I have to admit that picking up a set of keys with the name "Kia
" inscribed on them has tended not to produce any emotional response in the past. No excitement. Equally, no disappointment.
Kias were that type of car. They got you from A to B. Looked inoffensive and were practical. Full stop.
Lately, however there has been a quite noticeable change. Read my road tests of the Kia Cee’d
, the Kia Sportage
and the Kia Picanto
and you will see what I mean.
The transformation is obvious when you first see these cars. In place of bland styling, there is a bolder, more distinctive, more confident appearance symbolised by the new corporate grille. It's said to look like a tiger. Well, I suppose if I half closed my eyes and squinted, I might see what they mean. But, whatever, it does make a Kia stand out.
So, I had rather more positive hopes when I reached for the keys of the Kia Rio that came my way recently.
It's a small family hatchback, about the size of the Ford Fiesta – just a little longer to be precise. With five doors it offers good access for passengers.
Inside it is quite obvious that Kia has built this car with a clear focus on keeping a keen price. The materials are obviously plastic, but what is impressive is how the unpretentious result is pleasing to the eye and the materials co-ordinate well.
Storage space is good. The Rio boasts the largest glovebox I can remember. A bit like the Tardis, it seems unfeasibly large for its obvious outward dimensions. Other details include the centre console bin and the net storage on the seat backs, which gives something of an up-market look to the car. The boot, too is deep and useful in shape, however there is a fairly high sill over which you have to lift your luggage.
While other aspects of the visibility are good, the base of the windscreen is quite high meaning that your view of the bonnet is minimal.
The good news continues after you turn the starter. My test car was the Kia Rio 2 1.4 5-door. With the largest engine in the range you would expect it to feel more lively than the 1.1 or 1.25-litre versions. It does, most of the time. But just occasionally you wonder if the 107 horses it packs under the bonnet are giving their best (usually on a hill), as you wait for the engine to come on song again.
When all those horses are working as a team, the 0 to 60 mph time is quoted as 11.1 seconds. Keep it on song and you can make reasonably rapid progress along any B-road. The emissions figure is 128 g/km, putting the Kia Rio into band D for UK tax. Fuel consumption on the combined cycle is 51.4 mpg.
Despite the occasional lack of power, l found the Kia Rio an enjoyable car to drive. The controls are really responsive (something that is essential to driving enjoyment) and seem well tuned to work together as a team. The ride is quite remarkable for a small hatchback, making a good job of smoothing out the ripples and bumps on our deteriorating road surfaces.
So, at £13,095, the Kia Rio justifies a place on your shopping list if you are in the market for a small hatch. I would guess it might even move up nearer the head of the queue when you glimpse the sticker in the rear window that proclaims "7-year warranty".