New arrival: How to have fun in a Kia Rio

Time 3:54 pm, March 20, 2012

GREAT drives come in many forms and I’ve had my fair share of a few. However, I never thought I’d be saying it about a run in a Kia Rio.

But, last week, I had a drive across the South Downs that put a whopping grin on my face – and it was all thanks to a 1.4-litre, three cylinder diesel Korean hatch back.

And, you know what? I’m not ashamed to say I loved every minute of it.

Now, stick with me for a second. Great drives don’t have to mean massive bhp and rear wheel drive. They can be had in far more sensible machinery too.

In fact, I’d actually go as far as saying it can be more fun threading a low-powered hatch along a B road, than, say, a Caterham you’re always worried is going to spit you into a hedge.

There’s simply something special about driving cars with just a little less power than they need. You really have to work at keeping your speed up – momentum is key and corners, road furniture, HGVs – all are a challenge.

My drive from Gosport to Crawley late one night last week was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had on the road in months. Traffic was light, the roads dry and our little Rio was on form.

LB61 UVL is the latest addition to the Car Dealer fleet. Ok, that’s a lie, it’s the only member of the fleet. Still, we’ll be running it for a few months to see just what it’s like to live with Kia’s all-new B segment challenger.


In Geneva, European boss of Kia Paul Philpott told me that ‘without a successful B segment car, you can’t have a profitable network’, so the new Rio has a lot of weight on its shoulders.

It helps that it’s actually very good indeed. Park it next to the model it replaced and the Peter Schreyer penned newcomer makes it a laughing stock. The bold front end, LED drving lights and good looks really make it stand out.

We picked the three door model, in Blazed Red, and with the two-tone alloys it certainly looks impressive. It helps it drives brilliantly too.

There have been a few moans about the steering, but I find it nicely weighted and solid, and the ride is a little firm but incredibly compliant. In fact, on my back road run last night it was faultless.

I’m already a big fan on this little car and as a current Sportage owner, it’s nice to see the family look carried over to the baby brother of the range.

It’s not all rosy though. My drive was spoilt somewhat by the incessant flashing from oncoming drivers. Everyone thought I had full beam on when I hadn’t.

At one stage, the Citroen Saxo driver in front of me flashed his rear fog lights at me in mobile disco fashion for at least 10 miles. But what could I do short of turn off the lights?

So, a trip to the local dealers is already planned to see if they need adjusting. Strange for a car with just 700 miles on the clock, but perhaps the lights were incorrectly set at the factory.

I’ll report back what they say after my visit.

Kia Rio 1.4-litre CRDI Eco

Price: £14,295 Power: 89bhp / 90Nm Performance: 13.7s to 60mph / 107mph top speed Economy: 70.6mpg

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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