Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and VW Polo tested

You have no idea what you're missing out on when you think you can't do without anything. The facelifted Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and VW Polo prove how many more-than-enough modern small cars combine with efficiency, space and pleasure.

How young are we back then, how talented are we, how fast are we - although rarely at the same time. But that's how we feel, on that as on many other summer nights, when we come to a standstill next to each other with the two fastest cars in the world on the two-lane arterial road at the last - the rather few - traffic lights of the small town: Stefan in the right lane in Mama Elfi's Fiesta 1.1, left "Seb" in Mama Bärbel's Polo 1.0. Yes, friends, the fastest cars in the world are the small cars that our mothers lend us on Friday evenings on condition that we don't mess around. But when the traffic light turns green, we drive off as if we had stolen her.

The Fiesta leads right from the start - because of 4 hp more power and because it hisses off with stepless automatic thrust elements without starting hiccups due to overly motivated clutching. By the end of the upgraded route – and the entire event – ​​he had almost reached the permitted maximum speed of 100 km/h. Despite bold shifting including clutching and tearing through without decelerating, the 45-hp Polo only manages second place. Friends, it may not be the same city where we mature from license holder to car driver, but on the same type of road and with the same type of car. Exactly: small car.

With this sentimental trip into the past: welcome to the comparison test between old acquaintances who have come a long way in the last few decades! In the right lane the facelifted Fiesta, on the left the Polo. The Kia Rio squeezes itself in the middle. So, the traffic light jumps to green... Go!

Fiesta: so cheerful & so Ford


Elfis Ford is historically known as Fiesta '84 and thus as the second of - depending on how you count - eight generations in 46 years. According to counting? Yes, because sometimes a facelift was enough for the Ford chroniclers to see a new generation justified (in addition to 1984 also in 1995 and 1999). The fact that they do not number the Fiesta up to the IX can therefore be interpreted as an indication that not much has really changed in the facelift.

First of all, there are the usual facelifts: small touch-ups on the front and rear, a few new colors here and rim designs there. We have something significant: The now standard LED headlights can be upgraded with matrix functions for adaptive and glare-free permanent high beam - costs 950 euros. The infotainment is reorganized on the eight-inch touchscreen. And the instruments flicker digitally on a screen - the speedometer was only programmed with two numbers on the scale: zero and 240, both of which are rarely used.

Finally, the Fiesta now warns you to make sure you don't accidentally leave the children or grandma in the back seat if you leave the interior in a hurry. It will be much more likely the passengers on the steep, short bank that will be keen to escape the narrow confines of the fund. As with the cargo compartment, the Fiesta continues to be a space constraint when it comes to passenger space.

Sitting on the sports seats in the front is not only more comfortable, but also much more informal and in a solid, if not pompously elegant, environment. But it is easier to operate, and the language assistant has also gained in understanding. Above all, the Fiesta is, well, a pleasure to drive.

What may sound a bit banal is a big compliment - even to the consistency with which the Fiesta in the ST-Line ignores comfort concerns. With the tight vote he rolls off tart, speaks stumbling on bumps, rumbles on the highway over transverse joints. If you want to save yourself such hardships and 1,000 euros, order the Ford as Titanium instead of in the ST-Line.

With the he unpacks his great handling talent on the country road, bends nimbly in curves with the pointedly appealing, precise steering, but with over-staged feedback via servo. Since he remains neutral, late slips into understeer, except: you go off the gas. Then there is a small load change push from the rear, which stimulates the handling without drifting into the daring.

The drum roll for the break comes from the three-cylinder turbo. Since a 48-volt belt starter mild hybrid overboosts the slack loader when starting, it whirls up more homogeneously and grippingly – supported by the suitably graded, precise six-speed gearbox. The drive gives the Fiesta the best performance in addition to the best efficiency (6.4 l/100 km in the test). That would put him back in front at the traffic light start today. But does he outperform the rivals here?

Rio: drives off gently


The Rio, on the other hand, still has yesterday's traffic jam ahead of it. According to Kia, the navigation system takes into account "historical traffic data" to calculate the optimal route and arrival time. At first it sounds like old men conjuring up the big summer traffic jam on the A7 in 1984. In fact, it proves how clever the Rio has become.

At first you tend to underestimate it because it comes across as inconspicuous, even as a swollen GT-Line with "diffuser optics" (not to be confused with diffuse optics). Since the 2020 facelift, he has brought along a more extensive, well-positioned, but sometimes nervous team of assistants (we're talking about you, you groping lanekeeper). The Rio's infotainment has been modernized, with the eight-inch device blending into the intuitive button and touchscreen combined simplicity of the overall operation.

