Kia’s Star Is Rising, So Are Revoo’s Ratings

There are some brands that don't register much on my radar and until recently one of those was Kia.

Kia Rio (2002) The Kia Rio has been transformed from this…

My first encounter with the Korean brand's offerings was a day behind the wheel of a 2002 Rio. Admittedly it was an abused and unloved courtesy car but it was clear that the Rio had been designed by a team of engineers who thought that all a car needed was an engine, four wheels and some seats. They had no concept of making it feel anything more than an appliance for moving from A to B. It was, quite simply, awful to drive.

After that I barely noticed the succession of new Kia models that followed through the early and mid 2000s. The Cerato, Sportage and Carens were little more to me than background noise on the roads. Then, one Sunday evening while watching Top Gear, a new Reasonably Priced Car appeared on my television screen. It was the Kia Ceed.

That was when I started to take notice of Kia. The Ceed actually looked like a decent car and it turned out that it wasn't just Top Gear who had embraced it (admittedly because it was reasonably priced). The rest of the motoring press were increasingly enthusiastic about Kia's range and it seemed there was much more to that than just that seven-year warranty. The days of wafer-thin plastics and driving dynamics that would embarrass a bus were long gone.

Kia were also starting to take design very seriously and had hired ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer. Having been head of both Audi and Volkswagen's design teams Schreyer knew what worked and his mission was to give Kia an identity. Schreyer's 'Tiger Nose' concept gave all new Kias a recognisable front grille and it's something that's featured on every new Kia since. 

This was the turning point. The latest Sportage and Ceed models are sharply designed, well equipped and are leading a charge that's seen Kia's sales increase by 24% in the UK. The rest of the market grew by 5%. I think that's what you could call a good year.

It's not just the press who rate Kia's offerings. People who are actually buying their cars are then raving about them afterwards. Just take a look on Reevoo and you'll see that the lowest average rating for Kia's models is 8.6. That's not the highest score, that's the lowest. Some 'premium' manufacturers would kill for average reviews like that.

Kia Rio (2012) … into this. It's hard to believe it bears the same 'Kia Rio' badge.

Just look at the reviews for the Rio. From its awful beginnings it now scores an average of 8.9 out of 10. Over 800 people have left their thoughts and they really do sing its praises. 'I love everything about my new Kia'. 'First class car all round'. 'A very affordable car with a very high quality build'.

Don't forget these are real buyers talking about an expensive purchase. The trouble with independent review sites is that if someone's got an axe to grind then they're one of their first ports of call, so a score of 8.9 out of 10 means there's a lot of very happy Rio drivers out there.

Now, to top it off, there's a Kia I really do want to drive. It's the new Proceed GT, the first hot hatch from Kia. It was revealed at this year's Geneva Motor show and if it drives as well as it looks then Kia are onto a winner. The 200bhp turbocharged engine should help.

If you'd told me, after I willingly gave the keys back to that Rio courtesy car, that Kia would go on to produce a desirable hot hatch I would have laughed at you. And then called the men in white coats. Well, look who's laughing now. Kia are definitely on my radar.

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Author: Chris Auty

Voted the Breakthrough Blogger of 2013 by SEAT and the Guild of Motoring Writers , Chris has lived and breathed cars since he was old enough to say 'faster'. With a penchant for hot hatches and an allergy to public transport, he would much prefer to drive a bad car than never drive at all. Fortunately his family has learned to put up with this obsession and the internet has provided a channel for his ramblings.

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