- Good safety record
- Lots of car for the cash
- Comfortable ride
- Great warranty
- Few options
- No manual gearbox
- Crash-avoidance technology should be standard
- Not much personality
features & specs
The 2020 Kia Rio is a small car with a quality feel.
The 2020 Kia Rio is a dutiful, trustworthy small car that is a frugal choice with an excellent warranty. It drives better than some compact cars, which makes it even more appealing.
We rate the 2020 Rio at 5.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the Rio is available in LX ($16,675) and S ($17,315) trim levels and comes with a 1.6-liter inline-4 that is down on power compared to last year's version, but up on fuel economy. It comes paired exclusively with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which helps it earn 36 mpg combined. Performance isn’t the 2020 Rio’s forte, but it has a soft, comfortable ride, and its steering is reasonably sharp.
The Rio is more spacious inside than its trim dimensions suggest, especially in Rio 5 hatchback guise for $17,615. Comfortable front seats and decent rear-seat room make it a viable option as a family car, too. Materials are durable, with a nice finish, and the standard cloth upholstery feels like it will stand up well to daily abuse.
A standard 7.0-inch touchscreen is a nice touch, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Active safety gear is optional only with the S trim level, though the $800 package probably won’t break the bank. The Rio has posted good crash test scores from the IIHS.
Throw in a 5-year warranty and the Rio is a highly rational choice for those who must have that new-car smell.
2020 Kia Rio
Pert, European-style lines give the 2020 Kia Rio a more expensive look.
The 2020 Kia Rio doesn’t look like a basic small car. Its sharp lines and purposeful styling details elevate its styling above what we expect out of a sub-$20,000 small car.
We rate it at 5 out of 10 for style.
The 2020 Rio can be had in sedan and hatchback Rio 5 configurations. Both designs share the same front end, with a wide, pinched grille and a thin line of chrome flanked by big headlights. From the side and rear, the hatch has a pert, almost sporty look compared to the conventional sedan.
Kia dropped alloy wheels from the Rio’s playbook a few years ago, which is a shame since the plastic hubcaps don't hold up well to curbs or the ravages of winter.
Inside, the car has a simple, almost German look with a high-mounted 7.0-inch touchscreen and convenient control knobs. Don’t look for expressive interior hues as Kia offers only black or gray trim inside.
2020 Kia Rio
The 2020 Rio gets a new engine and transmission this year designed to improve fuel economy, not performance.
We haven’t driven the 2020 Kia Rio yet, though we have experienced its 120-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-4 and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that makes 112 pound-feet of torque in the related Hyundai Accent.
The new engine is down 10 hp and 7 lb-ft compared to last year’s model, which won’t help acceleration. Our time behind the wheel of the Hyundai revealed reasonable around-town scoot but little power in reserve for passing. The engine and transmission are reasonably quiet, at least, and surging is kept to a relative minimum.
The Rio’s comfortable ride is likely to remain intact. It’s softer and more composed than the Accent, which offers 17-inch wheels in place of the 15-inchers that come on the Rio. Those taller sidewalls soften the ride quite a bit.
Handling is short of thrilling, though the thick steering wheel rim and accurate responses help the car feel confident on winding roads. Those narrow tires provide a gentle ride bark in protest at anything more enthusiastic than basic commuting, though. Rear drum brakes are a reminder that the Rio is an inexpensive car, even though its ride motions and stiff body suggest otherwise.
2020 Kia Rio
Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Kia Rio is a spacious small car.
Don’t let the 2020 Kia Rio’s parking lot-friendly dimensions fool you. It’s a spacious little car, especially in Rio 5-Door hatchback form.
We rate the Rio at 5 out of 10, which is a good score for a car this small.
The 2020 Rio measures just shy of 173 inches between its bumpers in sedan form and just 160 inches long as the Rio 5 hatchback.
Front-seat passengers have supportive seats with the limited range of adjustment typical to small cars. Rear-seat passengers will find 33.5 inches of leg room, which feels like more thanks to the clever bench seat.
Hatchbacks have about 17 cubic feet of cargo space compared to 13.7 cubes in sedans. Fold the hatchback’s rear seats and that figure balloons to a useful 32.8 cubic feet, even though the car is a full foot shorter than the sedan.
Interior materials are durable, but not luxurious. The low-sheen surfaces have a nice enough appearance, though soft-touch plastics are in short supply.
2020 Kia Rio
The 2002 Kia Rio has decent crash test scores for an inexpensive car.
The 2020 Kia Rio offers collision-avoidance tech as a reasonably inexpensive option and has done well in independent crash testing. For now, it earns a 6 out of 10 on our scale thanks to a Top Safety Pick score from the IIHS and to good outward vision.
Automatic emergency braking is bundled with a few other features on an $800 Technology package for the S trim level. That’s $800 well spent. Otherwise, the 2020 Rio has a pretty ordinary feature set that includes anti-lock brakes, six airbags, and stability control.
The IIHS rated the Rio a Top Safety Pick in its last round of testing, though it did note an “Acceptable” score in the passenger-side small overlap test that mimics impact with a stationary object or an oncoming car. Additionally, only the optional LED headlights—part of the Technology package we recommend—earned a “Good” rating.
2020 Kia Rio
The 2020 Kia Rio is a good value for a small car, but don’t look for luxurious options.
The 2020 Kia Rio is a budget-conscious small car available in only a handful of configurations. We rate the lineup at 5 out of 10, with a plus point for its warranty and a minus for its limited lineup. It could be a good value, if it came with automatic emergency braking as standard equipment.
The Rio lineup starts in LX trim for sedans only, and those models come with power features, a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a USB port, Bluetooth, air conditioning, and a few other niceties not always seen in similarly priced new cars.
Most buyers are likely to step up to the Rio S, which is the only way to get the hatchback that we prefer over the sedan. The Rio S includes keyless entry, a folding rear seat, and an armrest, and it’s the gateway to the $800 Technology package that adds upgraded infotainment software, automatic emergency braking, adaptive headlights, and a 3.5-inch display in the instrument cluster. When equipped like this, a Rio S sedan costs just over $18,000, with a hatchback listing for just $300 more.
The Rio is backed by a 5-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty plus up to 10 years of powertrain coverage.
2020 Kia Rio
The 2020 Kia Rio is a lot more frugal this year thanks to its new engine and transmission.
The 2020 Kia Rio is a thrifty small runabout with far better fuel economy in this year’s model than in last year’s.
The EPA rates the Rio at 33 mpg city, 41 highway, 36 combined using regular fuel. That’s a 7 out of 10 on our scale. Last year’s car rated just 32 mpg combined.
This newfound frugality makes the Rio among the greenest new cars on the market, at least for those without a hybrid powertrain.