Above all, the technicians have mildly hybridized the drive - with the 48-volt electric power plant consisting of a belt starter generator and a lithium-ion battery. With such a system, there is now the option of switching off the engine when coasting while the 48-volt battery powers the on-board electronics with energy collected by recuperation. To do this, however, neutral must be engaged - this is regulated by the transmission control with an automatic, with the switch itself only the left driver's foot. Well, in itself. Because the Rio has an electronically controlled clutch that can be triggered by pedal or by the control unit. If he likes it in Eco mode, this automatically puts it into neutral and switches off the engine. This should save up to ten percent fuel. In the test, the Rio with 6.7 l/100 km is just above the non-hybridized Polo, which only idles when rolling.

The fact that the Rio, despite 10 hp more power, is slightly behind the VW in terms of driving performance is much more irrelevant than the obtrusiveness with which the three-cylinder expresses its not exactly exuberant energy. Its volume resounds intensively through the skinny insulation - wind and chassis hiss and rumble can also be heard. On the other hand, this fits with the feeling of lightness that the solidly built Rio conveys despite its heaviest weight - when driving in the best sense of the word: It turns recklessly into corners without inertia, despite the somewhat indirect and inconsistently translated steering, which well selects its feedback. It is as reliable as the entire driving behavior, which shifts from neutral to a lavishly dimensioned understeer in the limit area, from which the ESP discreetly helps back on track.

All this doesn't sound like the ride in the Rio is a rousing display of great hilarity, do you think? That's true, but the essence of the Kia is that it doesn't cause any booing, but works so easily and is so perfectly sufficient. It comfortably accommodates four adults. Its tightly tuned chassis never tends to flatter you - especially not on short, deep bumps - but it also doesn't deal out really nasty bumps. The Rio is a car that you might get out of after a 15-minute test drive, a little uninspired, but that you won't want to give up after a week. A car without airs and graces, yet modern, efficient, well equipped, with a long guarantee and adjusted for equipment a good 3,000 euros cheaper than the Polo. What else could slow down the Rio here? Its weak brakes.

Polo: from the Ervolk kingdom

And now to the end fitting tightener. Yes, that's a new term to express one's own proficiency in technical matters. At the same time, it is a good example of where the progress of the mid-term modernization in May 2021 took place: in detail, but the decisive one.

Since then, VW has not only equipped the Polo with a front center airbag, LED headlights that can be upgraded to matrix light and digital instruments as standard, but also with the end fitting tightener. In the event of an accident, it also tightens the belt in the pelvic area instead of just on the shoulder. So that this does not have to happen at all, VW is expanding the stately assistance department to include active lane and speed guidance. The small car also has a lot of other comfort and infotainment extras, from heated velor upholstery to a navigation system that can be activated later, with which it could also appear in the compact class. This is especially true for the space it offers. Although only 4.07 m short, the Polo creates a space that even slightly exceeds that of the Golf in terms of the standard seating space in the rear. At 351 liters, the volume of the luggage compartment that can just be loaded is almost exactly the same as that of the Golf VI.

Since the Golf in Generation VIII liked to reduce material care and operating skills, such a Polo doesn't look any less valuable. And even the fiddly buttons for controlling the automatic climate control are even better than the slide buttons in the Golf.

In addition, the Polo brakes excellently, drives almost imperturbably safe. But despite all its sovereignty, it curves around bends with discreet pleasure - because of the precise, direct and feedback-voiced steering. He does the bouncing with care, but stays taut enough not to sway. Also because of the large, comfortable seats and good noise insulation, you can easily tour long distances with the Polo. The only thing that bothers you is the short range: with a 40 l tank and a consumption of 6.6 l Super/100 km, the 1.0 TSI has to be refueled after a good 600 km.

VW only connects the most powerful variant of the three-cylinder turbo with a double clutch box. With sometimes hesitant engagement, it contributes to the starting inertia of the drive. But once she gets going, she selects quickly, accurately and smoothly from the seven gears. We credit the VW with the DKG in the equipment rating compared to its rivals. That and the good equipment (LED matrix, parking sensors all around) put the high price into perspective, well, a bit.

After driving the Polo, if you ask yourself why you should buy a larger car, you can easily find an answer: because there is a lavish selection of larger cars for the 27,300 euros that VW charges for the Polo. But if you don't measure the format of a car by its dimensions, but by its capabilities, you're on a small scale with the Polo.


1. VW Polo 1.0 TSI Style 620 points

Perhaps already the better Golf for many, the Polo currently defines its class with very good comfort, comprehensive safety and high efficiency - but at an ambitious price.

2. Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost ST-LINE X 593 points

Perhaps the most attainable near-ST for many, it is defined by thrilling handling, clever operation and the economical, powerful drive. Comfort? It happens - in moderation.

3. Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDI 120 GT Line 581 points

Perhaps the most attainable near-ST for many, it is defined by thrilling handling, clever operation and the economical, powerful drive. Comfort? It happens - in moderation.


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