The introduction of Kia’s latest three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is welcome.

The outgoing Rio suffered for its lack of a decent downsized motor, and in the ways likely to matter to most buyers, this new model prospers where previous incumbents floundered.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Fast corners confirm that the Rio is dynamically centred on its nose; lifting off won’t do much more than slow you down

Principally this is because it fulfils the modern three-pot brief of being relatively quiet, tractable from low revs and parsimonious enough to compete with a small diesel’s running costs.

With modest expectations applied, being ‘fast enough’ is much the same as being ‘good enough’.

Two-up, the Rio reached 60mph from rest in 10.0sec – almost a second and a half quicker than its 1.4-litre-engined predecessor we figured five years ago and marginally quicker than even the 1.5-litre Mazda 2 tested.

It helps that only one gear change is required to get there, with the second of this Rio’s five very long ratios being good for the national speed limit.

Third gear is sufficiently drawn out to hit 100mph within the one-mile mark of Millbrook’s straight. Getting there, it must be said, is a mite less than compelling: credibly industrious the three-pot may well be, but the upper reaches of its delivery are muted compared with the thrummy excitableness of Ford’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost triple.

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So benign is the Kia’s engine above 3000rpm, in fact, that it’s quite possible to travel substantial distances in a lower gear, oblivious to any need for an efficiency-aiding upshift.

The slightly high 71dB recorded at 70mph is mostly a component of tyre noise on Millbrook’s unforgiving concrete; on asphalt the Rio is agreeably hushed.

We’d still favour a sixth gear, though; the three-pot needs to turn briskly at 80mph, and an additional cog on the slightly gummy-feeling manual shifter would give you the perfect ratio for cruising on the motorway.

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