Kia's biggest global

player grows up

Kia Rio, 2017, pair
Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDi First Edition, 2017, front, action
Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDi First Edition, 2017, rear, action
Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDi First Edition, 2017, boot
Kia Rio 3 1.4 CRDi, 2017, front, static
Kia Rio 3 1.4 CRDi, 2017, rear, static
Kia Rio, front action 2
Kia Rio, dashboard
Kia Rio, instruments
Kia Rio, rear seats
Kia Rio, sat nav
Kia Rio, side static

HUMMING along a country lane lined with some of the most expensive houses outside the billionaires' belt of central London there was time to reflect on what you really need from a car.

The driveways to left and right often answered that question with two words - Range and Rover, with possibly Porsche as a backup if Sir was already on his way to the City.

Neither of those badges provided cars that their owners actually needed, but they sure as heck wanted them. Enough to pay a king's ransom for the privilege.

Back down in the real world, away from the hunting grounds of the Home Counties, we were driving the latest examples of a car that would answer most of a rich man's needs.

A rich woman's too, come to that. Either gender would quickly see the advantages of a car that did what was asked of it without pretentions, didn't break the bank and was actually pretty decent to drive into the bargain.

Wouldn't impress the neighbours peering through their neatly manicured laurel hedge, of course, bit the newest Kia Rio is a car to consider for all that.

A bit longer and wider than the just succeeded third generation with the same name, this latest one is a bit lower but roomier in the back and comes with a usefully enlarged boot.

More doors as well, with the three-door option of the old model ditched for five-doors only as hardly anyone ever asked for one of the lesser portalled ones anyway.

Prices start at £11,995, which represents a £1,050 hike over the equivalent old car but Kia insists, with the stats to prove it, that you get more for your money now.

The Rio is an important player for the Korean car maker, its best seller in fact with almost 475,000 sold globally each year, although we well off Brits buy more of Kia's dearer machines (Sportage SUV and c'eed hatches) to make it our local favourite. We still bought 12,000 of them in 2015, the Rio's best year here.

This rival to the likes of Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa comes in ten versions with a choice of four engines, three gearboxes and four trim levels, including a highly specified First Edition at a gently eye widening £17,455 and perhaps the car to park in the au pair's space on the drive next to the Range Rover.

The engines include a new-to-Rio three-cylinder 1.0 litre petrol unit in two power outputs (99 or 118bhp and up to 62.8mpg and 102g/km officially), and a 1.25 and 1.4 litre petrol and a couple of 1.4,litre diesels, not unexpectedly boasting the best economy in the range, with up to 80.7mpg and 92g/km.

The days when a car manufacturer could get away with a stripped out starter model are long past and Kia's entry level grade 1 cars come with goodies like air con, front electric windows (and auto function for the driver's side), electrically adjusted and heated door mirrors, cornering lights and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

Next up in the pecking order are - logically - grade 2 cars. Kia expects them to be the most popular price point (£13,745 for the likely biggest selling 1.25 litre version) and no wonder.

Standard kit expands to include 15-inch alloy wheels, electric windows all round, DAB radio and six-speaker sound system, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, cruise control and automatic emergency braking.

Move up to a grade 3 car (from £16,295 for a lower powered 1.0 litre model) and you'll add niceties like sat nav, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, heated front seats and steering wheel (!) and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity and Bluetooth with voice recognition.

At the top of the Rio mountain sits the £17,445 First Edition that really layers on the luxury. Alongside 17-inch alloys are smart key entry (keep it in your pocket or purse), LED rear lights, convincingly leather-like trim and stainless steel pedals.

Out on the roads paved with gold (actually not quite, deep in country squire commuter land on the Rio's press launch) the version that impressed the most was a 1.0 litre petrol in lesser powered (£14,545) guise.

It rode notably better on its smaller wheels than a dearer, larger wheeled model - although still with some underlying spikiness - and felt sprightly and full of beans while showing 45mpg after a modestly enthusiastic spin.

A higher powered 1.4 diesel (£17,245 in grade 3 trim) was quiet, rode well but showed a mildly disappointing 50 mpg over the same route.

Most Rio buyers will stick with petrol and it's easy to see why. If they can stretch to the new 1.0 litre version they will surely still be smiling as their seven year or 100,000 mile warranty nears its end.

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