The evolution of the Kia Rio neatly describes the aspirations of the whole brand. The previous Rio offered price-conscious motorists a reliable and affordable option but it didn’t exactly set the world alight with conservative styling and decent but unremarkable fuel economy. With the latest model Kia wants to move the Rio into the mainstream and make it one of the best selling superminis.
Kia is in the middle of a design-led revolution. The Rio is the latest model to be styled with the European market in mind, and is all the better for it. Gone are the bland non descript lines to be replaced by confident and thoroughly contemporary looks inside and out. It may have taken Kia four generations of the Rio, but it is now a model that offers visual appeal.
The style revolution has been accompanied by wholesale mechanical changes. At launch the Rio has the lowest CO2 emissions of any non-electric car, including all of the hybrids. This is a remarkable achievement for Kia and is a real coup for the brand. To achieve this, the efficient 1.1 litre engine is supported by Stop & Go, low rolling resistance tyres, and a drag-reducing front grille and rear spoiler.
Despite the sharper looks, excellent fuel economy, and seven year warranty, the Rio remains very keenly priced. Specification is decent, but air conditioning is an option due to the fact that it hits fuel economy surprisingly hard on the Rio, whilst the general standard of fit and finish is good as are the quality of the materials used in the cabin.
The Rio is an excellent addition to the hugely competitive supermini market. The Rio was always a sensible option but it now appeals across on a number of levels with good looks, brilliant fuel economy, excellent safety kit as standard, a reassuringly solid feel and very competitive pricing. On this evidence the established manufacturers should be very worried.