- Perky styling
- Inexpensive utility of Rio5
- Sprightly handling
- Passenger side-impact protection
- Engine noise
- Manual shift feel
The 2008 Kia Rio is a good choice among subcompacts and it’s stylish, but standard anti-lock brakes and better side-impact protection would help its case against the Honda Fit.
The 2008 Kia Rio sedan is a near-copy of the Hyundai Accent, while the five-door Rio5 is a distinct model not shared by Kia's South Korean cousin.
The Rio and Rio5, both offered in LX and SX models, share a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 110 horsepower. It can be teamed with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic. Power is a relative term, but since the Rios are small, they feel quick on their feet. Fuel economy for the new model year hits 25/35 mpg for the automatic, 27/32 mpg for manual shift cars--good but not great numbers compared to the Honda Fit's 28/34 mpg.
The Rio SX versions have specific tires and suspension settings, and feel slightly more sporting. The brakes seem strong, but the Rio's manual shift linkage can feel imprecise. Engine noise is a problem, too.
There is nothing cramped about the interior, and even the rear seating area offers plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room for an average adult male. Remember, it's a subcompact, not an SUV, so the Rio should be used for four adults on shorter trips. The seats themselves are fairly comfortable, and the interior trim is of a good grade for this price class. On the Rio5, a fairly large cargo area tucks beneath the hatchback.
While the base model is fairly unadorned, the 2008 Kia Rio LX models have a CD stereo, and they offer a Power Package that includes power locks, mirrors, and windows; keyless entry; and heated mirrors. The SX version gets sport tuning for its suspension, fog lights, and a spoiler. An auxiliary jack for MP3 players is standard on all Rios.
Six airbags--including side, curtain, and dual front airbags--are standard, while anti-lock brakes are optional. Kia scores four- and five-star ratings for crash protection in the 2008 Rio and Rio5, but side impact protection lags with a three-star rating for passenger side protection.