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- Responsive, sharp upgraded touchscreen
- More responsive at low speeds
- Quieter cabin
- Composed ride compared to outgoing model
- Cleaner lines, especially on hatchback
- Pricey for its class
- Base version isn’t well-equipped
- Tapped and sapped at highway speeds
- Conservative style
New-car buyers seeking the comforts of a factory warranty can be limited in budget picks. The 2018 Kia Rio does many little things right for not a lot of cash.
Getting the little things right in a small car is a big deal. The 2018 Kia Rio is new this year and improves on the outgoing model in numerous small ways.
The power, which comes from a frugal-first 1.6-liter inline-4, is delivered in a more immediate way, belying its budget-minded mission. The Rio’s nose is a little taller this time around, rightfully sticking its schnoz up at used cars that may cost the same but don’t feature a factory warranty for five years or 60,000 miles.
Same goes for its new, responsive infotainment and a better hatch opening, and so on and so on. The 2018 Kia Rio earns a 5.4 on our overall scale, which is above average for new cars. Its final rating is awaiting a safety score—not typically a strong suit for small cars—so stay tuned. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 2018 Kia Rio starts at $14,885 for a manual-equipped base model, which is thousands more than competitors. The Rio is offered in LX, S, and EX trims with little flexibility in options from those trims—in fact, there’s none.
Opting for the hatchback’s versatility adds $300 to the bottom line, and a 6-speed automatic is a $1,000 option on the base model only; it’s standard everywhere else.
For that much money, the Rio delivers modest good looks, made better through sharper creases in the sheet metal all around the car. The insides look best (good, because most owners see the car from the inside-out) with a lowered dash and a well-considered central touchscreen.
To our eyes, the hatch wears the new look best but it still suffers from chunky rear roof pillars that make changing lanes a challenge.
The Rio’s new engine is a 130-horsepower inline-4 that’s down on numbers from its predecessor, but up on drivability. It’s reasonably bright from stoplight to stoplight, with pleasant sounds and an eagerness to please. A 6-speed automatic is the likely partner for most Rio models sold, and it’s adequate, but sometimes indecisive.
Kia hasn’t outlined the cost for each trim of the Rio (it goes on sale sometime after October), but springing for the top models will be advisable. The EX trims get standard automatic emergency braking, an excellent 7.0-inch touchscreen, upgraded brakes, and better seats.
But around $18,000 for those models will be a big ask for such a little car.