Much like the engine under its bonnet, the previous Rio’s handling was some way short of compelling, much like the engine under its bonnet.

This would be less of a problem if the car didn’t necessarily rub shoulders with some standout supermini specimens, but this Kia’s Ford Fiesta, Mini Cooper and Mazda 2 rivals provide concrete evidence of the sporty and engaging dynamic compromise that can be successfully struck in a supermini.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Transmission humps don’t unduly upset the soft-edged Rio, but the approach to the apex is woolly enough to confirm that you’re not in a Fiesta

But the latest Rio, although quite competent, provides no additional evidence that Kia’s engineers are any closer to reproducing such a savvy state of chassis tune.

Instead, they have persisted with a comfort-biased approach and produced a car that is easy to use, inoffensive and ultimately not very memorable.

The Rio’s soft-edged attitude to ride quality, bolstered by plenty of tyre sidewall, results in the sort of genial progress that successfully deals with all but the nastiest intrusions.

The wheel control lacks the light-footed élan that some rivals benefit from having plumbed into their suspension travel, yet, and on motorway journeys in particular, it’s hard to find fault with the deliberate care Kia has taken in solemnly causing you no discomfort.

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The obvious drawback is that any attempt to break out of the suspension’s spongy morass is at once very difficult and singularly unrewarding.

Where its rivals seek to lift a driver’s mood via the levity that comes with the instant handling agility of a compact wheelbase, the Rio prefers an unruffled sort of plod that makes it seem larger and heavier than it actually is.

The mismatched weighting of the control surfaces don’t help: the light steering is too keen to promote muscle atrophy in your right arm, while muscle growth is promotedin the left arm working the gear lever.

The clutch pedal is a shade heavier than it ought to be, too, and the result is a mild unevenness to the driving experience. It’s a minor gripe, but one that would nevertheless be noted by any owner of a Volkswagen Polo or Skoda Fabia.

At the limit of grip, the Rio does inevitably suffer for the softness of its suspension. Placed under the microscope of the endless gradient changes of the Alpine Hill Route at Millbrook, the car occasionally feels a mite under-damped, either failing to settle properly after crests or else not hunkering down in the flat-bodied way that one of its more purposeful rivals might.

Off-camber corners also tend to unsettle the slightly blunt-feeling front end, which lacks both the precision and purchase generated by some (a facet hardly helped by the steering’s failure to find any weight at speed).

There is also a tendency for the ABS to fire a little earlier than is realistically required.

Nevertheless, front-drive predictability and fail-safe composure are present in ample quantity and, ultimately, they are the benchmarks for any cooking hatchback.

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