear, with even tall adults able to fit in the back without complaint, as both head and leg room are more than reasonable. Kids in the rear will have plenty of room, and the boot will cope with a fair amount of family kit when needed. Access is good, though there’s a bit of a lip to lift things over, but the hatch is wide and the boot space sensible both in capacity and design. It's one of the largest and most useful load areas in its class, and interior space is a particular strength for the Rio.


Kia Rio interior

The Kia Rio's new found confident styling on the outside translates well to the interior too. It's a nice place in which to sit, and the Rio brings together a number of features that make it feel as though you are in a larger car than a supermini. The seats are comfortable throughout, and the driver should easily be able to find a driving position that is 'just so' thanks to adjustment options on the wheel and chair. There is good visibility looking forward, but large rear pillars do limit the view somewhat out back. All controls have been intelligently laid out and fall to hand easily. The gear stick is in a good position, with a nice shift possible too. The majority of the controls are to be found in the touchscreen system, but there are shortcut buttons to get to various features without having to head back to a main menu all the time. Considering it's a supermini, there are a fair few buttons about the cabin too, but because they are not all in one place, it's not a messy situation. The dials are clear, though the tops can get cut off by the steering wheel if in certain seating positions. Fortunately, the central screen can display speed and other information, so it's not an issue. Build quality feels good throughout. The materials used are not of the highest quality overall, but are reasonable for the class and price. Soft touch and glossy plastics are used on the dash, but further down you'll find harder materials used - to be expected really. The switches and buttons all feel sturdy and nicely damped though, so there is no sense that the Rio is going to start rattling after a few thousand miles on the clock.


As mentioned earlier, the high scorers in this section are the diesel units, with an official figure of up to 80.7 MPG and CO2 emissions down to 92 g/km available. Apart from the 1.4 litre petrol fitted with a four-speed automatic though - with 140 g/km CO2 and 46.3 MPG - the Rio range is pretty efficient across the board. Apart from the old auto 'box outlier, the rest of the range comes in at 115 g/km or less, and fuel economy ranges from 56.5 to the 81 MPG above. The new 1.0 T-GDi will return more than 60 MPG according to official figures, and the 1.25 litre engine tested ends up with stats of 58.9 MPG and 109 g/km CO2. It's a decent score, and real world economy was around the 48-52 MPG mark, depending on driving style and route. Tax costs will be £140 across the board after the first year, with the rate for the first 12 months ranging between £120 and £160 for most of the range. The 1.4 auto will cost £200 for the first year, but all first year rates are included in the car's OTR.


Kia has fitted a few green features to the Rio to return what are good overall efficiency scores. Kia's Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) is available across much of the Rio line-up, and uses a number of sensors to make the engine, battery, starter, and alternator work together well for greater efficiency. The new 1.0 litre petrol engine uses turbocharging to off-set downsizing for increased efficiency, and the other petrol units have been revised too. The turbo unit has light and low friction parts, and a straight air intake port for improved turbo response. The combination of new and revised units show improvements across the board in terms of fuel economy and CO2 emissions over the outgoing model. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 38.


The Rio comes in four trim levels, three key specifications - '1', '2', and '3' - plus First Edition. All trim levels are well equipped, even the entry level 1, and Kia provides plenty of kit for your money. The Rio 1 gets features such as air-conditioning, front electric windows, a multi-function steering wheel, and Bluetooth connectivity. Moving up to 2 - the model tested - sees 15-inch alloys added, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear stick, electric windows all-round, DAB radio, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, USB charging ports, cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning. Trim 3 upgrades the alloys to 16-inch wheels and adds automatic air conditioning, faux leather upholstery, 7-inch touchscreen with navigation, heated front seats and wheel, automatic wipers, rear privacy glass, and Android Auto & Apple CarPlay connectivity. Finally, the First Edition includes 17-inch alloys, keyless entry and start, and LED rear lights.


Kia Rio rear

The Rio is a good supermini, with a wide range of attributes that will appeal to a number of buyers. It's not an outright market leader, but it has more than enough about it to warrant consideration - particularly for those prioritising practicality. It's excellent value for money, and Kia's design language works well on the compact car. Engines range from decent to excellent, and the handling - though not particularly engaging - does provide a comfortable ride in a number of situations.

Model tested: Kia Rio 1.25 MPi 2 Eco
Body-style: Supermini
Engine / CO2: 1.25 litre petrol engine / 109 g/km
Trim grades: 1, 2, 3, and First Edition

On-road price: From £10,505. Price as tested: £14,235
Warranty: Seven year / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars

Click here for more info about this model range

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:28th Aug 2017

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