WITH competition fierce in the supermini class, Kia is hoping to make its presence felt with the launch of its all-new fourth generation Rio and with competitive pricing, a choice of frugal engines, lots of on-board technology and that excellent seven-year warranty the car has every chance of achieving that goal.
Admittedly the Rio is up against some stiff opposition with the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and VW Polo vying for sales, but Kia is confident the Rio, the company's global best-seller, will turn plenty of heads.
Prices start from £11,995 and Kia has ditched the three-door variant, so now the Rio is now only available with five doors.
There are 10 versions available in three trim grades called 1, 2 and 3. In addition there will be a limited run First Edition model priced at £17,445.
There is a seven-strong powertrain line-up with fuel economy up to 80.7mpg and carbon emissions from as low as 92g/km.
In addition, new Rio has improved suspension and steering, additional driver safety aids, state-of-the-art connectivity systems plus more space for occupants.
Styling the latest Rio was a joint effort by Kia's design teams in the US and Germany along with lots of input from experts in South Korea.
It is the biggest Rio yet with a longer wheel-base and that translates into more room inside. There is a longer bonnet and overhang, a lower roofline and more compact rear end.
The ‘tiger-nose' front grille is narrower and wider and there are new sculpted headlights with U-shaped LED running lights.
Move inside and the Rio's leg, head and shoulder space is among the best in its class and even the boot capacity has increased by 13 per cent to 325 litres.
The on-board technology is neatly designed and ideally positioned for ease of use.
All the connectivity options you could wish for are simply accessed via the touchscreen and there is a reduction in buttons and switches to give the car a less cluttered appearance.
The latest Rio also features USB ports front and rear to keep all occupants fully charged - another first in class according to Kia.
All cars are richly-equipped with everything included in the asking price, so there are no hidden costs.
For example, grade 1 comes with air conditioning, electric front windows, remote locking, a 3.8-inch display screen, Bluetooth, automatic lights, LED daytime running lights and plenty more besides.
Step up to grade 2 and you will see the introduction of 15-inch alloys, a leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, all-round electric windows, a digital DAB radio, 5-inch colour display screen, a six-speaker sound system, reversing camera, rear parking sensors and lots more.
The grade 3 adds 16-inch alloys, automatic air conditioning with a defogging system, black faux leather upholstery, a 7-inch display screen, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, sat nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity and Bluetooth with voice recognition.
Finally, the First Edition models, which are available for the first 12 months, feature 17-inch alloys, a smart key entry and engine start system, stainless steel pedals, black and red faux leather upholstery and LED rear lights.
When it comes to safety the new Rio has a comprehensive list of specifications and once again it is the first in its class to offer autonomous emergency braking as part of Kia's driver assistance systems. It also has lane departure warning - both of which are available on Rio 2 models upwards and as an option on Rio 1.
We tried out a couple of models on road routes comprising busy town centres, twisting country roads, dual carriageways and motorways.
First up was the 1.4 89bhp CRDi Rio 3 priced at £17,245. This car reaches 60mph from a standing start in 11.6 seconds, maxes out at 108mph, has combined fuel efficiency of 74.3mpg with carbon emissions of 98g/km.
The first thing to mention is how spacious the car is and the build quality is good too with lots of soft-touch materials within the modern-looking cabin. All the instruments are ideally placed for ease of use and the touchscreen is easy to operate too.
The diesel model had plenty of gusto and coped well with any steep inclines. The road-holding was assured which meant long sweeping bends posed little problems and the lack of any body roll was impressive too.
I did find the suspension a little firm and at times the steering seemed a tad heavy, but that aside the car coped admirably with anything thrown in its path.
The six-speed manual gearbox was smooth and, although you have to work the gears on longer hills, the acceleration and power output was generally good.
Next up was the 1.0 118bhp T-GDi First Edition model costing £17,445. This car can complete the 0-60mph dash in 9.8 seconds, tops out at 118mph, has combined fuel economy of 60.1mpg with carbon emissions of 107g/km.
With its beautifully styled interior featuring black and red seats, the First Edition certainly looks the business and the 998cc petrol engine has plenty of fizz about it making light work of hills and faster roads.
Noise levels within the cabin are raised quite a bit when the car is travelling at motorway speeds, but that aside it was a great drive. Admittedly the economy is not so impressive on the petrol model, but it's still worth considering especially if lots of stop/start city driving is the norm.
Kia describes the Rio as ‘the small car grown up' and in all honesty to compete with the big guns in its segment it needed to have quite a growth spurt.
And whilst it is unlikely to make a huge dent in the Ford Fiesta's sales figures it is a supermini that certainly has lots to offer.
To take the analogy a step further, the latest Rio is rather like the kid in school who passes all his exams and goes on to do well in life but was never really viewed as Oxbridge material.