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Used test: Kia Rio vs Skoda Fabia

If you're looking for a great small car the Rio and the Fabia are two of our favourites, but which one makes the most sense bought used? Read on to find out...

Used test: Kia Rio vs Skoda Fabia
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What Car? team
26 Apr 2019 12:00

The Contenders

Kia Rio 1.0 T GDi 99 ‘2’

List price when new £14,545

Price today  £11,000

Available from 2016-present

The Rio is a truly impressive small car, but has it got what it takes to topple the mighty Fabia?


Skoda Fabia  1.2 TSI 90 SE

List price when new  £14,005

Price today £9000

Available from  2015-present

In many ways the Fabia is the definitive all-round package in this class, and still a top performer


Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing


If you were lucky enough to possess a time machine and you hopped back 30 years what would the average small car of yesteryear be like?  Well, noisy, unsafe, poorly equipped and a darned sight more toxic to our environment than today’s cars, that’s for sure.

Small cars have improved no end, and evidence of that can be found in these two great all-rounders, the Kia Rio and the Skoda Fabia. Older generations of both of these cars were decidedly humdrum affairs, but when these versions first came along we knew they’d raised the small car game - indeed the Fabia even won our prestigious What Car? Car of the Year Award in 2015. But if you’re buying one used - and you’ll save a pretty penny if you buy them at two-years-old, like the cars we’re testing here - which of these two fun tots makes the most sense? Read on to find out.


What are they like to drive?

We’ve always enjoyed the Fabia’s 89bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine. We’re not pretending it’s an automotive Usain Bolt, but it picks up keenly from low revs and offers plenty of zip to get you up to motorway speeds, fulfilling its brief handsomely. Yet after sampling the Rio’s 1.0-litre petrol engine, with its extra 10bhp, the Fabia’s engine doesn’t seem quite so special. That extra poke yields better in-gear flexibility, so there’s less need to change down to keep up with fast-moving traffic, but when you do, it musters an urgency the Fabia can’t match.

Kia Rio

 Both gearchanges are light and precise, making these cars effortless to drive in town, although the Fabia does have the more feelsome clutch pedal. On the motorway, the absence of a sixth gear in both cars means their engines are spinning away quickly, so there’s a constant background drone; this is more noticeable in the Fabia. However, there’s far more tyre noise in the Rio, making it the noisier cruiser.

As far as handling goes, the Rio’s isn’t too bad at all. You’ll find it perfectly capable, with nothing in its dynamic repertoire that’ll really annoy you, apart from the fact that it’s unlikely to put a smile on your face.

New Nissan Micra vs Renault Clio vs Skoda Fabia

However, its steering is light and a bit numb, so you find yourself continually making small steering corrections through corners. The Fabia is a bit more assured in this regard, with stronger grip and greater stability in quick direction changes.

Both cars are relatively softly sprung, leading to some body roll in corners. And while neither car rides brilliantly, the Fabia uses this compliance to absorb the scars of scruffy town roads and bounce over speed bumps with greater aplomb than the Rio. Yet pick up your speed and that disparity diminishes; indeed, both cars make surprisingly good long-distance cohorts.

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