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Kia drives ahead on road to Rio 

I have recently been driving a few of the models that have helped Kia sales soar in the UK.

And I had the chance to sample what is the Korean company’s global best seller when I attended the UK press launch of the all-new Rio just a couple of weeks ago.

This is the fourth generation Rio and Kia is looking for it to be a key player in the highly competitive supermini sector.

Kia describes the Rio as its ‘big little car’ and the newcomer lives up to that image.

Available now as a five-door model only, it is bigger than ever before.

And that brings much more space for driver, passengers and luggage.

Increased leg, shoulder and head room are among the best in class and the boot capacity is increased by almost 13 per cent up to 325 litres, expanding to 980 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded.

Built on a longer wheelbase, the new Rio has a lower roof-line and compact, smart back end.

The stylish front features a tiger-nose grille that is more slender and wider, sculpted headlights and U-shaped LED running lights.

Advanced connectivity features are introduced to the new Rio and the cabin has been designed around the touchs-creen that sits on the centre of the dashboard.

There are four trims – 1, 2, 3 and First Edition – with on-the-road prices starting at £11,995 and rising to £17,445.

Kia tends to offer a high level of standard equipment and that’s the case for this model.

Entry-level 1 spec includes air conditioning, front electric windows, electrically adjusta-ble heated door mirrors, 3.8-inch display screen, Bluetooth, cornering lights and LED daytime running lights.

Grade 2 additions include 15-inch alloys, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear shifter, electric rear windows, electric folding mirrors with LED indicator lights, DAB radio, five-inch colour screen, six-speaker audio system, reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

You also get USB charging points front and rear, and driving assistance features include cruise control with speed limiter and autonomous emergency barking and lane departure warning systems.

Step up to grade 3 and this brings 16-inch alloys, auto air condition with a defogging system, black faux leather upholstery, seven-inch touch-screen sat nav, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, privacy glass on rear side windows and tailgate, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity and Bluetooth with voice recognition.

The limited-run luxury First Edition adds 17-inch alloys, smart key engine system with engine start/stop button, stainless steel pedals, black and red faux leather upholstery and LED rear lights.

A new 1.0-litre T-GDi unit heads a seven-strong petrol and diesel engine line-up that brings improvements in performance, fuel efficiency and CO2 emis-sions.

My first drive was in a 1.4 CRDi 89bhp grade 3.

With its combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg, this diesel engine will be a popular choice.

It was a pretty smart little performer, capable of 108mph and pulling away to 60mph in 11.8 seconds.

Mid-range acceleration was good with the power coming through a six-speed manual gearbox, and it was pretty quiet sitting at motorway speeds.

I then sampled the 1.0 T-GDi 118bhp First Edition and it proved to be a fine addition to the range.

This three-cylinder petrol model was, as expected, a bit smarter off the blocks with a sprint time of 9.8 seconds.

It also featured the six-speed manual box and moved quickly up and down the gears.

With a top speed of 118mph, this model was smooth and quiet at 70mph, and again boasted high fuel economy figures, capable of 60.1mph combined.

The same engine, but with a smaller 98bhp, needed more work through its five-speed gearbox but was still quite punchy, and is capable of achieving 62.8mpg.

With new suspension and steering improvements, the Rio didn’t disappoint on my three drives over a route that took in town, motorway and country roads.

There is little wind or road noise and the Rio handled well with good road grip when cornering at speed.

I liked the driving position and all controls and switches were well laid out and within easy reach.

And buyers going for the top-of-the-range First Edition will love the interior that features red faux leather door inserts and red metallic paint on facia trim.

The improvements – and Kia’s usual seven-year/100,00-mile warranty – should tempt even more motorists to get on the road to Rio.