In total, there is a choice of four petrol engines and a pair of diesels. At the bottom of the range is a 1.25-litre petrol with a meagre 83bhp, a unit we suspect will feel out of its depth out of town - we've yet to try it, though. Next up is a 1.4-litre lump with a more generous 98bhp – the only engine that is available with an automatic gearbox. This is an antiquated four-speeder, however.
We would be tempted to spend a little more on the 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder motor with 99bhp. This engine is just as flexible as the small turbo engines in the Fiesta and Fabia, and delivers even more outright speed. A 118bhp version of this engine is also available, but you won’t notice the extra power unless you work it really hard. It isn’t worth the extra money to be honest.
Finally, there’s a pair of 1.4-litre diesel engines with either 76bhp or 89bhp. We’ve tried the higher-powered unit and, while it has plenty of poke, it’s rather unrefined and clattery. It’s also only available in high-spec ‘3’ trim that makes it a pricey buy. With either diesel, you’d have to do lots of miles every year to make it worth the initial premium.
Kia Rio ride comfort
Kia may have listened to criticisms of the old car being too stiff, but they haven’t done quite enough to give it a more supple edge. At low speeds, you feel rough urban roads all too much through the base of your seat with potholes causing a real thump. Things improve at speed, but even on roads that look smooth, you do feel yourself moving up and down more than rivals. The larger 17in wheels on top-spec models make things even worse – we’d stick to 16in items or smaller.
Kia Rio handling
The hard springing of the Rio may do the ride no favours, but they certainly help keep it upright, even when cornering hard. The steering is also quick, something that makes the Rio feel quite darty when turning in to a bend. Unfortunately, it is a bit too light at low speeds but does weight up a bit as you go faster. At least it does track straight and true on the motorway, unlike some other Kias. What you won’t find is much feeling as to what the front wheels are doing. If you enjoy driving, a Ford Fiesta is far more fun.
Kia Rio refinement
The three-cylinder turbocharged engines are among the more refined of their type. There’s very little vibration, even at idle and they are quiet unless you work them really hard. Past 4000rpm a Ford Fiesta Ecoboost is better, but we doubt many people will be pushing the Rio that hard.
At motorway speeds, the turbo engines are hushed, regardless of whether you have the five or six-speed version of the 1.0-litre. The diesels are less impressive, sounding coarse at all times and sending noticeable vibrations through the controls. In all models, there is a fair bit of road noise at speed and also some wind noise. That said, superminis aren’t generally the quietest of cars at speed.
The entry-level engine is a 1.25-litre petrol engine coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox. We haven't tried it yet, but it should prove fine for urban use, but we suspect you’ll have to work it hard on the motorway.
This more powerful four-cylinder engine isn’t much more than the 1.25 and should prove more at home out of town. It’s also the only engine available with an automatic gearbox. It does have the highest carbon emissions of the range with the auto proving particularly woeful in that respect.
Our pick 1.0 T-GDi 99bhp
A turbocharger means this little 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor has more power and is more flexible than the bigger four-cylinder engines. It’s at home in town or on the motorway, and offers more than enough pace to match or beat many rivals with equivalent engines.
1.0 T-GDi 118bhp
Currently only available in top-spec First Edition trim, this engine comes with a six-speed gearbox and only emits 5g/km more carbon than the less powerful 1.0-litre. As you have to work it really hard to notice the extra power, we’d stick to the 99bhp lump.
1.4 CRDi 76bhp
This diesel engine has the lowest carbon emissions of the range but costs a lot more than the petrol engines; you’d have to do a lot of miles to recoup your initial investment. It’s also not very refined. We’d stick to the petrols.
1.4 CRDi 89bhp
Only available on ‘3’ trim, this is an exceedingly pricey option. Performance is strong, but we’d still avoid it unless you do a ridiculous amount of miles per year.