A decade ago an invitation to drive a new Kia would have been greeted with a groan, a shrug of the shoulders and a sense of acceptance more from duty rather than enthusiasm.
How times have changed.
Landing VW's Peter Schreyer as chief designer was a coup, but the engineering qualities of its cars are equally as impressive – even if one senior insider confided that Kia has a way to go to equal Europe's best when it comes to interior quality. Still, the interior fit and finish is a hundred times better than the reconstituted Cornflake packets of yore.
The new Rio is a an example of global co-operation and ambition: it was jointly designed by Kia's European and Californian studios under Schreyer's direction and its three-cylinder diesel is a result of European-Korean engineering development. As a result the new Rio is rather grand.
It looks stylish in both three- and five-door versions and is surprisingly roomy as well. If there were two of me which, thankfully you say there aren't, at 74 inches tall I could `sit' behind myself if I was driving with adequate leg and head room.
If you are a keen driver then on the road, the Rio is out done by , but not everyone kneels at the altar of deft ride and handling. There are swathes of car buyers who just want to get from A to B and back to A with the minimal amount of fuss and expense and in a car that's got a modicum of style.
The new Rio does all of the first part of that and, as an added bonus, actually looks pretty damn good on the road as well.
If there's a shortcoming with the car it's, well Kia's senior suits haven't quite grasped how to name colors. The car pictured here is in `Wendy Brown' and not even Peter Schreyer could explain that, whilst I was left wondering what made Kia's `Fresh Beige' distinctive from `Beige' or `Not so quite fresh Beige.'