2014 Kia Rio Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 8, 2014

The 2014 Kia Rio holds its own in a tough class of smart, efficient subcompacts -- and pulls ahead of the pack if value and style are top priorities.

The 2014 Kia Rio has never been among the top-selling subcompacts, but there are fewer and fewer reasons it shouldn't be. The latest iteration offers crisp, stylish European design; a point-perfect interior that's clean, functional, and far above economy-car standards; and agreeable, fuel-efficient powertrains. If we had to pick a single reason to put the Rio on the shopping list for budget-priced small cars, though, it'd be the snappy exterior styling.

For sure, the Rio five-door hatchback has more swagger than the four-door sedan--but the sedan isn't homely, and that's saying something among subcompacts. As good as it gets outside, the Rio's interior seems even better: some throwback details look to the best of the 1980s econoboxes, down to the toggle switches for climate controls, but but it's all better in both form and function, with some versions including a big LCD touch screen.

The 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter in-line direct-injection four-cylinder engine, which is indeed the same engine as in the similar Hyundai Accent, powers the Rio with just enough gusto. It revs smoothly up its powerband and is mostly muted, and you'll find either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic to be an equally good ways to manage how the power gets to the wheels. Overall, the Rio stays very composed when driven either gently or at whatever the engine can deliver. It handles remarkably well for a small, inexpensive hatchback with a basic strut and torsion-beam suspension and a short wheelbase.

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The interior is a little tighter on space than other subcompacts, but pleasing trims and materials and reasonably good cabin refinement keep it more cheerful than the other choices. By the numbers, the Rio sports a 101.2-inch wheelbase, has an overall length of about 160 inches, and offers up a cargo area of 15 cubic feet (or 13.7 cubic feet in the trunk, for sedan models). Good front seats, with relatively long bottom cushions cushions for the class and long seat travel should help bring enough comfort for the commute. The sporty Rio SX models get more seat bolstering--and it's mild enough here where no one's really going to object to the addition. In back, it's definitely more confining than in the Honda Fit, or even the Versa Note; with the front seats near the back of their travel (for an average-to-taller driver) you won't have any rear knee or foot space to space in back; and headroom is on the tight side.

In safety, the 2014 Rio isn't all cheers, but it looks squarely middle-of-the-road compared to other models in this class, when considering the crash-test ratings it's been given, and its level of standard equipment. It's a four-star performer in federal testing, and the usual dual front, side, and curtain airbags are standard, as are anti-lock brakes and stability control, as well as hill-start assist. A rearview camera is an option--and also recommended, since the five-door Rio has some notable blind spots at the rear pillars.

Even in its base editions, the 2014 Kia Rio offers a lot of features for the money. Base Rio LX sedans and hatchbacks start at around $15,000 and include air conditioning, a USB port, and satellite radio. On hatchbacks you also get 15-inch wheels, a rear spoiler standard, tilt steering, steering-wheel audio controls, and split-folding rear seatbacks. Features included in the sporty Rio SX versions include 17-inch wheels, sport suspension tuning, larger front brakes, fog lamps, and power-folding heated side mirrors, and LED taillamp and headlamp accents; options on the SX include a navigation system (that replaces the UVO system), pushbutton start, leather seats, heated front seats, and a sunroof.

8

2014 Kia Rio

Styling

The 2014 Kia Rio will hook you with its Euro-themed exterior, then keep you happy with a nicely coordinated cabin.

Like much of the current Kia lineup (except for the one-of-a-kind Soul), the 2014 Rio clearly draws its design inspiration from Europe, not Korea. Since the arrival of design director Peter Schreyer to the brand a few years ago, Kia has thrown away the bubbly, bland shapes and generic look of previous models, and pushed ahead with crisp, well-proportioned cars that look influenced collectively by everything that does well on the Continent.

The Rio is a great example of that--although the five-door hatchback stands out as a purer, better-conceived design than the five-door.

For either body style, the neat contrasting grille, swept-back headlights, and rounded rear end altogether call out to classic hot-hatch lines without getting too carried away. In an about-face from the brand's recent history, it's clean, perky, and very visually interesting. As for the sedan, it's a bit tall and proportionally challenged, as you might guess for a subcompact, but it does a better job of making the the shape work in such an abbreviated space.

Inside, the Rio gets it right in most ways. The cockpit's nicely finished dash hashes together 1980s econobox chic with airplane-style toggle switches, but it's refreshingly distinctive, sporty, and honest, in contrast to small-car interiors that make too much effort to mimick large-sedan or luxury cabins. A mid-size LCD screen, soft-touch panels on most trims, and simple, contrasting finished add up to a look that combined the glory days of Honda with a Euro twist.

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2014 Kia Rio

Performance

Performance is about par for what the 2014 Kia Rio is -- although the engine and transmissions are smooth and refined.

The Kia Rio is by no means sluggish or listless, but it doesn't push the performance envelope quite as far as the Euro-themed exterior suggests.

The 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter in-line direct-injection four-cylinder engine, which is indeed the same engine as in the similar Hyundai Accent, powers the Rio with plenty of gusto. It revs smoothly up its powerband and is mostly muted, and you'll find either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic to be an equally good ways to manage how the power gets to the wheels. The automatic has no performance shift modes, but its gears are well-spaced. However with either transmission you'll contend with relatively slow acceleration times of about ten seconds to 60 mph. 

Overall, the Rio stays very composed when driven either gently or at whatever the engine can deliver. There's none of the Sonic's cheerful scrabble, and the steering isn't as nicely weighted or communicative as that of the Ford Fiesta, but it handles remarkably well for a small, inexpensive hatchback with a basic strut and torsion-beam suspension and a short wheelbase.

