Just like Diane Morgan, no one expected the moment when the Kia Rio UB arrived and kneecapped the supermini car sector. Came out of the factory woodwork, destroyed the competition, took it’s trophy and went home.
We are in 2011 and the economic crisis is starting to get tired and wants to go home. Just like the excessive cars such as the Touareg and Range Rover and X5 and Cayenne went home exactly when the crisis started. And then begins one of the strangest and wackiest periods in the automotive industry. The world no longer had money for vertical engines and no replacement for displacement and ran to the other end of the automotive world – the small and cheap cars like Polo, Clio, Fabia and, you guessed it – Kia Rio UB. Equally surprising were the VW Polo and Renault Clio which were no longer necessarily cheap and good cars, but just good, and the people who wanted a new and cheap car did not need or did not have words like “sportiness” or “features” in their vocabulary. Cheap and practical will do. That’s why Dacia Logan and the mighty Sandero swept the European car market by storm, just as Vitaly Zhuravsky was taken by surprise by the angry mob and thrown into the dumpster in 2014. And for those who really wanted sportiness for not necessarily a lot of money, then they were in the right place because a lot of hot hatchbacks appeared during these dark but lighter times. Polo GTI, Clio RS, Fabia vRS, Suzuki Swift Sport, Fiesta ST. Man I tell you, those times were almost as good as if Philomena Cunk hosted Love Island.
2010 however also marks the advent of the korean offensive and Kia and Hyundai start to show us that they are no longer just appliances on wheels and that they really are worth your money. We have the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai ix35 that took care of the cross-over sector, we have the i30 and Cee’d that took care of the hatchback sector very well, and one level down we have the supermini sector, where the Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio UB really Glasgow kissed the competition. In fact, the Hyundai i20 was a real success, much more than the Rio, and it was a very popular car among those who wanted value for money but also wanted something better than a Sandero because the price difference between them is very small. And somewhere in this whole story the Rio sits anonymously.
Kia Rio UB Engines
- 1.2 MPi Kappa of 84 horsepower – It is not necessarily the most successful or recommended engine, but it is definitely the most popular because it was also the cheapest. But at 10,000 pounds new, do you really care?
- 1.4 MPI Gamma of 107 horsepower – At least here we have an engine shared with older brothers like the Cee’d. As with any other supermini from this period, the 1.4 petrol is the most balanced engine for this type of car. It’s not particularly economical and sounds like a tractor, but o well.
- 1.6 GDi Gamma of 128 horsepower – Of course you also had the option of buying a 128 horsepower 1.6 petrol which basically transmutes Graham Norton into Eddie Hall , but why would someone do that? The whole idea of Rio is value for money, and a 1.6 sport is much too expensive for the budget conscious motorist. So no one bought it.
- 1.1 CRDi U-Line of 6 horsepower – I don’t understand why you would buy a 3 cylinder diesel to drive around town with, but then again – who am I to judge? In life, you should never overestimate, you should only estimate. AND I will mention this engine because the first engines did not have a particle filtre and it is city viable.
- 1.4 CRDi U-Line of 75 and 90 horsepower – Unfortunately, all the 1.4 diesels come with diesel particle filtre so you’re pretty much stuck with highway driving in a Rio and that’s as good a proposition as getting drunk on radler.
Kia Rio UB Common Issues
- The rear axle doesn’t keep the rear tires quite straight and they will wear out on the inside, so you’ll have to do alignments more often than necessary.
- With an undersized clutch and underpowered pressure plate, the clutch pedal is more sensible than an evening spent with some Earl Grey and Claude Debussy. Unfortunately it’s a common issue which affects all engines, especially the 1.2 petrol.
- The dashboard is made of cheap plastic that can crack, issue shared with its bigger brother, the Cee’d.
- I don’t necessarily understand why, but parts for the i20 and Rio are a bit expensive for what they offer. But at least they don’t have a habit of breaking down often.
- Entry-level models are more like college dorm level, because you don’t even get radio as standard. Which is not necessarily bad, because that radio loses frequencies anyway, just like I lose my coherence, and so you can install an aftermarket unit anyway.
Kia Rio UB Verdict
Even if it is slightly anonymous, Kia Rio UB was one of the best superminis of it’s day. Cheap, robust, reliable, economical and practical. Exactly what a supermini like this should be. Even if it’s bland and doesn’t have high aspirations in life. Or any kind of aspirations.
Which engines do I recommend? For petrol power clearly the 107 horsepower 1.4 MPI is the pick of the bunch, and for diesel only the 1.1 diesel without an particle filter. If you have to buy a diesel Rio.