Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDi

‘2' Eco

Kia Rio, dynamic
Kia Rio, rear quarter
Kia Rio, profile
Kia Rio, front quarter
Kia Rio, 1.0 T-GDi engine
Kia Rio, boot
Kia Rio, interior

IN the current crossover-obsessed climate it's no surprise that the Sportage is Kia's most popular model here in the United Kingdom, with the Picanto city car and cee'd hatchback also popular.

Globally, however, the upwardly mobile South Korean car maker's biggest seller is the exotically named Rio supermini - and bosses are hoping the fourth generation model launched this year will start to make a bigger impression on British buyers too.

Competition is stiff with the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and Vauxhall Corsa among the very capable rivals, with all of them bringing their own particular merits to the table.

The Rio's focus is undoubtedly on providing compact practicality in a well-equipped and competitively-priced package but, like all Kia's, it has also come on in leaps and bounds design-wise in recent years.

The outgoing model possessed much sharper lines than the two previous iterations and that evolution continues here.

The latest car is longer and lower, creating a more dynamic stance, and has a much bolder, more aggressive front end. It won't necessarily leap out from the crowd, but it is a clean, contemporary style that's easy on the eye.

Accompanying the slight expansion in length is a 10mm increase in the wheelbase which, although small, actually helps Kia boost interior space and there is improved head, leg and shoulder room in the front and back.

Four adults will be comfortable on long journeys and three will fit in the back at a pinch, with an unobtrusive transmission tunnel meaning that even the one in the middle will have somewhere to put their feet.

The boot too, is among the best in class, with 325 litres of load space on offer (37 litres more than in the previous model). This rises to a generous 980 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded down - although that does leave a significant step in the floor and there's also a sizeable boot lip to heft heavy items over.

Under the bonnet the key change to the new Rio was the addition to the range of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged T-GDi petrol engine, tuned to deliver either 99 or 118bhp.

This car sported the lower-powered unit mated to a snappy five-speed manual transmission (the higher powered versions gets six gears) which, although a little sluggish off the mark, pulls well in the mid-range and proves particularly versatile and perky in urban traffic.

There's a characteristic three-cylinder note under sharp acceleration but things quieten down thereafter and official fuel economy of 62.8 miles per gallon will appeal. I actually got closer to 46mpg during a week of real-world driving but this is still good for a petrol-powered supermini.

A stiffened frame and re-tuned suspension offer good body control and the Rio feels nimble and agile on the road - although the pay-off is a slightly firm ride.

Light and accurate steering makes manoeuvring easy, however, and the driving experience is easy and uncomplicated without being overly engaging - but this isn't designed to be a hot hatch.

The feel is one of a more grown-up kind of supermini which, according to Kia, is often bought as the only family car these days, with typical households still operating on tight budgets.

Equipment levels are certainly in keeping with larger family cars and generous for the price of the Rio.

The ‘2' grade car sits mid-range and boasted air conditioning, electric folding mirrors, five-inch colour display screen, digital radio, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, USB charging ports, cruise control with a speed limiter, autonomous emergency braking and a lane departure warning system.

FAST FACTS

Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDi ‘2' Eco

Price: £15,035

Mechanical: 99bhp, 998cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 115mph

0-62mph:10.3 seconds

Combined MPG: 62.8

Insurance Group: 8

C02 emissions: 102g/km

Bik rating: 17%

Warranty:7yrs/100,000 miles

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