It was not so many years ago that Kia became famous in the UK for flogging its bread-and-butter Picantos and Rios for a £1 deposit.
There were 3,441 Rios registered in 2006 – 10% of Kia Motor UK’s total registrations that year.
Back then the B-segment hatchback was priced below £9,000 for even the most expensive version.
It was frugal, functional transport; a rival to a Chevrolet Kalos or a Daihatsu Sirion perhaps.
Jump forward to 2012 and the current Rio, introduced in September, is a wholly different proposition.
Kia’s greater pride in product design, quality and dynamics, plus better consumer awareness of the Korean brand and its competitive offers, means keys to today’s Rio are now likely to be found in households which once owned a Renault Clio, Nissan Micra or Vauxhall Corsa.
This supermini has character and broader appeal. Admittedly, in entry trim it still won’t upset any pensioners, but with alloy wheels and a metallic paintwork like our chosen ‘electric blue’ it has sufficient style to tempt a significantly younger generation too.
The five-door Rio range starts at £9,995 for Rio 1 with a 1.25-litre petrol engine, but our Rio 3 high spec model with a 1.4-litre petrol engine is priced £13,795 plus £425 for the metallic paint option.
However, KMUK has put a £1,250 discount on our model until the end of June, and is also promoting a Care-3 package which adds three services for £269.
All Rios are well equipped, but at Rio 3 level there are few gadgets which any buyer will truly miss.
Standard kit includes 17in alloys, privacy glass, LED daytime running lamps, climate control, cruise control and heated seats.
That’s all on top of the Bluetooth, cooling glovebox, heated and folding door mirrors and front foglamps already fitted to lesser models.
Using Vauxhall’s website to specifying Vauxhall Corsa to similar standards came to more than £16,170.
While perceived quality of the Rio’s interior materials isn’t quite matching the Corsa’s, it’s still good and the near £2,000 extra for the Griffin before discounts seems a tough ask.
Over the coming months the AM team will take the Rio out to plenty of dealer visits, AM’s own events and manufacturer launches and interviews, so it will be interesting to see how the miles rack up.
Initial impressions from the first few hundred miles of use are good – the engine seems willing and capable, the cabin is spacious and comfortable and I particularly like the chunky toggle switches on the centre stack.