Review: Kia Rio

An extremely creditable car

26 Feb 16 Tim Barnes-Clay


  • Reliable and safe

  • Comfortable

  • Relatively spacious car


  • Petrol engines lack performance

  • Small boot

  • Expensive compared to rivals

Our expert rating

The Kia Rio has been around in three guises since the turn of the century. It started off as a rather ugly little duckling, but its South Korean creator turned into a beautiful swan in 2011.

The compact hatchback is now an appealing and credible alternative to other mainstream hatches.


As ever, the petrol is cheaper to buy, but then the diesels get you further and usually cost less to run. The best of the bunch is the 1.1 diesel EcoDynamics. This will return a stunning 88.3mpg.

side view of Kia Rio

It’s no rocket ship, but the car accelerates adequately. For more low down shove, the 1.4 diesel is better, achieving a still excellent 56.5mpg. That’s on par with the small 1.25 petrol engine – which is the one to go for if the supermarket is the furthest place you ever intend to drive.

Generally speaking, no Rio is hungry for fuel, and low road tax costs diminish outgoings further.

Ride and handling

The Kia Rio is as light as feather to steer around town, making parking easy. However, this lightness of touch can make the car feel disconnected from the road surface on long jaunts.

That can be overlooked when heading into a corner, because the Korean car will grip to the tarmac like toffee to teeth. It also handles damaged road surfaces well, riding over lumps and bumps without getting flustered.

rear of Kia Rio

The motorway is where the car comes into its own, though. In the 1.4 diesel model, the ride at 70mph is a confident and comfortable one. The most heartening element about the Rio, however, is that it has a maximum five-star safety rating.

The top score from safety body, Euro NCAP comes as no surprise when you take into account the kit the Rio has stuffed into it. There is electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, multiple airbags and electronic stability control.

Under the bonnet of a Kia Rio

The Rio’s cabin is roomy for a small hatchback, with space for four adults, and there is enough leg and headroom. You could get a fifth passenger in the car, but it wouldn’t be the most comfortable of trips. The boot is not quite as charitable at only 288 litres.

In fact, the Korean manufacturer has been pretty stingy here, because you’d be struggling to squeeze the family’s main weekly shopping in it.

Fold the seats and things improve, though. The car actually has a very usable 923 litres of space, making it easy to stuff, say, a mountain bike in there.

Storage points are plentiful throughout the interior, too. Four trim levels are on hand - 1, 1 Air, 2 and 3. The “1” is fine with electric windows and a USB port, but the “1 Air” is the one you need if air conditioning is a must. Step up to the 2 for features such as fog-lights and then there’s the 3 with privacy (tinted) glass and funky LED lights

Rear boot space Kia Rio

What to know before you buy

There is nothing to worry about with the Kia Rio. That is quite an unusual thing to write, but Kia really is a brand with faith in its products. After all, the company does offer a seven-year transferable warranty, or up to 100,000 miles on its cars. That says an awful lot about this car.

Buy it and you won’t have an issue. If you do – Kia will sort it. Obviously the Rio, like any car, is still a machine, so it isn’t always going to be flawless. When viewing a secondhand Rio, just look for any scrapes or dents and check out the wheels to ensure there aren’t great chunks of alloy or steel missing from the rims.

It’s also sensible, as with any motor, to look at the interior for signs of excessive wear. If there is, walk away.

front dashboard and steering wheel of Kia Rio

Alternative cars

The boot of the Kia Rio is the chink in its armour because its main foe, the ever-present Ford Fiesta, has a bigger boot - 295 litres compared with the Rio’s 288. That doesn’t sound much, but it will make a difference. That said, the Rio hasn’t got the history of the fine-driving Fiesta, but it does feel a little more sizable inside and it looks refreshingly different to the everyday Ford.

The Vauxhall Corsa – another key challenger is a nice drive and is well put together, but its boot is three litres smaller than the South Korean hatchback’s.

Alternative car to Kia Rio - Vauxhall Corsa

Overall verdict

The Kia Rio is a car you can buy with confidence. As long as you search for one under 100,000 miles the seven-year warranty will keep you out of trouble. There are very few that will have done that mileage though.

There is very little evidence to suggest that the warranty is used much anyway, pointing again towards an extremely creditable car. As long as you don’t want to carry more than four passengers around, then it’s hard to find a case why you should go for anything other than this reliable, comfortable and relatively spacious car.

That is unless you need to have a better sized boot. That could be the deal-breaker here.

Expert rating



Space & comfort

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