The original Kia Rio was released all the way back in 2000 and is now on its third incarnation. The subcompact coupe has been a real success story for the Korean manufacturer and contributes to Kia's status as one of the fastest-growing manufacturers.
Second Generation (2005 - 2011)
The second generation of the Rio shared the same platform as the Hyundai Accent and much like its sister car, offered little to get excited by. Whilst the styling was clean, it was uninspired, and this neatly summed up the majority of the second generation's attributes. The suspension was one good feature, but everything from the engines to the interior seemed to be a constant reminder that in life, you get what you pay for. In contrast to the vastly improved third generation, it's a model that will be swiftly forgotten.
Third Generation (2011 - present)
The latest generation of the Rio is by far the best, it's still modeled on the Accent but that's no longer such a bad thing. Its beautiful remodeled exterior is indicative of the large changes beneath, changes that include supplying customers with one of the most fuel efficient engines in the world. The super frugal 1.1 litre, three cylinder, turbodiesel engine that opens the range is certainly the feature that has stood out in the motoring press. Though the claims of 88 miles per gallon seem a little inflated, it is without doubt a great money saving powerplant.
The rest of the range is comprised of three petrol engines in 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6 litre guises plus the 1.4 litre turbodiesel that goes back to the usual four cylinder format. The engines are a little flat, especially the diesels which have a virtual dead zone at 2000 rpm but they get the job done. People don't buy Kias because they desire a hot hatch though. One reason to choose the diesels, in addition to fuel consumption, is the fact you get all the cost-saving extras included as standard. These include the automatic stop/start system, part-time alternator and the fuel efficient tyres.
Some of the highlights of the Kia Rio include the nice smooth gearboxes and the surprisingly pleasant cruise experience. Yes, it may take you a little while to get there but once at motorway speed the Rio is quiet, settled and composed. It outdoes many of its more expensive competitors in that regard.
Competition and conclusion
Whilst the first and second generation models were failures the third generation of the Kia Rio is definitely capable of competing with the big name models. When it comes to cost efficiency and comfortable ride the Rio has them all beat, and it doesn't look too bad either. That said, the Ford Fiesta , the VW Polo and the Honda Jazz all seem like much better all-around packages with the poor cabin quality being the feature that truly keeps the Rio lagging. It's definitely worth a look, especially if cost is your primary concern.