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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Cheap to buy and run; lots of kit

Against Cabin finish iffy, base model too basic

Verdict Lots of car for the cash, especially the diesel

Go for… 1.5 CRDI LX

Avoid… Base-level 1.4 GS

Kia Rio Hatchback
  • 1. Cabin quality could be better - some of the plastics look and feel cheap
  • 2. This is hardly a mini supermini: there's good head- and legroom throughout
  • 3. The petrol version returns an impressive 44.8mpg, and the diesel's even better - 60.1mpg
  • 4. This is one of the biggest superminis, and it has a large boot
  • 5. The ride is a touch firm at low speeds, but it settles down nicely once you're going a little faster
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Kia Rio Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Prices of the Kia Rio are low for what you get, and even the range-topping model, which has lots of goodies, should be within reach. The diesel version is especially good value, because it’s not that much more expensive than the petrol car.

There’s plenty of space, too. The Rio is one of the bigger vehicles in the supermini class, and this is reflected in good head- and legroom throughout. The boot is a good size, too, but cabin quality could be better. Some of the plastics look and feel cheap.

While the drive trails behind some rivals, it’s far from unpleasant. The body leans through corners and the steering is vague, but the handling isn’t untidy. Likewise, the ride is a touch firm at low speeds, but it settles down as you get faster, and the diesel is impressively refined at the motorway limit.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Big improvement over previous model. 1.4 LX best all-rounder. Values low but steady

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

We’d go for the diesel. The 96bhp 1.4 petrol is cheaper, and it’s fine in town, but it gets noisy at speed and isn't strong enough to cope with steep hills without changing down a gear or two.

On the other hand, the 109bhp 1.5-litre diesel pulls strongly, and overtaking is easy. It makes more financial sense, too. You won’t find a cheaper diesel-powered car of this size, and its fuel economy is also far superior to the petrol’s.

Of the two trims, we’d go for the range-topping LX. You’ll get alloy wheels, air-con, remote central locking, four electric windows, six airbags and a CD player. The upgrade isn’t that pricey, either.

The more modest GS is missing too much safety kit on the petrol-engined car (no curtain airbags), although you do get air-con, powered front windows and a CD player, though. Oddly, the GS diesel is better, with curtain airbags, a sunroof and electric rear windows added.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Big improvement over previous model. 1.4 LX best all-rounder. Values low but steady

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Kia is making very capable cars these days, but they still aren’t that desirable. This means residual values aren’t very strong, so the Rio, which was extremely cheap when it was new, is a genuine bargain as a used car.

As well as costing very little to buy, the Rio is also very cheap to run. Even the petrol version will return an average of 44.8mpg. But, those who want really lean consumption should go for the diesel, because it will reward you with an average of 60.1mpg.

Insurance costs are about what you’d expect for the class. The petrol car is in group 4, while the diesel-engined car is only a touch higher, in group 5.

Routine servicing will prove a good deal costlier than most other superminis, however. When you compare the Rio’s servicing bills with those for a car such as the Ford Fiesta, there’s a big difference.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Big improvement over previous model. 1.4 LX best all-rounder. Values low but steady

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

We can’t really say how reliable the Rio is going to be yet. The car was only released in September 2005, so reliability data is still very sketchy and not enough to make a judgement on. But, that means that any used car will still have a good chunk of the new-car warranty to run.

As a manufacturer, Kia has had a so-so record for reliability in recent years. The Korean firm wasn’t included in the last What Car? Reliability Survey, but it achieved mid-table respectability in the most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey.

The old Rio did Kia no favours, though, scoring poorly in the JD Power study for mechanical reliability. However, with the newer Sorento 4x4 securing a class win in the survey, it could be a sign things are on the up for Kia.

In fact, the Sorento was one of the best-performing cars in the entire study, and if this current Rio can get anywhere near this, it’ll be tough for other superminis to beat.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Big improvement over previous model. 1.4 LX best all-rounder. Values low but steady

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide
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