REVIEW DATE: 21 Feb 2008
In special edition 'Red' form, Kia's Rio supermini takes some beating. Jonathan Crouch reports
If you're shopping for a supermini with a budget of around £8,500, then you'll find that your options are pretty limited, especially if you want your new car to feature things like air conditioning, a CD/MP3 player, metallic paint, electric windows and power steering.
You've probably guessed at this point that I'm going to suggest a solution, Kia's special edition Rio Red. Get past the name and check out the value proposition on offer from this five-door 1.4-litre petrol-powered or 1.5-litre diesel-powered supermini. It costs from £8,695 in petrol form, not much more than the kind of feeble base-model Ford Fiesta 1.25 Studio that has all the extras you'd like on the options list. The diesel version costs £9,695, again, not much more than the same Fiesta with inferior diesel power.
This Kia's asking price represents a saving of around £680 over the price of a comparable model in the standard Rio line-up. Despite the fact that the asking price includes twin side and curtain airbags, a leather covered steering wheel and gear knob plus premium upholstery with metal pedals and plush interior trim. The super-affordable pricing would be understandable if Kia's offering was a typical South Korean cheapie. Thankfully, it isn't.
The Rio was introduced in the Autumn of 2005 and was immediately greeted as the most competitive small car the marque - and its nation - had ever produced. Designed specifically for European tastes, this Rio's shape, although not earth-shatteringly original, is certainly more Focus-like in appearance than its predecessor and larger too. In size terms alone, this model easily out classes much of the opposition. In fact, it's almost what you could call good looking, sporting a smart, neat family face.
Comfort-wise, there's more headroom, legroom and shoulder room than you might expect, especially in the rear. In 1.4-litre petrol form, the Rio features much stronger refinement than Kia have been able to offer in the past, courtesy of sleeker aerodynamics, a stronger structure and greatly enhanced NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) measures.
"That the Rio Red is good value won't come as a surprise. That it is an extremely good car might..."
The 1.4-litre DOHC 16-valve petrol engine is a gutsy performer and will launch this supermini from rest to 62mph in a very sprightly 12.3 seconds. The top speed of 111mph is achieved courtesy of the 96bhp developed by this power unit. This too is better than most other 1.4-litre engines in this sector that typically average 75 to 80bhp. Despite this impressive performance, the Rio produces just 150g/m of CO2, and with a combined economy figure of 44.8mpg, it is certainly a hard one to fault when it comes to running costs. Moreover, the DOHC 16-valve engine delivers 92.5lb ft of torque at just 4,700 rpm, which makes for very relaxed driving with less need to use the standard five-speed manual gearbox.
The 1.5-litre turbocharged common-rail diesel is a difficult choice to ignore, even if it's not the quietest engine of its kind. This Rio will sprint from rest to 62mph in a very sprightly 11.5 seconds and charge on to a top speed of 110mph where the traffic conditions allow. Despite this impressive performance, the Rio diesel still beats Euro-IV emissions criteria, producing just 121g/m of CO2, and with a combined economy figure of 60.1mpg, it is certainly a hard one to resist. Performance of the 110PS 1.5-litre diesel unit is highly competitive and class-leading in an area of the market where most rivals have 75 PS or less. The 16-valve engine delivers 235 Nm of torque at just 2,000 rpm, so it makes for very relaxed driving with minimal use of the gearbox.
The latest 3,990 mm long Rio hatchback is taller (+50 mm), wider (+15 mm) but shorter (-250 mm) than the old Rio model it replaced in 2005. The car also has a much longer wheelbase (+90 mm) which, combined with careful packaging of the mechanical components, enables it to claim 'best-in-class' interior space for maximum occupant comfort.
The Kia's wheelbase is between 9mm and 40mm longer than rivals like Volkswagen's Polo, Skoda's Fabia, Ford's Fiesta and Vauxhall's Corsa, while its overall width is from 12mm to 49mm wider. The overall length is between 30mm and 168mm longer than those potential supermini rivals.
This Rio is a surprisingly tight-feeling package on the road, with a reasonably taut suspension set up that keeps body roll well in check. Whereas the old car was pretty entertaining but somewhat crashy, the latest model's revised suspension geometry offers a little more refinement over ruts and potholes without sacrificing the fun factor. Indeed, the Rio is a good sport to hustle about, the rack and pinion steering is light and accurate; something that has defeated the best efforts of many more prestigious manufacturers.
That the Rio Red is good value won't come as a surprise. That it is an extremely good car might. Even if you leave price out of the equation, it's still a supermini buyers shouldn't ignore.
The results below show the top RIO deals on buyacar
|Kia Rio 1.25 2 5dr hatchback|
|Price £8,675||Save £3,620|
|Kia Rio 1.4 2 5dr Auto hatchback|
|Price £11,675||Save £2,625|
|Kia Rio 1.4 CRDi 2 EcoDynamics 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £10,176||Save £1,513|
|Kia Rio 1.4 1 5dr hatchback|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT RIO DEALS|
|For RIO RED|
|OVERALL||5.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||5|
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