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First drive – 2017 Kia Rio

What, when, where?

The Irish launch of the all new Kia Rio at the K Club in County Kildare.

What’s new?

The Rio has always been a strong performer for Kia. In fact, the last generation was crowned overall Irish Car of the Year back in 2012. It’s pretty difficult to improve on a title like that, but they’ve tried none the less.


Operation transformation

The Rio is surely one of the most dramatic ‘ducking to swan’ stories of the car world. Looking at this latest model it’s hard to believe it’s even related to the car Jeremy Clarkson once called ‘offensively ugly’.



South Korea’s Next Top Model

The transformation first began in 2009 when ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer came along with his tiger nose grille and did the unthinkable at the time by making Kias cool. He has been hard at work here once again with a slick new interpretation that sees it get thinner, and stretch wider across the front end.

One stretch further

As seems to be the law with new generations – the whole car is also longer, lower and wider than before. A couple of well-defined lines running down the shoulders really emphasise that extra length and give it a much more substantial presence. The longer wheelbase adds a bit more rear legroom and the result is a much sleeker and more grown up package.


Tech, spec, and other stuff

The other golden rule of a new model is that you must also cram in as much new technology as possible, and Kia have made a good attempt at that here. Among the impressive new features now available are things like keyless entry, automatic lights and wipers, a reversing camera, and heated seats and steering wheel.


But what do you Rio-lly need?

If you can live without that type of thing, the entry level L model (from €15,950) will meet your most basic motoring needs, though realistically most will upgrade to EX at least. Starting at €18,150, this will get you 16 inch alloy wheels, tinted windows, parking sensors, and automatic cruise control.
Disappointingly though, it still won’t get you a touchscreen.


With some brands offering it as a standard feature these days, it did seem a little odd to see an old school analogue display in a mid-spec model.
If you want one, you will need to upgrade to the EX ADAS, which on the plus side, also has added safety benefits. Now bear with us here, because this is where it starts to get complicated.

Two tier safety rating

So the Euro NCAP safety crowd (the guys who put crash test dummies into cars and launch them at walls going 90 miles an hour) came up with some new criteria recently. As well as some tough new rules that make a five star rating much, much harder to get; manufacturers must now have a ‘safer version’ of their car available in order to be able to advertise their current rating.

So the standard Rio is a four star NCAP car, but this EX ADAS model turns it into a five star car, because it comes with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian recognition.
It starts at €19,450 and if you’re not sold on that, we’d do it just for the touchscreen.
An extra €1,000 for the Platinum spec will get you larger 17 inch wheels, rain sensing window wipers, and a larger 7 inch display with integrated Bluetooth and voice control.

Engine line up

The next big choice after that will be whether to go petrol or diesel. We drove both the 1.2l petrol and the 1.4l diesel at the launch, and while the latter certainly packs a bit more punch, you’d have to really consider whether you do enough mileage to recoup the €1,800 premium. The petrol offers impressive enough fuel economy anyway at about 4.8l per 100km (59 MPG). The 1.0l turbo will be an interesting alternative to both when it arrives.


 There have definitely been improvements in driving refinement too and it’s now noticeably quieter in the cabin than before. Other than that, the Rio’s well-planted chassis and sharp responsive steering should continue to please fans of its easy, predictable small car drive.



Other reasons you might consider it over the Fiestas, Polos and Yaris’ (Yari?) of this world are bootspace (it beats all three at an exceptional 325 litres), and of course the small matter of that outstanding seven year warranty.

The prospect of seven years (or 100,000km) of worry-free motoring is always a very tempting one, even more so in the B-segment where cars tend to get passed down through different family members. And even more so when it’s already a very charming little all-rounder.
Full video review and test drive coming soon.