Economy cars are hitting new gas-mileage heights these days, and the Kia Rio hatchback and sedan are right there with the class leaders.
The Rio comes in two body styles, and its four-cylinder engine can be paired with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Automatic versions of the Rio punch in at 28 mpg city, 36 highway, while manual versions get 29/37 mpg.
A word about why smaller cars score lower here than slightly larger cars. In a word, aerodynamics. Light weight and small-displacement engines go a long way toward producing good fuel economy, but ultimately, a car's shape and size plays a role. The Rio's just too short and upright to generate the smooth shape it needs to cut wind resistance to Elantra-like level--and as a result, its gas mileage is roughly equal to that of its compact-car cousin.
The 2012-2013 Kia Rio is one of a set of vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers. Kia initially submitted figures of 30/40 mpg and 33 mpg combined (34-mpg combined with the manual) to the EPA, which allows automakers to self-certify fuel economy. On a confirmation check of several vehicles, the EPA found the Rio's actual tested fuel economy to be 28/36 mpg (31 combined) with the automatic transmission or 29/37 (32 combined) with the manual transmission. The 2013 Rio Eco model was also downgraded, from an original 31/40 mpg (34 combined) to 30/36 mpg (32 combined). Owners can register with Kia to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at KiaMPGInfo.com.