What is it?
We try the Kia Rio 1.0T-GDi 99bhp ISG version of the fourth-generation, bigger and altogether more sophisticated version of Kia’s supermini.
With sights set ever more firmly on conquest sales from Europe’s and Japan’s established market leaders, it comes with competitive, but no longer bargain, on-the-road pricing between £11,995 and £17,445 and a 10-model line-up with six engine, three gearbox and four trim level choices – all covered by Kia’s trademark seven-year, 100,000 mile transferable warranty.
The importance to Kia of the Rio could hardly be over-stated. Globally it finds almost half-a-million customers annually. It is the company’s biggest seller.
That, however, makes the UK, with its flourishing fleet and business car sectors, the notable exception. The Rio’s much bigger brother, the Sportage SUV, is by far the brand’s most popular UK model, accounting for 40,000 of the 89,354 Kias that found UK homes last year. Sales of the outgoing Rio, at around 12,000 units, were roughly on a par with Kia’s other mainstream models, the Picanto city car and would-be Ford Focus-challenging Cee’d hatchback and estate.
David Hilbert , Kia’s recently-appointed marketing director – after 12 years with Toyota – expects the technically capable and well-equipped Rio 4 to accelerate inroads into the supermini market.
But are those expectations likely to be realised?
The B segment is the largest single sector of the UK new car market. Competition is intense against a background of considerable European over-capacity. But similar applies to other sectors in which Kia mainly competes, and its forward march into them has been relentless.
A decade ago, Kia was selling less than 30,000 cars in the UK, most of them still with a sizeable technology and quality deficit compared with European models and heavily dependent on low prices. Last year’s near-90,000 was the eighth successive yearly record and a 14.5 per cent increase on 2015.
This year, in a market which the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders predicts will fall by 5-5.5 per cent, David Hilbert predicts another increase for the brand of at least 2,000 units, helped by the launch of the next-generation Picanto in late spring and, at the end of the year, that of the expected £40,000-plus Stinger sports car and which will take Kia for the first time into uncharted
There are four petrol engine options and two diesel for the Rio, with a new three-pot, one-litre turbo petrol unit leading the overall more fuel-efficient and emissions-efficient line-up. All provide brisk if unspectacular performance. The 1-litre unit comes with 99 or 118bhp, with CO2 emissions/ fuel consumption of 102g/km/62.8mpg and 107g/km/60.1mpg respectively.
There are two 1.4 litre diesels, again new, offering 80-plus mpg. There is also an entry-level 1.25 litre petrol unit of 76bhp and 58.8mpg and a new-to-Rio 1.4 litre petrol unit offering 98bhp and 56.5mpg economy. Depending on version, transmission options are five- or six-speed manual gearboxes and a four-speed automatic for the 1.4 litre petrol unit.
- The new Rio certainly makes a solid case for itself to cost-conscious SME users. Long gone are the days when Kia relied on extra-low prices to compensate for product shortcomings compared with Euro-rivals. Not only are the Rio’s design, styling and build quality standards pretty well indistinguishable from Euro-competitors in the eyes of most purchasers, an increasingly serious technology challenge is being thrown down as well.
- All but the entry-level Rios have autonomous emergency braking, stability control, and lane departure warning systems. New is straight line stability control, sensing any differences in applied brake pressure to keep the vehicle on course, together with cornering brake control to each wheel – all features confined to the prestige sectors until a very short time ago.
- Connectivity features are making a first appearance, including both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. When combined with Kia’s Connected Services and a large, clear infotainment screen, traffic reports, weather updates, speed camera locations and other inputs are quickly and clearly available. Another nice touch: the Rio is claimed to be the first in its class to have USB ports for both front and rear seats.
- It’s not the world’s most exciting supermini drive; Ford’s Fiesta probably wears that particular crown. And clear and functional as the infotainment screen might be, it does look something of an afterthought within the dashboard layout.
Verdict on Kia Rio 1.0T-GDi 99bhp ISG
It certainly looks and feels bigger and the styling has benefited greatly by being the work of Kia’s European design centre. By class standards, it is also remarkably roomy for rear seat passengers. The same applies to boot space at 325 litres with the rear seats up.
The dashboard and cockpit layouts are best described as gimmick-free, undistinguished, workmanlike and competent – the latter two descriptions also summing up the Rio’s behaviour on the road. Even the range-topping, £17,445, 118bhp “First Edition” model, aspiring to sports seats, 17-inch alloy wheels and a few other extra sporty bits, is unlikely to inspire much more than respect for a decent, absorbent ride, accurate steering and a fair degree of agility.
But the rival Fiesta’s and Mini’s ‘fun’ factor is not what Kia, for the moment at least, is all about. The Rio can claim to provide undramatic, reliable, low long-term running costs (remember that transferable warranty) and should be of legitimate interest to SME users. On that basis, it is the more basic models which make most business user sense.
The low-down on Kia Rio 1.0T-GDi 99bhp ISG
|Road tax (VED) from April 2017 first year/ rate years 2-6:||£140/£140|
|Company Car Tax band 2017/2018:||19|
|Doors and body style:||5-door hatch|
|Engine/gearbox:||1.0-litre, 3cyl petrol turbo/five-speed manual transmission|
Kia Rio 1.0T-GDi 99bhp ISG and company car tax
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Kia Rio 1.0T-GDi 99bhp ISG and fuel benefit tax
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