Kia Rio reviewed - What’s it like to drive?
Sadly, we didn't get to drive the final made-for-UK examples, and as our test drive was on Korean roads just outside of Seoul. Nonetheless, we learned a lot about the 1.4-litre petrol and diesel Rios.
Lets get the few bad bits out of the way first. It's no Fiesta; the Ford still feels sharper, more agile and sportier than the Rio. That's largely because the Kia has curiously weighted steering that feels numb around the straight ahead and inert until you put just under a quarter of a turn of lock on.
Kia's engineers reckon that there's a fix to improve things, but you get the impression that even if some of this is addressed it still won't be up to the Ford. That's not to say the Kia is off the pace. It certainly isn't. Its body control, grip and feeling of safety and stability are still far better than in most superminis.
The only other flaw is with the 1.4-litre diesel engine, mainly because it needs too many revs to really get percolating. It lacks low-down pull in an un-diesel-like way and doesn't really give its best until around 2500rpm, before running out of puff 2000rpm later.
This flaw is a shame because in every other respect it's a good engine. It’s refined and capable of a decent turn of pace if you’re prepared to use the slick-shifting six-speed ’box to change down occasionally.
That said, we'd still steer you in the direction of the 1.4-litre petrol. It's far freer revving, even more refined and although it still has a high sixth gear – meaning frequent change-downs for fast overtaking – it pulls better from low revs than the diesel and so is a better companion around town. Driven sensibly, it should be almost as economical, too.
The real treat about the Rio, though, and where it pushes the Polo hard, is for refinement. It's an extremely comfortable car in every respect. Not just for the way it locks out noise but also the suppleness and quietness of its ride. It deals with urban speed bumps and craters extremely adeptly for a supermini and seems unfazed by pitted roads even at high speed.