The Rio has been stretched by 10mm in the wheelbase and by 15mm in overall length.

You might not imagine you’d notice that kind of difference, but combine it with a longer bonnet and front overhang, a shorter rear overhang, a roof that has been lowered by 5mm and a C-pillar that’s much slimmer and more upright than it was, and it begins to explain why the new car appears so markedly changed when compared with the old model.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
It’s rare to find such a big fuel tank in a car as small as this: 45 litres, up from 43. That gives the cheaper diesel the potential for 700 miles to a tank

The Rio not only has a better stance but also a much more convincing air of visual sophistication and maturity about it than the cutsie-looking, big-featured third-generation car.

It may be a touch less characterful, but it certainly looks serious about its assault on Europe. It also looks more like a car deserving of having a fairly large amount of money spent on it.

Under its skin, the Rio remains a conventionally constructed supermini with a steel body, a front-mounted engine, an in-line gearbox, driven front wheels, a MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam at the rear.

The car’s structure has been stiffened as well as enlarged and it now consists of 51 percent high-strength steel (up from 33 percent in the last version).

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Kia claims this delivers better refinement and handling and improved crash performance (although no crash test results have yet been published by Euro NCAP).

It seems to make for no significant weight saving, given that our upper-mid-spec test car’s kerb weight was claimed at 1228kg. That figure would have been pretty typical of an equivalent 1.25 or 1.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol version of the previous-generation Rio.

There are four petrol engines and two diesels to choose from. The entry-level 1.25-litre petrol produces 83bhp while the larger 1.4 makes 98bhp, and plumping for the latter gets you six speeds in your manual gearbox instead of five.

Further up the engine range come the new 99bhp and 118bhp Kappa-branded 1.0-litre T-GDi turbo petrols, both of which make 127lb ft, which is available from just 1500rpm. And since there’s a 98bhp normally aspirated petrol there for direct comparison, it’s easy to quantify what that accessible pulling power is worth to the 1.0-litre T-GDi turbo Rio in terms of acceleration: it’s the 1.5sec difference between a claimed 10.7sec and 12.2sec to 62mph.

If you prefer a diesel engine under the bonnet, the choice is from two tunes of the same 1.4-litre CRDi four-cylinder unit, producing either 76bhp or 89bhp and emitting as little as 88g/km of CO2.

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