(Pocket-lint) - The new Kia Rio features support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a range of safety features from autonomous emergency breaking to lane departure warning systems, making it the most technologically advanced Rio yet.
The Korean company has not only given the new Rio a redesign, but it's given it some extra brain power too. The question is, how does it perform and can this new little Rio win over the B-segment?
Kia Rio (2017) review: Design
The Kia Rio is now in its fourth generation and it has seen some significant changes over its lifetime. The new model has a wider and more serious stance than its predecessor, offering sharper angles, straighter lines and, overall, a sportier appeal.
At 4065mm, the Kia Rio (2017) is 15mm longer than the model it replaces and 66mm longer than the new Nissan Micra. The extra length allows for a sleeker bonnet than the Rio's predecessor, housing Kia's signature tiger nose front grille, which is a design feature rather than an air intake.
The grille is surrounded in either silver paint or chrome depending on the grade and it blends seamlessly into the U-shaped LED lights with defined lines that stretch into the shoulders and doors, through to the rear of the car. Beneath the grille is a dynamically-surfaced bumper that incorporates the air intake, while newly-shaped front fog lights have been positioned higher and closer to the edge of either side for a sturdier, wider finish.
The shorter, more upright rear features narrower C-pillars than the previous model, and the straight lines follow through to the more sculpted lights and almost vertical tailgate glass. A subtle rear spoiler is also present on the new Rio, emphasising its sportier look, while the 5mm drop in height and 10mm increase in wheelbase help deliver a more mature and sophisticated finish.
The new Kia Rio is only available with five doors, with the rear doors featuring the same handles as the front, unlike the 2017 Nissan Micra which has its rear handles integrated. This again adds to the maturity of the new Rio.
The 2017 Rio comes in four trims in the UK, which fall under 1, 2, 3 and the limited-run First Edition model. Rio 1 models have 15-inch steel wheels, Rio 2 models have 15-inch alloys, Rio 3 have 16-inch alloys and the Rio First Edition has 17-inch alloys.
Kia doesn't offer personalisation options for the new Rio so unlike the new Nissan Micra and the Fiat 500, there are seven exterior colours in the UK and no means to make any of them more exciting with coloured accents or patterned roofs. Sienna Brown is the exterior colour offered as standard, with Clear White available as a no-cost option. The other colours comprise Satin Silver, Graphite (pictured), Midnight Black, Smokey Blue and Blaze Red, all of which are pay-for options.
Kia Rio (2017) review: Interior and infotainment
Inside the new Kia Rio things are kept simple and sophisticated, even if a little plasticky. The straight lines from the exterior follow through into the spacious, quiet cabin. There is a more ergonomic layout than the previous Rio with a sculptured dashboard and horizontal vents for an overall wider appearance.
The Rio 3 models and First Edition model feature a 7-inch "floating" touchscreen with TomTom navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while Rio 1 models have a 3.8-inch display with Bluetooth and Rio 2 models have a 5-inch colour display with DAB radio.
Kia doesn't offer "options" so you can't add the 7-inch touchscreen to the Rio 1 for example, meaning the Rio 3 models (starting at £16,295) or the First Edition (priced at £17,445) are the ones to choose for the best connectivity experience.
The 7-inch display is fantastically responsive and easy to use, much more so than some competitors, making it one of the Rio's best attributes. It is very simple and intuitive to navigate in terms of both touchscreen options and the minimal function buttons, and CarPlay and Android Auto are both a breeze to setup and use.
The Custom button, which is marked with a star on the right of the display, is excellent as CarPlay and Android Auto can then be accessed from the driver's side of the touchscreen rather than the just Media button on the left, but it can be set to other options too. The navigation system is also great, with good lane information including indicating to the driver when a lane is for left or right-hand turning only.
Beneath the touchscreen are the temperature and air conditioning controls, while a dedicated smartphone shelf is positioned above the Aux-In and USB ports, the latter of which is needed for setting up CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also a large storage tray above the gear box on Rio 2 models and above, cup holders between the passenger and driver seats at the front and USB ports are present in the rear too, which is great.
More controls are found on the steering wheel, including the voice activation button for CarPlay and Android Auto in Rio 3 models, cruise control for Rio 2 models and above trims and audio controls for Rio 1 models. A secondary screen is also positioned on the driver's display between the dials. This screen is a settings menu rather than a useful second display, however, so don't expect navigation instructions or mirrored information from the central touchscreen.
