Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
At the bottom of the range is a 1.25-litre petrol with a meagre 83bhp, an engine we suspect will feel out of its depth out of town, although we've yet to try it. Next up is a 1.4-litre lump with a more generous 98bhp that’s available with a choice of a manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. It’s relatively smooth and offers enough punch when you work it hard, but obviously falls short on the outright power of the more expensive turbocharged engines.
The cheapest of these is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor with 99bhp, and this is our pick of the lineup. It’s as flexible as the small turbo engines you’ll find in the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia, and delivers even more outright speed. A 118bhp version of this engine is also available, but you won’t notice its extra power unless you’re pushing on particularly hard, so isn’t worth the additional outlay. That said, this engine gives you the option of a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox, though, that’s much more responsive than the six-speed auto.
Suspension and ride comfort
While Rios of old may have been criticised for being too stiff, Kia has made an effort to improve things here. It’s still not what you’d call supple, though; at low speeds, you’ll feel the surface of rough urban roads through the base of your seat in all too much detail, with every pothole causing a real thump.
Things improve at speed, but even on roads that look smooth, you’ll feel yourself moving up and down more than you would in rivals. The larger 17in wheels of top-spec models make things even worse – we’d stick with the 16in wheels or smaller.
One upside of the ride’s distinctly firm edge is that the Rio stays nicely upright even when taking on winding country roads. Its steering is quick, too, making the car feel quite darty when turning into a bend. While it’s a bit too light to feel totally secure at low speeds, it weights up a bit as you go faster.
However, what you won’t find through the steering wheel is much feeling as to what the front wheels are doing. For a more enjoyable driving experience, a Ford Fiesta is far more fun.
Noise and vibration
The Rio’s three-cylinder turbocharged engines are among the more refined of their type. There’s very little vibration, even at idle and they’re quiet unless you work them really hard. Past 4000rpm, the Fiesta’s Ecoboost engines are better, but you’re only likely to push that hard on the odd occasion.
At motorway speeds, the turbo engines are hushed with the five and six-speed manual gearboxes alike. In all models, there is a fair bit of road and wind noise at speed. That said, small cars aren’t generally the quietest of cars at speed.
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