Review: Kia Rio (2011 – 2017)

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Much more stylish than previous Rio. Upmarket interior. 1.1-litre chain cam diesel emits just 85g/km of CO2. Three-door from £9,995.

Not as impressively refined as a Volkswagen Polo. No standard DAB radio. Not particularly exciting to drive.

Kia Rio (2011 – 2017): At A Glance

The current generation Kia Rio, introduced in 2011, might not be the most entertaining or exciting car on sale, but there is no denying its value-for-money credentials. It is well built, easy-to-drive, economical, well-equipped and comes with a competitive warranty. For those seeking a cost-effective small car it should be high on the shortlist.

Those who really want to cut costs to the bone can pick the 1.1-litre CRDi diesel, which has official fuel consumption of as low as 88.3mpg and emissions of 85g/km. For most drivers, one of the other engines – a 1.25-litre petrol, a 1.4-litre petrol or a 1.4-litre diesel – will be a better choice, giving more refinement and a more ‘big-car’ feel.

That feeling of being in a larger car is one of the Rio’s best attributes. The cabin is spacious, practical and well put together, with room in the back for adults, even in three-door models. Plus there is a boot with plenty of room for a family shopping trip, or a run to the tip.

All models come with a good level of standard equipment including Bluetooth, USB connectivity and electric windows, but a few creature comforts like air conditioning or alloy wheels require you to buy a higher trim level, which means spending more money. That said, most versions of the Rio offer good value.

The Kia Rio might not set the world on fire with dynamic, exciting handling or hot-hatch levels of power, but for those who want a comfortable, well put together small car the Rio is easy to recommend. It should prove reliable, cheap to run and practical.  

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Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

What does a Kia Rio (2011 – 2017) cost?

List Price from £12,940
Buy new from £10,692
Contract hire from £139.03 per month

Kia Rio (2011 – 2017): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4045–4050 mm
Width 1720 mm
Height 1455 mm
Wheelbase 2570 mm

Full specifications

The Rio’s neat exterior styling carries on in the cabin, which is simple, clear and user friendly. The instrument binnacle is about as straightforward as they come and the minor controls are big, simple and obviously labelled. Air conditioning is controlled by large, easy to reach switches at the bottom of the centre stack, while radio controls are intuitive and easy to get to grips with.

The quality impresses, too. The Rio isn’t quite as plush or well put together as a Volkswagen Polo, but the tasteful layout and durable materials make it better than many other rivals like the Vauxhall Corsa or Peugeot 208. There are a few features that are missing though – DAB radio is a cost option and there is no built in navigation system on offer.

Kia offers three and five-door models and both have a useful amount of rear leg and headroom. Obviously the five-door offers better access and makes more sense for families with larger children, or for those who carry adult passengers – who will fit easily and comfortably unless they are particularly tall.

Boot space is 288 litres, which beats the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo for outright volume. The load area is a good shape too, but there is a load lip to lift heavy items over and if you fold the seat backs forward the load area isn’t completely flat, which is a pain if you are transporting bulky items.

Even entry level cars won’t leave you wanting for much, with electric windows, aux-in, Bluetooth and USB-connectivity among the standard fit items, but you will need to specify a 1 Air model to get air conditioning. Stylish embellishments like alloy wheels and front fog lights are only offered on 2 trim or higher.

Standard equipment

1 trim level comes with electric windows, daytime running lights, front electric windows, 15-inch steel wheels, eight adjustable driver’s seat, two-way steering wheel adjustment, split folding rear seats, 12-volt power socket, MP3 compatible radio and CD player with USB and Aux ports and Bluetooth. Air condition is standard on 1 Air models.

2 trim adds front 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning fog lights, chrome radiator grille surround, premium black cloth upholstery, rear electric windows, cooling glovebox, electric heated and folding door mirrors, leather covered steering wheel and gearknob and a centre console armrest.

