MENTION Rio and you automatically think of carnival time, and South Korean car maker Kia should be in party mood following the launch of its latest supermini.
The Rio has all the credentials to be a little star for Kia as it has the style and quality to make a dent in the sales of B-segment competitors such as Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, Renault Clio and Peugeot 207.
It’s just arrived here in five-door form with three-door models to follow and is a massive improvement on its three predecessors.
This four-metre-long hatchback is longer, wider and lower than the previous model, has a sporty look and gets the Kia family ‘tiger nose’ grille that integrates neatly with the front headlamps.
The upgraded interior is bright and smart and there’s now more leg, head and elbow room for driver, front passenger and rear passengers.
Boot space is also extended to take 288 litres of luggage with the 60/40 split rear seats folding down extending this to 923 litres.
There will be a choice of four engines, including an exceptional 1.1-litre three-cylinder diesel unit which has industry-leading fuel economy and CO2 figures of 88.3mpg and 85g/km – lower than any other non-electric car on sale in the world, including hybrids and eco specials.
There’s also a 1.4-litre 89bhp diesel and two petrol units, 1.25-litre 83bhp and 1.4-litre 107bhp which was in the test car.
Kia models may have been a cheaper altrnative in the past and lacked a bit of finesse - but not now.
The Rio prices range from £10,595 to £14,895 but still offer excellent value thanks to much-improved quality and an equipment level that scores high marks against its rivals.
Even the entry-level ‘1’ model’s spec includes daytime running lights, body-coloured bumpers, door handles and door mirrors, front electric windows, 15-inch steel wheels, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, two way steering column adjustment (height adjustable only on diesel), MP3-compatible RDS radio and CD player with USB and AUX ports and Bluetooth (on petrol model).
An extra £800 will get you air conditioning in the ‘1’ A grade while the 1.4 ‘2’ test car model’s added spec included 16-inch alloys, front fog lights and a chrome radiator grille surround, premium black cloth upholstery, rear electric windows, a cooling glovebox, electrically adjustable heated and folding door mirrors, leather trim on steering wheel and gearshift and a centre console armrests.
The Rio is stylish enough to look at and its performance was spirited if not exactly sporting.
This model has a zero to 60mph time of 11.1 seconds so it’s smart enough off the mark and with a top speed of 114mph sat quietly and smoothly at motorway speeds.
There was maybe a little lack of power in mid range but dropping down a gear through the six-speed manual box brought the expected response when required.
Handling and ride comfort was good over varying surfaces and I found the driver’s seat provided excellent comfort and positioning for good overall vision.
Economy figures are good for this model, achieving 51.4mpg combined and emissions of 128 CO2.
If you’re looking for more luxury you’ll find it in the top-range ‘3’ models where spec includes 17-inch alloys with low-profile tyres, privacy glass, LED daytime running and rear combination lamps, auto air conditioning with auto de-fog, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, auto projection-type headlights, heated front seats and six speakers.
The Kia Rio is a supermini that offers great value – including the seven year or 100,000 miles warranty.