- Good handling and maneuverability
- Smart styling (especially Rio5)
- Basic versatility and utility of Rio5
- Boomy engine noise
- Kludgy manual shifter
- Side-impact ratings
The 2010 Kia Rio has a little more personality than some other inexpensive small cars, but low safety scores and a lack of refinement hamper its appeal.
As the smallest and most affordable model from Kia, the 2010 Kia Rio comes either as a sedan (Rio) or a five-door hatchback (Rio5). The Rio is closely related to the 2010 Hyundai Accent, though the Accent is offered in a sedan or two-door hatchback, with no five-door in the lineup.
For 2010, the Rio gets a minor facelift that consists of new bumpers, a slightly revised grille and headlamps, plus new bodyside moldings. The Kia Rio no longer looks fresh, as it's had essentially the same interior and exterior design since the 2006 model year. Still, the proportions are pert and simple, with lipped wheel wells and an arched theme that plays out especially nicely in the roofline and rear pillars of the Rio5. The interior design isn't daring; it's basic but straightforward, with the sound-system controls and most other switchgear up high and within easy reach.
A 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, making 110 horsepower, is standard across the entire model line. That doesn't sound like much, but because it's such a light car, it feels relatively sprightly, especially with the five-speed manual gearbox (although the linkage can feel imprecise). A four-speed automatic is also available. 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. Fuel economy figures are good but not stellar—ranging up to 27 mpg city, 32 highway with the five-speed, 25/35 mpg with the automatic. All automatic models now come with an EcoMinder light to help you drive in a fuel-efficient manner.
The interior of the 2010 Kia Rio is fairly comfortable, but if there are four adults on board, it's best to keep your trips rather short. In front the seats are quite good, and there's even good rear headroom and legroom in back. Trunk space is actually impressive, too, and in the Rio5, a fairly large cargo area tucks beneath the hatchback. The downside is that their ride can be somewhat pitchy on certain types of freeway surfaces, and Rio SX models have different tire and suspension settings, aimed at producing a sportier feel, that bring more road noise into the cabin. Across the model line, engine noise can be an issue; it's obtrusive during acceleration and when cruising at higher speeds.
Crash-test scores for the 2010 Kia Rio and Rio5 are far from great. The Rio gets four- and five-star ratings for frontal crash protection, but side-impact ratings lag at just three stars for passenger side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also doesn't find the Rio to be very protective, with a frontal offset score of "acceptable" and a side-impact result of "poor"—which should be a cause for concern. There are six airbags, including side, curtain, and dual front airbags. Active front headrests and anti-lock brakes are newly standard on all Rio and Rio5 models for 2010.
The base model Rio doesn't come with much; manual winding windows, no air conditioning, and no tilt steering (no power steering at that) are all part of the deal. Step up to the LX and you'll get what most people now consider the minimum, with A/C, tilt steering, power steering, and split-folding rear seats, and you'll set the stage for Power Package that includes power locks, mirrors, and windows; keyless entry; and heated mirrors. A sportier suspension, alloy wheels, fog lamps, and a spoiler are all included with the SX, plus sport seats, leather trim, and Sirius Satellite Radio. LX and SX models have a USB audio port, and for the first time, a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface will be offered on the Rio late in the model year as an option.