- Neat styling
- Sprightly handling
- No-frills utility of Rio5
- Engine noise
- Imprecise manual shifter
- Iffy side-impact protection
The 2009 Kia Rio doesn't quite measure up in the details, but it's a pretty good choice among subcompacts.
The 2009 Kia Rio is the smallest, most affordable model from the rapidly growing Korean brand. It comes as either a sedan or a Rio5 five-door hatchback version distinct from its cousin, the three-door Hyundai Accent.
Power is a relative term, but since the Rios are small, they feel quick on their feet. The 2009 Kia 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. Fuel economy for the new model year hits 25 mpg city, 35 highway for the automatic, 27/32 mpg for manual shift cars—good but not great numbers.
Other aspects of the driving experience are quite delightful, considering the price. The Rio handles reasonably well, brakes seem strong, and there's enough peppiness for most driving, aside from high-speed passes; the only exception is that the Rio's manual shift linkage can feel imprecise. The Rio SX versions have specific tires and suspension settings, and they feel slightly sportier. Engine noise is a problem across the line, and it finishes the otherwise satisfying driving impression on a slightly sour note.
But this is a subcompact vehicle, not an SUV, so the 2009 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. Pleasantly, 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. On the Rio5, a fairly large cargo area tucks beneath the hatchback.
Kia scores four- and five-star ratings for crash protection in the 2009 Rio and Rio5, but side-impact protection lags with a three-star rating for passenger side protection. Six airbags—including side, curtain, and dual front airbags—are standard, while anti-lock brakes are optional.
While the base model of the Rio comes with few features, the 2009 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. Newly available for 2009 is Sirius Satellite Radio. LX and SX models get a USB audio port.