Kia Rio review

Kia Rio
The Kia Rio is a stylish and well-built little car.
This fourth generation Rio is a good example of how far the company has come

The smallest and least expensive Kia is a delightful surprise. You expect small and cheap – but you get small and inexpensive. The difference is the degree of sophistication, industry leading quality and the level of standard equipment. The result is outstanding value.

Kia has come a long way from those early years days of cheap and cheerful, when it relied on low prices and extra content to earn a spot in the Canadian market. It has steadily improved everything from construction quality and technology to the point where independent studies show Kia to be among the most reliable vehicles on the market, not only in terms of initial quality but after years of ownership as well.

Independent studies show Kia to be among the most reliable vehicles on the market

The fourth generation of the smallest and least expensive Kia, the 2018 Rio 5-door, is a perfect example of how far the company has come. Standard equipment on the $15,000 Rio 5-door in LX trim level, includes: power heated mirrors, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, tilt steering wheel and a rear view camera. Jump to an LX + at $18,000, and you get an automatic transmission, air conditioning and cruise control.

You also get an extremely well designed and built small car with an unexpected level of refinement and sophistication.

That impression begins with the styling, starting up front with the “tiger nose” and U-shaped LED daytime running lights. There is nothing dramatic about the looks, rather a sense of maturity. The car looks good in any surrounding. Instead of standing out, it fits in. The proportions and lines of this five-door model closely resemble those of a certain small German car.

Driver faces an instrument panel that combines traditional gauges and a modern configurable LCD display.

Inside the impression remains favourable. The layout of the instrument panel is conventional with a par of analogue instruments for road and engine speed flanking a configurable LCD display. The big full colour screen atop the center stack includes everything from the view to the rear to the navigation system – standard at the trim level of the test vehicle. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also accommodated at this trim – but not on lesser versions with a smaller 12-cm screen.  

While the front seats are comfy and supportive for long sessions, those in the rear will be less satisfied with their accommodations. Frankly it is quite cramped back there for full-size folks. But that is to be expected from any vehicle in the sub-compact category.

Cramped rear seat to be expected from a car this size

The split folding rear seat does however, allow this small car to hit above its size in terms of cargo space. Drop them down and volume jumps from 325 litres to 1,054,readily available through the large rear hatch. The seats do not, however, fold perfectly flat.

With the rear seats in place there is 325 litres of cargo space. With them folded down it leaps to 1,054

On the road, the level of refinement remains high. With assistance from a very rigid and slightly larger new structure, the engineers managed to tune a relatively unsophisticated suspension – struts up front and a beam at the rear – to provide a pleasant ride, difficult to accomplish in such a small and light vehicle riding on a short wheelbase

Power, but not a lot of it, comes from an updated version of the 1.6-litre four cylinder used previously. The engine is eerily quiet and smooth as silk, causing you to think it may not be running. Shifts from the six-speed automatic are seamless and the updates to both engine and transmission have resulted in a noted improvement in acceleration compared to the outgoing Rio.

Autonomous emergency braking standard on top trim level

One feature worthy of being singled out is the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system that is standard on the top trim. Not only does it automatically apply the brakes should the driver fail to do so when approaching an object or another vehicle from behind, it will bring the Rio to a complete stop if that situation occurs at speeds of less than 80 km/h.

The new-for-2018 Kia Rio 5-door is a stylish and well-built little sub-compact with an inordinate amount of sophistication and value.

The specs

Model: 2018 Kia Rio 5-door EX Tech Navi

Engine: turbocharged, 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, 130 horsepower, 119 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): x

Length: 4,065 mm

Width: 1,725 mm

Wheelbase: 2,580 mm

Weight: 1,278 kg

Price: $14,995 base, $23,475 as tested, plus freight

Competition:  Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa Note, and Toyota Yaris

Standard equipment: power heated mirrors, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, tilt & telescope steering wheel, rear view camera, dual zone automatic climate control, cruise control, 17-in alloy wheels, sunroof, six-speaker infotainment system with 18-cm display, navigation system and embedded telematics; leather seats, and autonomous emergency braking.

click here for my review of the Kia Forte

About Richard 166 Articles
At the age of five I was already obsessed with all things automotive being able to identify the make and model of car by just the sound of its engine going down the street in front of our house in the small town on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Although I have been covering and writing about the automotive scene for more than 40 years and the light still grows brightly.