In terms of audio, the new Rio comes with a four-speaker system on the Rio 1 models, but this increases to six speakers with Rio 2 models and above trims. It's not likely to blow you away as Kia hasn't opted to place as much focus on audio as other brands have, and you can forget speakers in the driver's headrest, but the six-speaker system was adequate with Siri and Google Assistant both clear.
Kia has allowed for a 325-litre boot capacity in the new Rio but despite this, there is enough room for four adults to sit more than comfortably with 1120mm of leg room in the front and 770mm in the back. There is also 1021mm of headroom in the front and 966mm in the back, along with 1375mm shoulder room in the front and 1355mm in the rear, which we found to be more than enough for us on our five-hour drive.
Seat materials are grade dependant but all except the First Edition model are one-tone black. Both Rio 1 and 2 models opt for Tricot cloth, while Rio 3 models have black faux leather upholstery and the First Edition has black and red faux leather. As with the exterior, there are no interior personalisation options meaning the new Rio achieves a more mature finish inside - but in the same breath it fails to deliver the same excitement as some of its B-segment competitors, like the 2017 Micra.
We don't necessarily want orange leather on the dash and door arm rests, or patterned seats, but we like to have the option in case we are feeling daring.
Kia Rio (2017) review: Experience
The new Kia Rio is available in a seven-strong powertrain portfolio in the UK with options including petrol and diesel engines, as well as five-speed manual models, six-speed manual models and a four-speed automatic model.
Long story short, there is confusing range of engine and gearbox options coming to the UK - but the 1.0-litre turbo petrol available with 99bhp on the Rio 2 and Rio 3 trims and 118bhp on the Rio First Edition model feel like the ones to go for.
The former accelerates from 0-60mph in 10.3 seconds and offers emissions of 102 CO2/km, while the latter hits 60mph in 9.8 seconds and delivers emissions of 107 CO2/km.
We test drove an Australian-specced 1.4-litre petrol, four-speed automatic Rio, which had the equivalent of a UK Rio 3 trim (though the automatic model will only be available on a Rio 2 trim in the UK). This 1.4-litre petrol engine is also available as a six-speed manual (again only on a Rio 2 trim) but none of the manual options were available for us to test.
Both offer 98bhp and emissions of 114 CO2/km and 140 CO2/km, respectively. The automatic model accelerated from 0 to 60mph in 13.4 seconds, while the manual is a little faster at 11.8 seconds, but both are very far from a hot hatch.
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While the auto Rio was perfectly capable and pleasurable during city driving, it lacked power considerably when it came to steep hills and getting up to faster speeds quickly. The four-speed autobox was slow to change and unresponsive, often resulting in our foot to the floor and a loud whining noise filling the otherwise quiet cabin before we finally got up a hill or built up enough speed for overtaking.
The Kia Rio handled and cornered well, though, inspiring confidence on windy roads, delivering a driving experience that felt sturdy and stable. Steering was well-weighted and responsive, while the suspension was firm, helping us feel reassuringly connected with the road, even if we'd rather not have felt some of the larger bumps as much.
There's plenty of extra safety technology on board too, including Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management and Hill-Start Assist Control on Rio 1 models, which start at £11,995. The Rio 2 and above trims add a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Lane Departure Warning systems.
The Autonomous Emergency Braking feature will activate the Rio's brakes and bring it to a complete stop if it detects sudden or dangerous braking from the vehicle in front or a pedestrian in the road, when travelling at speeds between 5mph and 50mph. The Lane Departure Warning system warns the driver to act if it senses the car is beginning to veer outside of a lane.
All Rio models also include a Straight Line Stability feature and Cornering Brake Control. The former keeps the car straight if there is a difference in applied brake pressure between the left and right of the car, while the latter delivers asymmetrical brake pressure to counter any loss of traction when cornering.
The new Kia Rio delivers a mature and elegant design that is a significant improvement on the previous model. Yes, some exterior and interior customisation options would have been nice and the automatic model could definitely see some performance improvements, but overall, the 2017 Rio is a nice little car for an affordable price.
The infotainment system and connectivity functionality on the Rio 3 trim models and above are excellent, as is the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which work brilliantly. And it's these tech features that help elevate the cars of 2017 above and beyond the basics of yesteryear.
Kia has employed some great safety features into the new Rio too, even at the lower trim grades which is good to see, especially in the case of the autonomous breaking, which is available on the Rio 2 and above trims. The Kia Rio 3 or First Edition models are the ones to go for if your budget allows because it's the entertainment system on these models that makes the Rio stand out from the crowd.