REVIEW DATE: 21 Feb 2008
June Neary Checks Out Kia's economical compact family hatchback, the Rio. No fuss, few frills, but an efficient means of travelling from A to B, was the conclusion she reached.
My younger sisters are twins and when they were little, it was a case of 'first up, best dressed', or so my mum always used to joke. I feel a bit like that, figuratively speaking, working with several motoring correspondents. If there's a choice, do I get the keys of the long, low sports car? You've guessed it. However, the five-door Kia Rio, which did come my way, was a smart little car in its own class. The bright red paintwork and neat body style were more than acceptable. There were few frills or fancy bits but the stereo CD player was of very good quality and the upholstery was plain but pleasant enough. To my surprise, it was a comfortable car to drive. If I wanted something slightly larger than a supermini but no more expensive, it would certainly be on my shopping list.
The car is pretty roomy inside. The five-door bodyshape allows reasonable legroom in the back and gives a practical level of boot space. The front seats are reasonably squishy and comfortable in the style of old luxury French cars, but they aren't particular supportive in the lumbar area. Head, foot and legroom up front is no problem whatsoever and the height adjustable front seat and seatbelt anchors are a nice touch on a bargain model. The rear bench, for it would be optimistic to call it anything but, is less successful, with headroom quite pinched although a by-product of the elongated shape is very good legroom. It's ideal if you're planning on transporting the kids about.
One petrol engine is available, a 96bhp 1.4-litre unit which isn't remarkable in any particular measure yet provides competent all-round performance. I preferred the 1.5-litre diesel I tried which will reach 60mph in 11.5 seconds if you opt for the five-speed manual version or a little longer if the power-sapping four speed automatic is chosen. The manual will propel the Rio up to 110mph. Fuel economy is decidedly respectable, averaging over 40mpg in the petrol model and around 50mpg in the diesel. The ride can become a little bouncy and the car does tend to lean a bit in tight corners. Pensioners negotiating speed humps may do well to place their dentures in a glass in one of the thoughtfully provided cup holders. Nevertheless, the Rio is good fun to hustle about and the steering is light and accurate, something that has defeated the best efforts of many more prestigious manufacturers. Overall, it performed above my expectations. It's not unduly noisy and there are certainly no untoward rattles and groans that you might fear would come as 'standard' in a car at this price.
For running around town and the odd sprint further afield, the Kia Rio might not be everyone's idea of style, but it certainly stacks up against the more glamorous contenders in the class if you look seriously at value for money. If I'm honest, I would have to say that I didn't expect much from the Kia Rio. Now that I've driven one, however, I certainly wouldn't discount it. 21st February 2008
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