Subcompact cars are definitely not your grandpa’s vehicles. Take the 2018 Kia Rio. It’s not some tiny tin can without amenities. Rather it has many features and technology that you’d expect in higher-priced vehicles.
The five-passenger Rio is Kia’s best-selling vehicle around the world, but it’s not as popular in the U.S. with rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris. It gets fully redesigned for the 2018 model year.
The front-wheel-drive Rio is available as a sedan or hatchback in three trims: LX, S and EX. Starting prices for the sedan range from $13,900 to $18,400. The hatchback costs an additional $300.
The Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard or you can get a six-speed automatic. My tester has the automatic and it operated fine, shifting smoothly and in a reasonably responsive fashion. Overall, the Rio is one of the more nimble handlers in the subcompact category; in fact, it drives much a midsize sedan. It’s fairly quick off the line although sometimes it can take the transmission a second to downshift when you’re trying to accelerate quickly. Otherwise the Rio does fine in every driving situations. It gets up to freeway speeds fairly quickly and feels balanced when cornering. The cabin is pretty quiet, especially for an affordable subcompact. The ride is fairly firm.
Fuel efficiency is about what you’d expect for a subcompact. EPA estimates for my tester with the automatic are 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with a combined rating of 32. I got 31 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The cabin has an airy feel and seems larger than it is. Fit and finish are pretty good for a car in this price range. Yes, there’s a lot of plastic as you’d expect, but different textures make it look and feel pretty good. And there are several upscale touches such as a three-color trim scheme with contrasting piping. Front seats are supportive and have good leg- and headroom. Even taller passengers will be fairly comfortable in the backseat, unless there’s another tall person up front with the seat moved back!
There’s a lot of tech available as standard equipment or options. The base model comes standard with power door locks, cloth upholstery, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, air conditioning, five-inch touchscreen, four-speaker audio system, USB port, and satellite radio.
Higher trims get keyless entry, power windows, rear view camera, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, six-speaker audio system, and three USB ports. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Kia’s UVO infotainment system with seven-inch screen, upgraded cloth upholstery, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking are standard on the EX trim.
I give Kia’s infotainment system high marks. It’s easy to figure out and the touchscreen responds quickly to commands. However, navigation is not available even as an option.
The sedan has 13.7 cubic feet of trunk space. The hatchback has 17.4 cubes behind the second row which expands to 32.8 cubes with the optional 60/40 split-folding rear seats. The hatch has a bit less cargo room than some competitors.
Competitors include the Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent. All are worth considering by shoppers who’re looking for an affordable small car.
Redesigned for 2018
Lots of car for the money
Lower starting price than some rivals
Fairly nimble handling for the class
Attractive and surprisingly roomy interior
Navigation isn’t offered on any trim
Hatchback has less storage space than some rivals
My tester starts at $18,700. EX Launch Edition adds $500 for red accent leather seats and interior trim. Carpeted floor mats are $130. Delivery fee is $895 bringing the grand total to $20,225.
The redesigned 2018 Kia Rio offers a lot of vehicle for the money including a surprisingly quiet cabin and lots of available technology. Plus it’s pleasant as a daily driver. It’s sure worth checking out by buyers who want an entry level hatchback or sedan.