Looking at the very meager performance specifications of the 2010 Kia Rio, it’s easy to go in with low expectations. In the experience of TheCarConnection.com—and verified by other reviewers’ comments—they’re likely to be exceeded.
Standard across the entire model line is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, making 110 horsepower. That’s not much—because it's such a light car, it feels relatively sprightly. Unfortunately, Car and Driver complains that it takes the 2009 Kia Rio "11.5 seconds to run to 60 mph, which certainly doesn't win any awards." Kelley Blue Book mentions that "Kia has raised the power of its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which drives either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission." Edmunds clarifies that on all models but the base sedan the automatic is optional. Cars.com is more than pleased with the performance of this year's Kia Rio, saying, "Adding a few horsepower can make quite a difference in a small sedan."
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a four-speed automatic optional. Edmunds rates the automatic transmission as "slightly below standard" when it comes to acceleration. The Rio Kia's automatic does provide swift, well-timed shifts; according to Cars.com, the automatic transmission in the 2009 Kia Rio works smoothly "without any lurching or noticeable gear changes." For those wanting a sportier feel, Edmunds says that “the manual transmission makes the Rio more sprightly and fun to drive."
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 drive in a fuel-efficient manner. Car and Driver says that, surprisingly, the automatic transmission "gets better fuel mileage than the manual, in this case 3 more mpg, for a highway figure of 35," according to EPA city/highway estimates. Kelley Blue Book agrees, stating, "Fuel economy is excellent."
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. "Steering is light in the Kia Rio," but "the Rio is delightfully nimble in urban environments, tracks adeptly on straightaways and is easy to guide into turns," in Kelley Blue Book's opinion. Edmunds adds that when "pushed through corners, the Rio responds with predictable body roll and unexpectedly crisp steering"; however, they also state "the suspension isn't as composed over broken pavement as we'd like," saying that "large impacts tend to shudder through the cabin." The Rio Kia LX and SX come equipped with front disc/rear drums, but Cars.com notes that "4 wheel disc brakes" and "4 wheel ABS brakes" are available options on both models.