3 trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, ultraviolet reducing solar privacy glass, LED daytime running lights, rear combination lamps, automatic air conditioning with auto defog, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, automatic projection headlights, heated front seats and six speaker audio.

4 trim tops the range and includes black leather upholstery, keyless entry and start and a heated steering wheel. 

Child seats that fit a Kia Rio (2011 – 2017)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Kia Rio (2011 – 2017) like to drive?

The Rio engine range features two petrol and two diesel options, kicking off with the entry-level 1.25-litre petrol. With 85PS it isn’t the most powerful engine in the world, but for town drivers it should be fine. Official economy is 56.5mpg and emissions are 114g/km, which means cheap but not free annual VED.

Those who really value fuel economy can choose the 1.1-litre, 75PS three-cylinder CRDi diesel. It is a little bit on the gruff side, but in the basic Rio 1 it has an official economy figure of 88.3mpg and emissions of 85g/km. Even in upper trim levels it comes in with emissions of below 100g/km.

The other two engines offered by Kia are more sensible for drivers who cover higher mileages. There is a 1.4-litre petrol with 108PS and a 1.4-litre diesel with 90PS, both of which are fine for motorway driving and faster A-road routes, where the extra power really helps. Obviously the diesel is more economical, with an official figure of 70.6mpg, but the 1.4-litre petrol manages a respectable 51.4mpg.

If you need an automatic transmission there is one option available, linked to the 1.4-litre petrol. It’s a traditional four-speed torque convertor which means smooth changes, but fuel economy and emissions take a hit. The official fuel consumption figure is 44.1mpg and emissions are 150g/km, so annual VED costs £175 - steep for a small car like this.

The Rio isn’t the most refined car on sale. All of the engines are audible and the diesels in particular are on the clattery and gruff side at idle speeds, although never irritatingly so. Things settle down on the move though, with little in the way of wind or road noise.

The suspension is geared towards ride comfort rather than handling prowess and excitement. For the most part it works well. Over potholes and speed bumps the cabin remains serene and comfortable, while through corners there’s not too much body roll and everything is kept neat and tidy at most speeds.

That said, it’s not perfect. Over particularly bad surfaces the Rio's ride quality is on the busy side and never really settles down. Furthermore the steering doesn’t inspire much confidence through tighter corners and turns at higher speeds. The rest of the controls are well-weighted, though – the gear changes are slick and the brake and clutch pedals offer just the right level of resistance to help keep your driving smooth. 

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.1 CRDi 74–86 mpg 15.5–16.1 s 86–99 g/km
1.25 57 mpg 12.6–12.9 s 114–115 g/km
1.25 Air 57 mpg 12.9 s 115 g/km
1.4 51–57 mpg 11.0–11.1 s 114–124 g/km
1.4 Automatic 44–45 mpg 12.7 s 105–150 g/km
1.4 CRDi 71–74 mpg 13.4–13.7 s 98–105 g/km

Real MPG average for a Kia Rio (2011 – 2017)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

28–74 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Kia Rio (2011 – 2017)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Which is the better engine, the Kia Kappa 1.0 turbo or the Mazda Skyactiv 1.5?

I'm used to driving a small diesel but I now want to change to a small petrol car. I'm looking at the Kia/Hyundai 1.0 turbo engine in the Kia Rio, they seem to be high torque (171Nm kicking in from 1500 revs) whereas the Mazda Skyactiv 1.5 engine in the Mazda 2 has less torque at (148Nm at 4000 revs). Do you know if the Kia engine will pull more like a diesel at low revs compared to the Mazda? The Mazda seems to accelerate quicker, and fuel economy between the two is pretty much the same, so it is hard to decide on the better engine and drive.
The KIA Rio 1.0 Kappa is quite a joyful engine: The Mazda 2 is a better handler:
Answered by Honest John
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What do owners think?

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  • 5 star 17%
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  • 1 star 33%

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