Sportier (mostly in appearance) Rio SX models do add a little more steering heft and are perhaps slightly harder riding due to tires and wheels. For the most part otherwise, the 2014 Rio rides comfortably, without the bobbing, bouncy, harsh aspects of small-car ride quality.

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2014 Kia Rio

Comfort & Quality

The Kia Rio is nicely appointed inside, but it's not all that spacious.

The 2014 Kia Rio has an interior that's a little tighter on space than other models in its subcompact class; but pleasing trims and materials and reasonably good cabin refinement keep it more cheerful than the typical cost-conscious hatchback or sedan.

The Rio has a more sloped roofline, which puts it just behind the related Hyundai Accent in official interior space. If you want to make more of cargo versatility, the Honda Fit is still a far better pick, but compared to most other small-car picks, it's a competitive package.

By the numbers, the Rio sports a 101.2-inch wheelbase, has an overall length of about 160 inches, and offers up a cargo area of 15 cubic feet (or 13.7 cubic feet, for trunked sedan models). It's significantly larger than the previous model.

None of the fundamentals are missing. Good front seats, with relatively long bottom cushions cushions for the class and long seat travel should help bring enough comfort for the commute. The sporty Rio SX models get more seat bolstering--and it's mild enough here where no one's really going to object to the addition.

In back, it's definitely more confining than in the Honda Fit, or even the Versa Note; with the front seats near the back of their travel (for an average-to-taller driver) you won't have any rear knee or foot space to space in back; and headroom is on the tight side.

Cargo space is also no better than you'd expect for a subcompact--although big-box boxes and travel bags do fit nicely within the squared-off hold, whether we're talking about the hatch or the sedan.

7

2014 Kia Rio

Safety

Safety scores are reasonably good, and a rearview camera and Bluetooth are among the options on the Rio.

The 2014 Kia Rio looks squarely middle-of-the-road in safety, compared to other models in this class, when considering the crash-test ratings it's been given, and its level of standard equipment.

The usual dual front, side, and curtain airbags are standard, as are anti-lock brakes and stability control, as well as hill-start assist. Bluetooth is available, and a feature we recommend for safer driving. A rearview camera is an option--and also recommended, since the five-door Rio has some notable blind spots at the rear pillars.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing, the Rio has earned a four-star rating overall, with four and five stars in frontal and side impact testing, respectively. And while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn't issued results in most categories of testing--including the tough new small overlap frontal impact test--it's given its top 'good' rating to the Rio for frontal impact protection.

The federal testing did include a few cautionary notes. During side impact testing, they noted intrusion at the left rear door, in which the interior door panel struck the torso of the rear passenger dummy--to a level at which it could have resulted in thoracic injury.

9

2014 Kia Rio

Features

The 2014 Rio remains one of the top picks for those who want a lot of features--including leather seats and a navigation system.

Even in its base editions, the 2014 Kia Rio offers a lot of features for the money.

Base Rio LX sedans and hatchbacks start at around $15,000 and include air conditioning, a USB port, and satellite radio. On hatchbacks you also get 15-inch wheels, a rear spoiler standard, tilt steering, steering-wheel audio controls, and split-folding rear seatbacks.

If you want a manual gearbox, you'll have to stick with the base LX--one thing that some shoppers won't like about the limited ways you can get a Rio. The automatic is a $1200 option on either Rio LX.

In the middle of the lineup, the Rio EX five-door hatchback adds tilt/telescoping steering, cruise control, Bluetooth, and power windows, locks and mirrors.

The sporty SX model is the only version to come standard with Kia's UVO, which includes Microsoft-powered voice controls for phone and audio. You can option up to that system on the EX, and otherwise options on the SX include a navigation system (that replaces the UVO system), pushbutton start, leather seats, heated front seats, and a sunroof.

Other features included in Rio SX versions include 17-inch wheels, sport suspension tuning, larger front brakes, fog lamps, and power-folding heated side mirrors, and LED taillamp and headlamp accents.

8

2014 Kia Rio

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage for the 2014 Kia Rio is merely average for its class.

The 2014 Kia Rio is reasonably good on gas, thanks to its engine's direct injection technology, and the car's rather lightweight construction in general. But with no models in the lineup getting more than 32 mpg Combined--or even hitting the 40-mpg highway mark--it's not an especially high achiever in fuel economy.

In theory, the Rio is also offered in an Eco model, which includes ISG (Idle Stop and Go) technology that will automatically turn the engine off at some stoplights to save gasoline and automatically restart it when you lift off the brake. Also included in the package are low-rolling resistance tires and a few aerodynamic improvements. We say 'in theory,' because Kia still has cold feet about delivering the package--although we hope they do for 2014.

The 2014 Kia Rio is rated at 28/36 mpg (31 combined) with the automatic transmission or 29/37 (32 combined) with the manual transmission. Get that Eco package and ratings are up to 30/36 mpg (32 combined).

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July 29, 2016
2014 Kia Rio 5-Door HB Automatic EX

completely underated

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This car is do underated, for the price you get a lot of car.in taking off it lacks but once you off this 4 cly engine really punches through the road and on a straight road it'll creep up a Chrysler 300 .but... + More »
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January 31, 2016
2014 Kia Rio 4-Door Sedan Automatic LX

amazing car for your money

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In my opinion this is a pretty great car just needs louder speakers , its a nice smooth fun ride and the brakes are amazing 0-60 like 8-10 seconds pretty quick for a 4 cylinder.
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April 14, 2015
For 2014 Kia Rio

Perfect Compact Sedan

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I am driving a RIO 2014...and I initially fell in love with the great shape and design changes introduced. Got the basic standard AT model 4-speed. I drive at a daily average of 100km on highways...and the car... + More »
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7.4
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Styling 8.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 7.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 8.0
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