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Actual rating will vary with options, driving conditions, habits and vehicle condition.
The standard features of the Kia Rio LX include Gamma 1.6L I-4 138hp engine, 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain 1st and 2nd row overhead airbags, airbag occupancy sensor, air conditioning, 15" steel wheels, ABS and driveline traction control, electronic stability, power mirrors.
Starting at: $15,495
As long as expectations are modest and realistic, the Kia Rio should prove wholly adequate for daily transportation tasks. Considering its price, it performs appropriately.
Only one weakness is evident: a bumpy, jarring ride when rolling through imperfect pavement surfaces. Steering isn’t weighted as well as in a Ford Fiesta, and can feel a bit numb. Yet, in ordinary driving on the road, a Rio feels acceptably composed. In fact, Kia’s subcompact handles rather well, considering its short wheelbase, small size, and basic suspension design.
Kia’s engine works quietly, hardly noticed in everyday driving. The automatic transmission has gears nicely spaced to deliver peak performance, as long as you don’t expect spirited responses. Acceleration to 60 mph, after all, takes about 10 seconds, putting it among the slowest cars on the road. Pushing the Active Eco button deadens the gas pedal a bit, to improve fuel-efficiency (while making it slower still).
Though less thrifty than some class rivals, the Rio gets reasonably good fuel economy. With the six-speed automatic transmission, the Rio is EPA-rated at 27/36 mpg City/Highway, or 30 mpg Combined. Manual shift, available only in the LX sedan, is EPA-rated just a tad higher, at 31 mpg Combined. That same estimate goes to the Eco edition of the EX, which lacks several external body elements and substitutes steel wheels for the regular alloy versions.
The Rio five-door hatch is shapely, and the Rio sedan looks better-proportioned than many short subcompact four-door models, including the Ford Fiesta. A European tone is evident, blending with the car’s crisp body lines. It looks rakish for a Kia, helped by angled creases within the bodysides. Designers managed to convey something close to a hot hatch look, by way of the swept-back headlights, contrasting grille, and rounded tail.
To no one’s surprise, the Rio cabin feels cramped, yet it’s better than might be expected. Headroom in the back seat is definitely tight, which is inevitable because of the car’s stylish but abruptly swooping roofline. Despite its econocar status, overall cabin flair, augmented by soft-touch surfaces in some areas, suggests a more expensive premium model.
The hatchback stands out for versatility, while functionality of the sedan is a strong point. Seats contain proper bolstering, with front cushions that are comparatively long for a subcompact. Seats in the sportier Rio SX are bolstered even more, but the difference is minimal.
Traditional-type toggle switches operate the climate-control system. Unlike the cabins of some smaller cars, the Rio doesn’t come across as jarring or excessive.
For brief trips, at least, a Rio can hold five adults. It’s best with two, of course. Sound-deadening foam, added for the 2016 model year, helps keep noises at bay. Two-tone interior-trim treatments look quite nice.
Rear pillars of the five-door hatchback have substantial blind spots, making a rearview camera especially desirable. Total interior space is 7 cubic feet smaller than you’d get in a Honda Fit, and trails Nissan Versa by 3 cubic feet.
Cargo space in the Rio hatchback comes to 15 cubic feet, whereas the sedan’s trunk holds 13.7 cubic feet.
Among the most affordable cars today, the Rio isn’t among the best. In addition to weak packaging of options, safety scores are a major deficit. Lack of power door locks and windows give the LX sedan a sort of offbeat retro ambiance, but at least it’s air conditioned. Rio EX and SX models are more appropriate for the vast majority of buyers. Best Rio benefits are the excellent warranty and likely the actual price.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.
Rio LX sedan ($14,165) comes with a manual transmission, as well as 15-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, four-speaker audio, satellite radio, woven cloth seat trim, and air conditioning. An optional automatic transmission is available ($15,395). Rio LX hatchback ($16,390) includes the automatic transmission. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Rio EX sedan ($17,755) gets the automatic transmission, along with a rearview camera, power windows/locks, UVO2 infotainment, a 4.3-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, upgraded kit cloth seats, soft-touch dashboard pad, chrome grille surround, foglamps, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Rio EX hatchback ($18,800) is equipped similar to EX sedan.
Rio SX hatchback ($21,800) comes with a rearview camera, keyless ignition, sport-tuned suspension, and 7-inch touchscreen.