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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
During Edmunds instrumented testing, the Rio went from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds.
We were surprised at how comfortable the car rides considering its small size, but the soft ride doesn't compromise its handling abilities. In sorting out the suspension, Kia's engineers used the Ford Fiesta as their benchmark to ensure some sporty footwork and, while we can say they got pretty close, we can't say they exceeded it.
Kelley Blue Book
Acceleration is peppy off the line, but the Rio loses steam the faster it goes. In fact, by 80 mph there isn't much left in the way of thrust, so do your lane jockeying early as we did.
I was surprised at how well road bumps were managed by the suspension, which uses McPherson struts in front and torsion beam in back. It wasn't a pillowy, soft ride, for sure -- I felt sensations from the road, but it was never harsh.
As in other new Kias, the Rio's ride is firm bordering on harsh, with a tendency to pogo over wavy sections of pavement.
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.
Performance is about par for what the 2014 Kia Rio is -- although the engine and transmissions are smooth and refined.